Fearing a new kind of germ warfare, Indian government has alerted state governments, agriculture universities, seed associations, certification agencies and research institutes under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to remain vigilant as unsolicited seeds reaching the country via courier. The government is perceiving a new threat of foreign seeds harming India’s food chain and biodiversity.
The agriculture ministry’s missive to states is along similar advisories issued by the US department of agriculture (USDA) and other agencies recently.
“(Over) the last few months, thousands of such suspicious seed shipments have been reported across the world. The USDA termed it a brushing scam and agricultural smuggling and also reported that the unsolicited seed parcels may contain seeds of an alien invasive species or an attempt to introduce pathogen or disease that may pose serious threats to environment, agriculture eco-system and national security,” DK Srivastava, deputy commissioner, agriculture ministry, wrote in the letter to states.
The threat of unsolicited/suspicious seed parcels with mislabeled packages from unknown sources was reported in many countries such as the US, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and Japan. According to International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) people in Washington, New York, Virginia, Florida and a few other states in the US had received unrecognised seed packets without details of origin through e-commerce companies even though they had not ordered these agri-inputs.
Currently, the import of floriculture seeds into India is free while importers need to take permission for other seeds. There is a committee under agriculture commissioner which decides on import applications and it clears only those crops where there is a deficit in the domestic market, sources said. Right now it is only an alert for a possible spread of plant diseases through seeds coming from unauthorised sources without orders.
The Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) has asked everyone to be careful not to use any seed coming from unknown sources while plant quarantine and customs checks at ports and airports have to be stringent.