Threat to biodiversity: India sounds alert about ‘brushing scam’ and ‘agricultural smuggling’

Agricultural Farming
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Mubarak Ansari

Pune, 8th August 2020: The Government of India has taken the threat of unsolicited/mystery seed parcels from unknown sources, seriously and has sounded alert about it. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has issued office memorandum asking the various departments and agencies to be vigilant about suspicious seed parcels which can be a threat to the ‘biodiversity of our country’.

“It has come to the notice of Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare that threat of unsolicited/suspicious seed parcels with mislabeled packages from unknown sources was reported in many countries like US, Canada, UK, New Zealand, Japan and some European nations. Since the last few months, thousands of such suspicious seed shipments have been reported across the world. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) termed it as ‘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 pathogens or disease that may pose serious threats to the environment, agriculture ecosystem and national security”, states the memorandum issued by Dr Dilip Kr Srivastava, Deputy Commissioner (QC), Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare.

He further added, “unsolicited seed parcels can be threat to bio-diversity of our country; therefore all States Department of Agriculture, State Agriculture Universities. Seed Associations, State Seed Certification Agencies. Seed Corporations, ICAR vis-à-vis their crop-based research Institutes are directed to be vigilant about the suspicious seed parcels.”

In a media statement, the United States Department of Agriculture said, “USDA is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.


USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director. Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.

At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment. USDA is committed to preventing the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protecting U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds.”