eBay helps Australia weed out bad seeds … and plants

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13 November 2021, Australia: In 2021, eBay has blocked over 18,000 attempts by overseas traders looking to sell unidentified seeds and live plants to Australians.

With support from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, eBay’s effort aims to prevent the potential purchase of unregulated plant material that bypasses biosecurity requirements and poses high biosecurity risks for agriculture and the environment.

Implemented in July this year, the mission complements the department’s recently-adopted, zero-tolerance stance on unidentified seeds sent to Australia via mail.

DAWE Head of Biosecurity Andrew Tongue said importing unidentified seeds in the mail enables destructive pests, diseases and weeds to enter Australia which potentially held serious economic and environmental consequences if they became established in our agricultural or natural environments.

“We know some non-compliant importers try to game the system by purchasing seeds online from ecommerce platforms such as Wish, eBay, Amazon, Alibaba etc to increase the chance of the seeds bypassing biosecurity intervention,” Mr Tongue said.

“But we are on to them. And eBay has shown its willingness to assist in reducing the risks associated with unregulated online purchasing.

“We’re determined to disrupt any unidentified seeds arriving in Australia via our mail pathways. From 8 November, biosecurity officers will destroy all unidentified seeds on-the-spot.

“People may not understand advertised prices are not a reflection of the total purchase costs of buying seeds and plants from overseas.

“For example, take a cactus advertised online for $15. If they’re even permitted into Australia at all, the buyer will also need an import permit and a phytosanitary certificate, labelled with the full botanical name.

“It is then inspected by biosecurity officers on arrival and screened for diseases at a quarantine facility for months before being released from biosecurity control. All of this is at cost to the buyer; a very expensive impulse buy!

eBay spokesperson Mike Carson said, “We’re pleased to be working with the department to address this important environmental and biosecurity issue. We hope that other players will follow suit to address this hazard and we tackle it as an industry.”

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