Canberra, Australia (August 5, 2021) – A recent report from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has highlighted a significant presence of seed borne bugs and pathogens in seed ordered through the mail from overseas.

These pests pose a significant risk and could be potentially devastating for Australia’s environment and agricultural industries.

Australian Seed Federation CEO Osman Mewett urges the public to only purchase seed from reputable sources, and not from unknown online mail-order sources overseas.

“It is important to buy clean, high-quality seed, and only plant and use seed from known and trusted sources, such as ASF members," Mewett says. "Seed imported legally by reputable seed companies undergoes rigorous testing to meet Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements before it is distributed through commercial channels. This is critical to prevent or control plant pests that may affect seed quality and result in the introduction of new pests into Australia."

Seeds of unknown origin pose a major threat to Australia’s biosecurity as they carry no guarantee of having undergone these important testing procedures and could lead to the introduction of different types of plant pests and invasive species to the environment including pests that have not previously been reported in Australia.

“Healthy seeds are an essential part of sustainable food production," Mewett continues. "Keeping seeds, and consequently plants, healthy is crucial to ensure a sustainable food supply, as well as to protect Australia’s environment and agricultural enterprises. The ASF and its members are continually working with the Department to ensure that Australia’s biosecurity settings facilitate the movement of high-quality, clean and healthy seeds.”

Always buy your clean, high-quality seed from trusted seed suppliers, such as ASF Members.

The Australian Seed Federation (ASF) is the peak industry body for the Australian seed industry at the local, state, national and international level. The ASF also represents its members internationally, as a member of the International Seed Federation (ISF) and the Asia Pacific Seed Association (APSA). The ASF strives to deliver Sustainability, Leadership, Integrity and Collaboration on key issues including climate change adaptation, world food security, technological developments, trade, and the growth in productivity of Australian and international agriculture, through the delivery and supply of new and improved commodities and services to the market.

Deadly viruses detected in seeds from overseas

(August 5, 2021) - A range of vegetable and fruit viruses have been detected in seeds from overseas, demonstrating the significant biosecurity risks that illegal seed imports can pose.

Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer Dr Gabrielle Vivian-Smith said a variety of seeds were imported for testing and research purposes and the majority carried viruses of concern.

“Seeds are the most intercepted biosecurity risk item through the mail,” Vivian-Smith said. “Last year over 55 thousand intercepted mail articles contained seeds, equating to 72% of the total interceptions for the period.

“We knew that seeds could carry a range of biosecurity risks, but through this testing we now know the reality of the risks that we were potentially facing," Vivian-Smith adds. "Cucumber, melon and zucchini seeds that were ordered online from overseas were tested for selected viruses that are a biosecurity and agronomic concern. The viruses that were detected in the seeds include Melon necrotic spot virus, cucumber green mottle mosaic virus, Squash mosaic virus and potyviruses.

“One or more of the target viruses were detected in 23 of the 31 seed lots that were tested," Vivian-Smith continues. "These viruses are a significant risk to Australia’s vegetable and fruit industries, as well as backyard gardens, our environment, overall plant health. If these seeds were bought by members of the public and planted, it could have led to some devastating results.

"Some seeds cannot be imported to Australia, as the risk of introducing unwanted plant diseases and serious weed species is too high," Vivian-Smith concludes. "Others can, provided you meet strict import conditions. Our work at the border helps manage the risk of illegal seed imports, but everyone has a role to play in following our conditions.”

To better manage biosecurity risks, last year Australia banned imports of cucumber, melon and zucchini seeds, as well as seeds of other high-risk commodities, through international mail and other pathways.

On-arrival in Australia, biosecurity officers check that imported seeds are free from biosecurity risk material and meet all import conditions. Seeds that do not meet the import conditions may require testing or treatment.

If the biosecurity risk cannot be successfully treated, the seeds will be exported or disposed at the importer’s expense.

Illegal imports of seeds can be subject to enforcement action by the department. There are significant penalties if you are found to have breached Australia’s biosecurity conditions. This can include fines and potential prosecution.

For more information on the biosecurity conditions for seed imports, visit

Learn more about the testing of seeds from overseas in the Viruses in the cucurbit seeds from on line mail order providers publication.