Native seeds from the tropics

#gondwana gondwana at
Thu Oct 30 06:30:09 EST 1997

A little background to people entering this thread in mid-stream. A
company in Guam or thereabouts posted an advertisement for seed of
plants from the tropics. Doug Yanega posted the criticism quoted below,
which began an exchange, also quoted below. I'll make my comments at the
bottom after the quotes.

Doug Yanega wrote:
> > [snip]
> > >
> > > Are you interested in being prosecuted by the USDA?? Maybe you could
> > > enlighten us all as to the permits you have obtained to allow you to make
> > > such shipments.
> > >
> > > Doug Yanega    (dyanega at

[My initial response]
> >
> > Dear Dr. Yanega,
> >
> > I'm not sure what your basis for objection is, but many companies engage
> > in the international commerce of seeds with the US. Provided that they
> > procure the necessary phytosanitary (and if necesary, CITES) permits,
> > and provided the purchaser can secure the necessary permits, this
> > commerce is permissible.

[Doug Yanega's interjection in his reply]
> I know. Your point?

[My initial response continues]

> > I saw nothing in his post (other than the fact it was an advertisment)
> > to object to, in the sense that there was no indication in the post, per
> > se, that suggested that the activity was being done without permits.

[Doug Yanega's next interjection in his reply]

> There was likewise no indication that there ARE permits, and so I asked if
> they had them.

[My initial response continues]

> > Granted that non-permited trade (and any other contraband activity)
> > would be objectionable...but I didn't see anything in the post to
> > indicate this was the case here.
> >
> > Did I miss something?
> >
> > Respectfully,
> >
> > David Deutsch

[Doug Yanega's final comment in his reply]

> You missed any evidence that the proposed sale of material was legal.
> Seems pretty simple to me. Without such evidence, NO ONE should do
> business with such an individual. I can't imagine what *your* objection is
> to asking people engaged in potentially illegal trade to demonstrate that
> they are operating legally.

First of all, Doug's warning is valid, and as can be seen from my
earlier comments, illegal international movement of plant and animal
material is objectionable. Indeed, I agree (without shouted
capitalization) that no one should do business with a company that lacks
the necessary permits and documentation.

Under the eyes of the USDA, it is the person purchasing/bringing-in the
plants/seed into the States who should inquire and procure permits for
importation. The permit materials include information on what is
permitted and what is forbidden entry into the USA, and why. The USA
buyer should read and follow these restrictions carefully...but note it
is the responsibility of the USA buyer (not the overseas company) to do
so. Indeed, non-USA residents cannot be granted import and related

The company overseas is under no obligation to have a USA import permit,
but on the other hand, it does need to supply two things (one always the
other only rarely, where applicable) to the USA buyer: 1.) A
phytosanitary certificate that is not less than 2 weeks old prior to
entry into the USA, and 2.) a CITES certificate (but only if the items
you wish to bring in are listed in CITES (Convention on International
Trade of Endangered Species) restriction lists. After getting the
necessary permits, the USA buyer should ask for, pay for, and insist
with the overseas supplier on getting the phyto, and (if applicable) the
CITES certificates. There are a couple of other red tape matters
surrounding customs and manner of shipping (mail vs. air cargo), but
these are the responsibility of the USA buyer...not of the overseas

To reiterate, the only 2 responsibilities of the overseas supplier are
the Phyto and the CITES certificates, and everyone should insist on
getting those. And this only applies to shipments from outside the
territories of the USA (Note: Individual States (esp. Hawaii) do have
some very justifiable restrictions on interstate movements of some plant
and animal your State Ag. Dept.). Guam is a US
territory and I think (I'm not sure, but I think) that importation from
Guam may not be as restricted, as say importation from Japan, Holland,
or Nigeria.

Next, I want to comment on the general tenor of Doug's posts. The
initial post that started this thread divulged no indication, one way or
another, as to whether the company posting the ad did or did not supply
Phyto or CITES certificates (keep in mind that the USA buyer is the one
who needs to insist on these documents). I.e. there is no indication to
suggest either guilt or innocence.

In his last 3 sentences, it almost seems as if Doug is saying the
following: In the absence of any indication pointing in any direction
(either guilty or innocent), we should presume the company is guilty. I
suppose this is what I have a problem with. I am, and I speculate many
of the readers of this forum are accustomed to the maxim: "Innocent
until proven guilty."

The original post was neutral. It is one thing to caution consumers to
make sure they get the right paperwork when they do business with
somebody overseas. It is another thing altogether to say:

>> Are you interested in being prosecuted by the USDA?? Maybe you
>> could enlighten us all as to the permits you have obtained to
>> allow you to make such shipments.

Again, keep in mind that, as far as the USDA is concerned, the overseas
supplier does not need to get any permits to sell to a USA buyer (in
fact non-US residents are precluded from receiving such permits).
Moreover, like I said, Guam is a US territory.

And in case you wonder how I know all this stuff... I work closely with
the USDA at all times to make sure I am in compliance with regulations
and other laws whenever I import plant materials into the USA, something
which I have done with the approval and oversight of the USDA for the
past 3 years.

David Deutsch

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