IPPC Observatory study on the Internet Trade (e-Commerce) in Plants

As sales of plant products via the internet increase, many regulated articles are often traded without the necessary phytosanitary certificates required by the importing country. E-commerce has become more common and convenient that it presents a pathway by which small and often uneasily recognizable consignments of plants and plant products have been moving across international borders and across continents.

In 2012, the IPPC Observatory conducted a study that showed a significant number of websites offering sales and distribution of plants and plant products. A majority of these websites did not specify the restrictions or requirements for importation into specific countries, nor did the majority of these identify the source countries or locations from which they ship their products. Most were selling seeds or bulbs and tubers while other products were sold as novelty items, advertised with catchy phrases as ‘plantable bookmarks’ or ‘seed-infused biodegradable paper.’

Articles made from lumber such as crafts, furniture and planks were also offered in some websites, often without the details of the plants species from which they were made. Sale and distribution of living organism for supposed biological control was also a common offering on these websites, such as Nertia sp., a snail known to control of algae in aquaria but could potentially be a voracious consumer of various algal species. Butterflies such as the painted lady butterfly (Cynthia cardui) were sold in their largal stages but are known to feed on some economically important crops.

The IPPC Observatory e-Commerce study and other similar studies largely showed that regulated articles ordered over the internet are routinely not accompanied by appropriate phytosanitary certificates during import. Taking these into account, the CPM during its 7th Session in 2014, adopted the Recommendation on Internet trade (e-commerce) in plants and other regulated articles.

The CPM Recommendations encouraged national plant protection organizations (NPPOs) and regional plant protection organizations (RPPOs) to collaborate with stakeholders to monitor internet trade. They should also ensure that goods ordered online comply with relevant phytosanitary regulations on the basis of pest risk analysis. The CPM Recommendations also encouraged NPPOs and RPPOs to, among others, establish mechanisms to identify products and potentially high-risk pathways, promote compliance with the appropriate phytosanitary import requirements, and strengthen coordination with postal and courier services to ensure that e-commerce traders are well informed on the phytosanitary risks and appropriate measures.

Doc # Agenda # Title Files Publication date
IPPC Observatory study on the Internet Trade (e-Commerce) in Plants: Potential Phytosanitary Risks En
CPM Recommendation: Internet trade (e-commerce) in plants and other regulated articles En

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