How harmful can seed fraud be? It is very harmful to the gardener that spends their time working hard for months growing seeds that are not what the seller claims them to be.
We have found that seeds sold on EBAY are often fraudulent seeds, but most often it is difficult to prove. One sample listing we found searching EBAY just today is for Campari tomatoes. In this instance, the fraud is not hard to prove at all. The gentleman claims to have thousands of satisfied customers and sells “Sinfully Sweet Campari™” for about $9.00 for only five seeds. The “Sinfully Sweet Campari” fresh tomatoes is a trademark owned by Village Farms, L.P.
Active Ebay Campari Seeds Listing.
(Same Seller. Same fraud. Just changed the photo.)
If you search for Campari seeds online you will discover that they are incredibly difficult to find for purchase. This is because the species is a hybrid specially bred, and few have the rights to even distribute the tomatoes, let alone the seeds. If you can find genuine Campari seeds, they are quite expensive. Even the resulting fruit is expensive and can cost up to $6 a pound. But while it is quite difficult to purchase genuine Campari seeds, it is real easy to find the frauds.
Even though the tomato you purchase in the store is genuine Campari and quite delicious, the seeds within these tomatoes are essentially worthless. Hybrid seeds cannot be harvested from the fruit to generate the same resulting plant. Hybrids are a special cross breed of multiple plants that does not last consistently for more than one season. The resulting seeds will most often only have the characteristics of an individual parent, not the resulting hybrid. For example, say you had a hybrid that mixed plum tomatoes with beefsteaks and it was found to generate a larger plum tomato. If you harvest the seeds, the resulting plants will likely be beefsteaks or the original plum, not the desired hybrid.
The fraudulent sellers, such as those on EBAY, merely purchase a batch of tomatoes at their local grocer. They ferment the seeds and place them in envelopes and charge ridiculous prices to their unsuspecting buyers.
If you take our first seller referenced above, he is selling five seeds for $9.00. Even if he purchased the tomatoes from which he is extracting the seed for $6.00 a pound, he can harvest hundreds of seeds from one pound of tomatoes. None of those seeds are genuine Campari Hybrid seeds and they are essentially worthless. But he is lying to his buyers and selling them remnants from the kitchen table for almost $2.00 for a single seed!!
You can only ferment your own seeds from heirloom tomatoes and expect the end result to have the same characteristics as the parent. We will provide a list of heirloom species below. Campari is NOT an heirloom tomato.
Anyone selling you hybrid seeds or plants that are not from a supplier with the right to distribute those seeds is stealing from you as sure as someone selling you fraudulent software, Rolexes or any other fraudulent item.
The most insidious part of the crime is it takes a full growing season of wasted time to figure it out. And often you never will because you will blame the conditions, the circumstances or yourself for the imperfect result. Fact is, you were robbed.
Here is a list of heirloom seeds. It may not be comprehensive, but it gives you a great idea of what plants from which you can extract your own seed.
Note experimenting with hybrid seeds is fine, so long as you know you are doing it. Extracting your own is free, but paying someone $2.00 a seed to do it is ludicrous.