Irradiation of mail and it's implications on "live" seeds ??

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I've been looking so forward to getting my gardening catalogs so I could order gardening seeds and saw a piece in the newspaper so did a quick search and found this... should I be worried ?? What am I going to do if this is what it sounds like ?? beats me any suggestions ?? Notice effective November 1st, 2001: Our seed orders are generally shipped via the U.S. Postal Service. However, with the added postal security measures of "sanitizing" machines, we cannot guarantee that our seeds will arrive viable as they may be "sterilized" in the process and therefore the seeds will not germinate. Currently this is only affecting mail into and out of Washington D.C. area. It is suggested that customers from there or surrounding geographical areas use the UPS option listed below. "Because the high-energy beams are designed to destroy DNA, they might also destroy the viability of any seeds sent through the mail." IRRADIATION: U.S. moving to zap mail to eliminate any anthrax The U.S. Postal Service, which first put the zip in postal delivery, is racing to find new ways to zap the anthrax-laden letters that are showing up in the nation's mail. More than 45 truckloads of potentially contaminated mail hauled to a sterilization facility in Lima, Ohio, this week are the first to be sanitized using high-energy electron beams, a technology that could become --- now that bioterrorism has joined rain, sleet, dark of night and dogs in the litany of the mail carrier's challenges --- as much a part of the new postal landscape as self-adhesive stamps. The Titan Corp. plant in Ohio, which ordinarily sterilizes medical equipment, has suspended normal operations and is devoting its efforts to eliminating any anthrax that might be present in the more than 68 tons of mail trucked there from Washington's Brentwood mail facility, the primary sorting center for the nation's capital. But even before the sterilization is complete, the Postal Service is forging ahead with plans to acquire and install similar systems at some high-risk mail handling facilities, starting in Washington. Titan Corp., based in San Diego, is providing the devices. The technology company says it will deliver eight of the $5 million systems and maintain them for the Postal Service by the end of the year. SureBeam's devices use ordinary electricity to generate free electrons, which are accelerated by magnets to nearly the speed of light. With sufficient power, the resulting focused beam of energy --- up to 10 million electron volts --- can destroy most bacteria almost instantly and penetrate packaged foods to a depth of about one foot. The same beam can be converted to X-rays for even greater penetrating power. But the company says changes will be necessary to sanitize the mail. Anthrax spores are hardier than active bacteria. And because conveyor belts of mail will contain an ever-changing stream of letters, packages, paper, cardboard, foil and other mixed media, higher doses of radiation will be needed to assure that microbes on, or in, the mail are rendered harmless. Because the high-energy beams are designed to destroy DNA, they might also destroy the viability of any seeds sent through the mail. "You would not want to put film or seeds anywhere near it," said Andrew Karam, a radiation safety officer at the University of Rochester (NY). He said that the irradiation needed to kill anthrax is about 100 million times stronger than what items are exposed to under an average airport security X-ray machine. Many questions remain about how widely the irradiation will be applied and how much some items will be affected. But Wil Williams, a spokesman for the Titan Corporation, is already sure of a few things: The machines can treat about 1,000 pounds of mail per hour. If used on packages containing electronics, the electron beams could damage the equipment; it could also expose unexposed film, damage plants and possibly inhibit seeds from germinating. "Clearly, the post office is going to have to develop some new protocols for handling the kinds of things that will be damaged," Williams says. Notice effective November 1st, 2001: Our seed orders are generally shipped via the U.S. Postal Service. However, with the added postal security measures of "sanitizing" machines, we cannot guarantee that our seeds will arrive viable as they may be "sterilized" in the process and therefore the seeds will not germinate. Currently this is only affecting mail into and out of Washington D.C. area. It is suggested that customers from there or surrounding geographical areas use the UPS option listed below. "Because the high-energy beams are designed to destroy DNA, they might also destroy the viability of any seeds sent through the mail." IRRADIATION: U.S. moving to zap mail to eliminate any anthrax The U.S. Postal Service, which first put the zip in postal delivery, is racing to find new ways to zap the anthrax-laden letters that are showing up in the nation's mail. More than 45 truckloads of potentially contaminated mail hauled to a sterilization facility in Lima, Ohio, this week are the first to be sanitized using high-energy electron beams, a technology that could become --- now that bioterrorism has joined rain, sleet, dark of night and dogs in the litany of the mail carrier's challenges --- as much a part of the new postal landscape as self-adhesive stamps. The Titan Corp. plant in Ohio, which ordinarily sterilizes medical equipment, has suspended normal operations and is devoting its efforts to eliminating any anthrax that might be present in the more than 68 tons of mail trucked there from Washington's Brentwood mail facility, the primary sorting center for the nation's capital. But even before the sterilization is complete, the Postal Service is forging ahead with plans to acquire and install similar systems at some high-risk mail handling facilities, starting in Washington. Titan Corp., based in San Diego, is providing the devices. The technology company says it will deliver eight of the $5 million systems and maintain them for the Postal Service by the end of the year. SureBeam's devices use ordinary electricity to generate free electrons, which are accelerated by magnets to nearly the speed of light. With sufficient power, the resulting focused beam of energy --- up to 10 million electron volts --- can destroy most bacteria almost instantly and penetrate packaged foods to a depth of about one foot. The same beam can be converted to X-rays for even greater penetrating power. But the company says changes will be necessary to sanitize the mail. Anthrax spores are hardier than active bacteria. And because conveyor belts of mail will contain an ever-changing stream of letters, packages, paper, cardboard, foil and other mixed media, higher doses of radiation will be needed to assure that microbes on, or in, the mail are rendered harmless. Because the high-energy beams are designed to destroy DNA, they might also destroy the viability of any seeds sent through the mail. "You would not want to put film or seeds anywhere near it," said Andrew Karam, a radiation safety officer at the University of Rochester (NY). He said that the irradiation needed to kill anthrax is about 100 million times stronger than what items are exposed to under an average airport security X-ray machine. Many questions remain about how widely the irradiation will be applied and how much some items will be affected. But Wil Williams, a spokesman for the Titan Corporation, is already sure of a few things: The machines can treat about 1,000 pounds of mail per hour. If used on packages containing electronics, the electron beams could damage the equipment; it could also expose unexposed film, damage plants and possibly inhibit seeds from germinating. "Clearly, the post office is going to have to develop some new protocols for handling the kinds of things that will be damaged," Williams says. This is where I found this http://www.virtualseeds.com/e-beam.html



-- Jacque (bojaq@lynks.com), February 11, 2002

Answers

The USPS is aware of the issue. Not only seeds, but film, and some electronics will be affected by Irradiation.

-- Gary in Ohio (gws@columbus.rr.com), February 11, 2002.

On Jan. 30th I posted a similar question on the Countryside forum:

"Wanted to pass this on: A friend of mine told me this past weekend that she received an email from a company she regularly buys seeds from....They are now shipping all seeds UPS, because of the USPS is irradiating mail (apparently this causes low % germination). They suggested to her that if she were to buy other seeds from other companies by mail, she request that they be shipped by UPS or something other than USPS. If there is anyone who works for the USPS - could you verify? I know they are doing this some places, but I don't think it could be everywhere."

This was the one answer I received:

"Found this link that may have helpful information American Seed Trade Association, http://www.amseed.com/govt.asp U.S. MAIL IRRADIATION UPDATE January 22, 2002 Antiterrorism/Force Protection Bulletin 2001-14, U.S. Security and Counterintelligence Directorate The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) advises that certain types of incoming U.S. Government mail in zip code range 202-205 will continue to be for the foreseeable future irradiated in Lima, Ohio. The USPS notes that mail being irradiated includes letters, flats, express and priority mail with stamps for postage, as well as other packages with stamps for postage. Mail from known mailers is not being irradiated, which includes USPS Express mail with meter strips or corporate accounts, priority mail with meter strips or permit indicia, all registered mail and bulk quantity mail such as catalogs and magazines. Because of the effects of irradiation, the USPS recommends that the following items not be irradiated: germinative matter (seeds, cuttings) There are many other items listed on the web site"

Hope this helps a little -

-- hmm (h.m.metheny@att.net), February 11, 2002.


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