P.E.I.'s Veseys Seeds is busy fielding questions and dispelling rumours about packets of wildflower seeds it's been offering free to North American customers — some on social media have suggested the seeds include invasive species or are genetically modified, which Veseys vehemently denies.
Requests for the free seeds have poured in to General Mills after more than 10 million Honey Nut Cheerios boxes across North America featured a Bring Back the Bees promotion to encourage people to plant wildflowers and bring awareness to the importance of bees as pollinators.
"In most locations, the seed mixture species will be non-native but not considered invasive," said John Barrett, director of sales, marketing and development with Veseys, based in York, P.E.I.
To be invasive, he said, a species has to be non-native and have the tendency to spread and threaten the environmental, economic or social health of an area.
"Some species within the mixture have the potential to become naturalized, adding to the biodiversity of the area without negatively impacting the environment," he said, adding Veseys complies with the seed purity requirements of the Canada Seeds Act.
In addition to concerns about invasive species, Barrett said the company has also been fielding questions about whether the seeds are genetically modified.
"We're dealing with the fact that people think that maybe the seeds are genetically modified," said Barrett, explaining Veseys does not sell any GM seeds and is a signator on a safe seed pledge.
"We're combating things like rumours that get spread that Veseys is owned by Monsanto, when in fact it's always been a family, Island-owned company," he added.
'Scrambling' to ship more seeds
Meanwhile, the promotion's popularity is "beyond anyone's wildest expectation," Barrett said — popularity which brings tens of thousands more people to the company's website, he said, but also brings added scrutiny.
It's the second year for the promotion in Canada, but the first year in the United States.
"There were 700,000 requests for a package of our wildflower seeds," the first day of the U.S. promotion, Barrett said, noting the General Mills website crashed temporarily and the original allotment of two million packages was spoken for within just a few days — they'd first estimated it would take several weeks.
Veseys is now "scrambling" to get more another 1.5 million seed packages to General Mills in the U.S. and Canada, he said.
'Dealing with it'
"It's not the ideal time to get a massive reorder like that, but we're dealing with it," said Barrett, noting early spring is already a very busy time for Veseys.
Veseys is the largest mail-order gardening company in the country. It's already talking with the cereal company about continuing the promotion next spring, Barrett said.
The mix includes Chinese Forget-Me-Not, Siberian Wallflower, Orange California Poppy, Purple Coneflower, Single Mix China Aster, Corn Poppy, Lance leaved Coreopsis, Blue Flax, Baby Blue-Eyes, Globe Gilia, Indian Blanket, Tidy-Tips, Plains Coreopsis, Tall White Sweet Alyssum, Lavender Hyssop, Fleabane Daisy, Forget-Me-Not, New England Aster, Bergamot, and contains annuals, biennials, and perennials that produce flowers throughout the entire growing season in a wide range of colours, Veseys said.
"Consumers throughout the entire U.S. will find any of the varieties contained in our seed mix in the many seed racks carried by all the major chains such as Lowes, Home Deport, Walmart, etc.," explained Barrett.
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