A number of people in three states have received packages of random, unidentified seeds from China, according to local and federal agriculture officials.
“We received reports of people receiving seeds in the mail from China that they did not order,” officials with the Washington State Department of Agriculture noted on July 24.
“The seeds are sent in packages usually stating that the contents are jewelry. Unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants, or be harmful to livestock.”
The seeds, officials said, often come in sealed packages, and people should not open the packages. Instead, they are asked to report receiving the seeds to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for possible agricultural smuggling.
WSDA officials advised that the packets can be sealed in a Ziploc bag and placed in the regular garbage.
“We do not need to collect the seeds,” WSDA Plant Services officials noted.” We are working with USDA and the departments of agriculture from other states on this risk to the environment and agriculture.”
Clallam County Master Gardener Jeanette Stehr-Green said that even if the gardener recognizes the seed as belonging to a certain type of plant, planting seeds from an unknown source isn’t a good idea.
“The variety of the plant is very difficult to tell from most seeds; it may or may not be a variety that does well locally,” she said.
“Furthermore, there will be no insights as to reliability/reputability of the supplier and whether seeds from the source are of good quality and have been handled in a manner that will result in good germination rates.”
Stehr-Green added that the seeds could be treated with some unknown chemical to control pests or the packet could include contaminants such as inert matter, weed seed or other crops.
“Planting these seeds could therefore be a waste of the gardeners time and garden space,” she said. “They might also introduce weeds into the garden or unwanted chemicals for those using organic gardening methods.”