USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Agriculture experts in several states are warning the public to not open unsolicited packages of plant seeds that are now showing up in mailboxes across the country because they could be an invasive plant species that could not only introduce diseases to local plants but also be harmful to livestock.
That could translate also to being harmful to wildlife, and with hunting seasons on the horizon, outdoorsmen and women should heed the warnings.
Even the Wall Street Journal is covering the story, which suggests this is a serious problem. The WSJ said authorities in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia are also investigating.
KDVR News in Denver said the Colorado Department of Agriculture has received “numerous reports from across the state of people receiving unsolicited packages of seeds in the mail. The packages appear to have originated from China and other countries, and are labeled as containing jewelry or other items.”
#APHIS is working closely with @CBP and State Depts of Ag re: unrequested seeds. If received, pls contact State Dept of Ag https://t.co/g0WhR57Wv3 or the #APHIS State Plant Health Office https://t.co/CdHtWghDbC. Keep packaging and do not plant seeds from an unknown origin! pic.twitter.com/LORKeTh4Tc
— USDA APHIS (@USDA_APHIS) July 27, 2020
AmmoLand News spoke exclusively with Robin Pruisner, state entomologist and Ag Security Coordinator at the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, who said there appear to be “hundreds of different kinds of seeds.” She acknowledged, “We don’t know at this point in time if they are toxic,” but that determination is definitely a priority.
In a widely circulated email warning, Pruisner cautioned seed recipients, “This is a very real thing – I spent Monday, and weekend, answering phone calls and emails re: unsolicited packages of seed being sent to people across the country, including Iowa. So far, a majority appear to be from China, and we’ve had at least one Uzbekistan. In some cases, people had previously ordered seed online, and in some cases the recipient has never ordered seed.”
She listed several reasons for alarm:
- The seed is unlabeled and could be an invasive plant that does not currently exist in the US.
- The seed may contain seed-borne diseases that we don’t have in the USA.
- Some packets appear to have an unknown seed treatment applied (seed treatments are usually an insecticide and/or fungicide). Because the packets are unlabeled we don’t know what the compounds are, nor how dangerous they could be to human health.
- Seed is an agricultural commodity that is regulated for quality and content by the USDA as well as State Departments of Agriculture.
Pruisner said this could be a “brushing scam.” As defined at Wikipedia, this is “a deceitful technique sometimes used in e-commerce to boost a seller's ratings by creating fake orders.”
Here’s what nobody should do if they receive one of these seed packages, according to Pruisner:
- Don’t open the packages.
- Don’t throw them in the trash, where they could wind up in a landfill and subsequently start to grow. It is no secret wild animals and birds can get into landfills and begin eating whatever green they find.
- “Don’t eat the seeds,” she warns. “I know, seems intuitive, but you’d be surprised.”
MDA is aware that people across the country, including in Maryland, have received unsolicited packages of seeds from China in recent days. MDA is working closely with its partners at @USDA_APHIS to monitor this situation. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/x6GiVyoUj4
— Maryland Agriculture (@MdAgDept) July 27, 2020
One Texas agriculture official told CBS News to treat these seed packages as if they were radioactive.
She told AmmoLand News, “There are a lot of plant pathogens that can be seed-borne. We don’t know if they contain any of these pathogens. Is it something that can jump to our (commercial) crops? Once a plant pathogen gets out there, that is really difficult to deal with.”
If they have been planted and are already sprouting, she said, “Pull the plants and dispose of them thoroughly. Burn them; get them out of the environment at this time.”
State fish and game agencies have been dealing with several problems affecting deer herds over the past several years. This is hardly the time to be adding to their troubles.
According to Pruisner, the reasons people may be receiving these seed packets could be that they have ordered seed online in the past. It is possible the people sending these seeds have gotten their addresses from mail lists.
Other people may have received other “trinkets” in the past, so their mailing information is also accessible.
CBS News has reportedly confirmed residents in all 50 states have reported receiving “suspicious packages of seeds.” The network said the U.S. Department of Agriculture is “aware” of these unsolicited packages.
Denver’s KDVR noted in its report, “All foreign seeds shipped to the United States should have a phytosanitary certificate which guarantees the seeds meet U.S. requirements.”
Pruisner said “a lot of people think this is bio-terrorism,” but quickly added, “I’m not jumping to that.”
However, she stressed the importance of not allowing these seeds to be spread around.
Many if not most of these packages are mismarked, typically as trinkets of some sort.
“When somebody sends something through customs and mislabels it,” she observed, “this is not a legitimate shipment.”
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