Officials are warning residents not to plant seeds if they receive them in the mail, unsolicited, from a foreign country.
“We’ve heard from some Indiana offices who have clients who received seeds in the mail from foreign countries, which they did not order,” an email from Shannon Zezula, Indiana State Resource Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said recently. “There are also reports from other states with similar occurrences.”
That email was sent to the local USDA Service Center and shared with the Tribune.
Eric “Rick” Duff, the conservationist in that office, said Tuesday he had not yet heard of anyone in Miami County receiving the seeds. Officials, he said, do not yet know what they are and he warned that planting them could harm crops or the environment.
“It could be very invasive,” he said, “and harmful to our economics.”
Indiana is not the only state where reports of the seeds have surfaced.
Successful Farming reported Monday that residents in at least seven states, not including in Indiana, “are receiving unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China.”
“The seeds – contained within white plastic packages that often are labeled as jewelry, and may have Chinese writing on them – have so far been sent to residents in Washington state, Louisiana, Kansas, Virginia, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma and Ohio,” the article said.
In Kansas, the state Department of Agriculture was first notified July 23, according to Heather Lansdowne, public information officer for the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA). Since then, the department has received “hundreds” of phone calls and emails from affected residents, Lansdowne told Successful Farming.
In a public statement, the Washington State Department of Agriculture said unwanted distribution of the seeds is known as agricultural smuggling, and encouraged recipients to report the packages and keep the packages intact until further instructions are received. The packages may be needed as evidence.
The packages have also been received in North Dakota according to the Grand Forks Herald where it was reported on Monday that officials had received at least five reports since Friday.
Locally, the Office of the Indiana State Chemist, or OISC, is working with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to address the issue.
“They are treating the packages as potentially harmful and they are requesting that any seeds received to be sent to the state lab for identification and evaluation,” the email to the local service center said.
Recipients of unsolicited seeds are asked to:
Not open the package if it is sealed
Not plant them
Keep them in an air-tight container if they have been opened.
Not handle them
The seeds should be mailed to:
ATTN: Don Robison
Office of Indiana State Chemist
175 S. University St.
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2063
LABEL: “Foreign Seed for ID” on the package.