Mysterious seed mailings

Unsolicited packages of seeds, many involving addresses from China, have been reported to agriculture officials by U.S. citizens from coast to coast.
Image Credit: Washington State Department of Agriculture

CLEMSON, S.C. – State agriculture officials are warning South Carolinians to be wary of unsolicited packages of seeds mailed to them.

The South Carolina Department of Agriculture and Clemson University’s Regulatory Services division are working together to investigate after residents reported receiving packages they did not order.

Similar reports, many involving addresses from China, have been made to agriculture officials across the country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is collecting reports and coordinating a national investigation.

If you receive an unsolicited package containing seeds:

  • Do not open the seed packets or handle the seeds.
  • Do not plant unidentified seeds. They may be invasive species that could displace or destroy native ecosystems.
  • Retain the seeds and packaging and put them in a zip-top bag.
  • Contact the APHIS Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance (SITC) program.

“Whatever the reason for these mailings, it’s important to use caution when it comes to unidentified seeds,” said South Carolina Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Derek Underwood, who oversees the agency’s Consumer Protection Division.

“If these seeds should bear invasive species, they may be a threat to our environment and agriculture,” said Steve Cole, director of Clemson’s Regulatory Services unit. “We don’t want unknown species planted or thrown out where they may wind up sprouting in a landfill.”

According to Cole, USDA APHIS will have a collection-destruction program setup in the coming days. Until that program is available, he urges residents who have received unsolicited seeds in the mail appearing to be from China to store the seeds safely inside a zip top bag, not plant or handle the seeds and report the incident at https://www.clemson.edu/public/regulatory/plant-industry/invasive/chinese_seeds/chinese_seed_index.html.

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