What is going on with the seeds in the mail?

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/ Kentucky Department of Agriculture
Some people have reported receiving suspicious seed packets in the mail.

Recently, there have been reports of people receiving packages of seeds in the mail. What is weird is that they did not order the seeds and have no idea where they came from. There have been reports in multiple states of these mysterious seed packages. Some reports have said that the seeds are arriving unexpectedly in packages with Chinese characters, Chinese Post markings, or labeled as jewelry. As of July 28, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) have received at least 631 reports in Florida.

What is in these seed packets?

Right now, we don’t know what is in the seed packets. This is why it is very important not to use these seeds and report them to FDACS or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

What are the risks of these unknown seeds?

These unknown seeds could be an invasive species. An invasive species is any organism that is moved outside of its native range and can cause damage in the new area where it is introduced. Invasive plant species can cause a lot of problems such as disrupting native ecosystems and waterways, outcompeting native plants, economic losses in agricultural or horticultural production, and even human and animal health hazards. In Florida, we are already combating many invasive plant species including air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera), hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolia) and many more.

These seeds can bring a pathogen with them. Much like the plant itself can be an invasive species, a seed could carry a plant pathogen that can also be invasive. A plant pathogen can be a bacteria, fungi, virus or other microorganism that can harm plants, animals or humans. The seed may just be a free ride for a hitchhiking pathogen to travel to a new location.

I received suspicious seeds in the mail. What do I do?
FDACS is currently advising the following:

• Do not open the seed packets.
• Avoid opening any packing material if possible.
• Do not plant the seeds.
• Do not put the seeds in the trash.
• Limit your contact with the seeds.
• Put the seeds and mailing materials into a sealable plastic bag.
• Report the seeds to the appropriate authorities.

Who should you contact?
Report the seed package to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry at 1-888-397-1517 or DPIhelpline@FDACS.gov.

Report the seed package to the USDA-APHIS Anti-Smuggling Hotline at 1-800-877-3835 or SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov.

Be prepared to provide your name, address, phone number and email. This is so they can contact you with more information on what to do about the package you received.

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