Amid reports that residents in several U.S. cities had received unsolicited, and potentially dangerous packages of “mystery seeds” from China, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry announced last week that one such delivery was made to a resident of St. Rose.
At the time of the department’s announcement, residents of Utah, Virginia and Washington, as well as the United Kingdom had reported receiving packages, several of which were reportedly marked as containing “ear jewelry” in packets marked with Chinese writing. As of July 29, 28 states had reported residents receiving deliveries.
It’s presented a concern for agriculture officials in these regions. Seed importation is highly regulated in most countries, including the U.S., due to the risks of spawning invasive plant species, spreading diseases and pests that could damage or destroy crops and other plants.
As such, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain urged anyone who might come in contact with such a package to report it to the LDAF as soon as possible.
“Right now, we are uncertain what types of seeds are in the package,” Strain said. “Out of caution, we are urging anyone who receives a package that was not ordered by the recipient, to please call the LDAF immediately. We need to identify the seeds to ensure they do not pose a risk to Louisiana’s agricultural industry or the environment.”
Utah officials advised residents who received the packages to not throw away the seeds, as that could cause them to disperse and grow. Meanwhile, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said, “Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops” and that preventing their introduction is the most effective way to reduce that risk.
One may contact the LDAF by calling (225) 925-4733.
According to a story written by Richard Marsden of the Daily Mail on July 17, the unsolicited packages have been received by hundreds of British gardeners. The recipients were largely those who had made earlier legitimate seed purchases through online sites like Amazon and eBay, Marsden wrote, and the recent packages were marked as “petals” and “ear studs,” possibly to evade customs checks.
U.S. Customs and Border Protections agents are investigating the incidents.