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Sinister seeds come from China, experts say ‘don’t plant them’

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U.S citizens around the country have been sent unusual seeds from China and Malaysia that they say they never ordered. Experts with state agricultural departments are unanimous in their warning that no one actually plant the seeds.

The seeds have arrived in packets that are normally used for Asian jewelry shipments and have been described as having Chinese writing on the packages.  

Farm experts warn that foreign species could kill native plants and have diseases that native plants and insects have no defense against.

“Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops,” Virginia Department of Agriculture wrote in an email. “Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.”   

The comments echo those made by departments of agriculture in other states.

With the country on edge from a coronavirus that originated in China, people are naturally wary of any unsolicited shipments from China, but the more so with shipments that contain biological materials like seeds.

“Someone in #China is sending, unsolicited, seeds to Americans in three states. The seeds are usually mislabeled as jewelry. We have to ask: Is this biological warfare?” asks Gordon Chang, an American China expert.

Photos of the seeds have been sent to the USDA and to local agricultural departments, but thus far the species of seeds have not been identified, at least publicly.  

“It said earrings on the outside and I didn’t think much of it because I had ordered earrings off of Etsy,” Kristen Barnhart of Michigan told local Fox 17 of West Michigan.

“I opened up the package and there were seeds inside,” Barnhart explained.

“I actually did send an email with pictures to the USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] as well. So we’ll see if I hear from them and until then I’m just going to hang on to these and see what comes of it,” Barnhart added.

The USDA doesn’t allow the importation of seeds, even small lots, unless the shipping company has a permit or the seeds are on a list of allowed imports with the species of seeds clearly marked on the packaging.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) service says that violators are subject to a $1,000 fine for each offence.

“If the items are determined to be for commercial use,” said the CPB site, “violations will be assessed at a much higher rate. The same fines apply to prohibited agricultural products sent through international mail.”

Anyone who gets a shipment of unsolicited seeds from anywhere should contact their state agricultural department and keep the seeds quarantined.

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