Minnesota is the latest in a growing list of states investigating unlabeled packages of seeds from China.
Minnesota Department of Agriculture officials say they received more than two dozen reports Monday from people who received unlabeled seeds via mail from China.
Most are labeled “jewelry” and were sent to private residents who say they hadn’t ordered anything matching the label description or the contents.
Officials in other states, including Louisiana, Utah, Virginia, South Carolina, Washington and other states report similar packages.
“The fact that they’re not labeled truthfully and they’re going to people unsolicited raises some concerns,” said Denise Thiede, section manager for the seed, noxious weed, hemp and biotechnology programs at the MDA.
Thiede asks anyone who received the seeds to contact MDA so the packages can be collected and identified. The plant protection and quarantine division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is working with Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance officials to investigate the packages, trace their origins and identify the seeds.
The seeds mailed to Minnesota have not yet been identified or collected as of Monday evening. However, Thiede said from photos of them, there appears to be a large variety.
“There are different sizes, shapes and colors,” she said. “Which is kind of a surprise to me.”
The packages are either being collected by an MDA inspector or will be mailed to the MDA before being examined or passed on to federal officials. Thiede said the packages are needed for the investigation and proper disposal.
“We certainly don’t want noxious weeds or invasive species introduced to our natural lands or agricultural lands,” she said.
Even throwing them away could introduce a risk to the environment, Thiede added.
“They could still end up germinating,” she said.
Seeds were received from Faribault to Roseau, and points in between.
Under federal guidelines, seeds shipped from outside the U.S. must be identified and labeled.
Thiede said this is the first widespread incident of unlabeled and unsolicited seeds she has encountered. However, seeds in other states began appearing last week. She and other state agriculture officials kept an eye on reports from those states and prepared for packages to arrive in Minnesota. As of Friday evening, none had been reported. On Monday morning, a report of a package came to the department from Minnetonka. By afternoon, more than 25 had been confirmed.
“That’s probably under-reported,” Thiede said Monday evening.
Anyone who receives a package is asked to call the state “Arrest a Pest” line at 1-888-545-6684 or email email@example.com. If you receive seeds, do not throw away the package or its contents. Definitely don’t plant the seeds, Thiede added.
“We don’t know what they are yet, and we want to protect our land,” she said.