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Big Bend, Georgia residents report receiving unsolicited, mysterious seeds from China

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Posted at 10:02 AM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 15:38:41-04

(WTXL) — Several reports have come in from around the Big Bend about packages shipped from China containing unidentified seeds.

Monday night, authorities said a Taylor County resident had recently received seeds in the mail from China. However, the package was marked as containing jewelry that the recipient did not order.

A Jefferson County resident also reported receiving unsolicited seeds in a sealed package with no label of what type of seeds they were. Despite having no label identifying the seeds, the package included planting instructions.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) has also been notified that several Georgia residents have received unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China.

"At this time, we are not sure what the seeds are and therefore are urging everyone to be exceedingly vigilant," Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black said. "If you have received one of these packages in the mail, please use extreme caution by not touching the contents and securing the package in a plastic bag."

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services FDACS - Division of Plant Industry (DPI), this is a developing situation in Florida and other states.

FDACS says reports from Florida residents quadrupled overnight, with at least 631 Florida residents reporting having received suspicious seed packages as of July 28. The content of the seed packages remains unknown at this time, until testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) takes place.

They say seeds of unknown origin may be a part of "agricultural smuggling," may be invasive, may introduce pathogens, toxins, or plant and animal diseases, may pose a risk of foodborne illness, and may pose a threat to plant, animal, and human health.

“Plant seeds from unknown sources may introduce dangerous pathogens, diseases, or invasive species into Florida, putting agriculture and our state’s plant, animal, and human health at risk,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Anyone receiving these suspicious seed packets should not open them, should not plant them, should limit contact with them, and should report them immediately to both our department and USDA officials.”

So if you live in Florida and receive seeds, here's what you should do:

  1. DO NOT plant or discard them and if they are in sealed packaging (as in the photo below) don't open the sealed package.
  2. Report the seed package to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Anti-Smuggling Hotline at 1-800-877-3835 or SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov
  3. Report the seed package to the FDACS - Division of Plant Industry at 1-888-397-1517 or DPIhelpline@FDACS.gov

When reporting the seed package to FDACS and USDA/APHIS, be prepared to provide your name, physical address, phone number, and email address for contact purposes.

If you live in Georgia and receive unsolicited seeds in the mail from China or any other country, contact the GDA Seed Lab at 229-386-3145 or email SeedLab@agr.georgia.gov