Texas – Tiny bags marked as jewelry have been showing up in the mailboxes of Texas residents but it turns out the bags actually contain seeds.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture are warning anyone who receives an unsolicited bag of seeds from China not to plant them, not to throw them away and to report the incident directly to the USDA.
Texans aren’t the only ones who have received packages of mystery seeds, “residents across the nation have reported receiving unsolicited packages that appear to have originated in China,” according to a CNN report.
To date, packages containing these mystery seeds have also been received in Washington, Virginia, Utah, Kansas, Louisiana and Arizona, according to a press release from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Plant pathologist Kevin Ong who works for the Agrilife extension said officials are concerned because the packages contain something different than what is listed and there’s no indication or information regarding what the seeds might be.
“Not knowing what the seeds are could potentially open our agriculture industry up to noxious weeds. If that proves to be the case, if they take hold, they could impact agriculture negatively,” said Ong.
If you do receive a bag of the mystery seeds, do not throw them away. Send an email to USDA-APHIS’ Texas PPQ state operations coordinator Carol Motloch, at firstname.lastname@example.org and await further instructions.
Emails should include a contact email and phone number as well as a description of package information. A photo of the label and material is also helpful, according to Agrilife extension officials.
“It could be a scam, or it very well could be dangerous,” said Agrilife extension horticulturist Larry Stein. “We would not advise throwing them away until more information is known because they might contaminate the landfill.”
Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller advises anyone who receives a foreign package containing seeds not to open it and keep the contents contained in the original sealed package.
“I am urging folks to take this matter seriously,” Miller said in a press release. “An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture. TDA has been working closely with USDA to analyze these unknown seeds so we can protect Texas residents.”
The Agrilife extension lists an invasive species as an organism that is not native to a particular region. These species can potentially cause environmental and economic harm, destroy native crops, introduce disease to native plants and may be dangerous for livestock.