SC officials warn of possibly harmful seed packages in your mail

Do not plant the seeds or throw them away, officials warn

N.C. issues warning about unsolicited seed shipments from China

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Have you gotten a package of seeds in the mail you weren’t expecting? The South Carolina Department of Agriculture says if you have, you’re not alone.

The packages of seeds may contain invasive species that could damage crops or hurt livestock and are often mislabeled as being "jewelry."
The packages of seeds may contain invasive species that could damage crops or hurt livestock and are often mislabeled as being "jewelry." (Source: ADAI)

Reports of residents receiving packages of seeds through the mail they did not order are being investigated by the Dept. of Ag and Clemson University’s Regulatory Services division.

Officials say the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is collecting reports and coordinating a national investigation.

If you get a package of seeds, officials want you to do the following:

  • Do not open the seed packets or handle the seeds.
  • Do not plant unidentified seeds. They may be invasive species that could displace or destroy native plants and insects.
  • Retain the seeds and packaging and put them in a zip-top bag.
  • Contact the USDA APHIS Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance (SITC) program.

APHIS SITC may be reached at their website, by phone at 800-877-3835 or by email at SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov.

“If these seeds should bear invasive species, they may be a threat to our environment and agriculture,” said Steve Cole, director of Clemson’s Regulatory Services unit. “We don’t want unknown species planted or thrown out where they may wind up sprouting in a landfill.”

The packages appear to be sent from China and reports indicate they’ve been delivered to residents in multiple other states including Arizona, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington.

State officials expect the USDA will release more official guidance as soon as possible.

People with more questions can contact the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Seed Lab at 803-737-9717 or seedlab@scda.sc.gov, Clemson University’s Department of Plant Industry (invasives@clemson.edu) or a local Clemson Extension Office.

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