About 50 Iowans have reported receiving unsolicited seeds in the mail, the state agriculture department says. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship)
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship said it has received about 50 reports of Iowans receiving “unsolicited” packages of seed from China and other countries.
IDALS has received calls about the seeds since Saturday, said Robin Pruisner, the state’s entomologist and agriculture security coordinator. Some Iowans have reported they received the seeds a few months ago, she said.
Calls started coming in more recently, due to media reports about the seeds, Pruisner said.
Some of the packages have claimed their contents include jewelry or tools, she said.
Because of Iowa’s strong agriculture sector, the unknown seeds are a concern because of the risks they pose for the state’s existing environment. The contents could contain an invasive plant or seed-borne pathogens that cause diseases in plants.
Some packets have seed treatment on them and may also contain an unknown insecticide or fungicide, Pruisner said.
“This seed is totally unlabeled and unsolicited and from a foreign source,” Pruisner said.
A few Iowans said they planted the seeds after mistaking them for other seeds they ordered, Pruisner said. In those cases, the department is asking them to pull out the plants and destroy them.
While some seeds have come from China, others countries have also been involved, including Uzbekistan, Pruisner said.
“Don’t plant the seed. Don’t open the packets,” Pruisner said. “Let us know you received the seed because we will make arrangements to get the seed. We will arrange for appropriate disposal.”
There is no evidence indicating any other suspicious activity other than a “brushing scam,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sellers will send unsolicited items to a home and then post a fake customer review to improve their sales.
As for the type of seed, Pruisner said reports have ranged from tiny seeds to large ones resembling peach pits.
They will all be sent to the USDA for lab examination.
“They’re probably going to have thousands to go through,” Pruisner said.”
Iowans who receive a package of seeds should call IDALS at (515) 281-5321.
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