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Beware of seeds from China

By Guest Columnist Bonnie Coblentz

Mississippians are urged not to open or plant packets of unknown seeds that are appearing unsolicited in mailboxes, seemingly shipped from China.

Packets of seeds began appearing in the mail nationwide in late July. Packages are sometimes marked as jewelry or other items, never seeds or any agricultural product. he people receiving the seeds did not order them.

Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson urged state residents who receive the seeds to report them immediately. The Bureau of Plant Industry’s phone number is 662-325-3390. Seeds can also be dropped off at county offices of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. If the package has been opened, place the seeds and any packing materials in a zip-top bag labeled with the recipient’s name, city and phone number.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture \(USDA) currently has no evidence indicating this is something other than a scam in which people receive unsolicited items from a seller, who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.

The seeds are called “mystery” or “unknown” because they do not come with identification. State Agricultural Commissioner Andy Gipson says there is no indication these seeds pose a danger to human health. However, “any foreign seeds can have a negative impact on our environment as a threat to plant and animal health, and to agriculture," he adds. "Also, foreign seeds could carry fungi or pests which could cause great destruction to our native ecosystem."

Gary Bachman, horticulturist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, says all plant material entering the United States legitimately is required to go through inspections because of the danger of introducing unknown or new species of plants.

Americans are being urged not to plant these unknown seeds that are arriving unsolicited, and Bachman said even planting the seeds in a pot is asking for trouble. “If the plant is an exotic, invasive species, growing it in a container can still result in the plant escaping or becoming established in our native habitat,” Bachman says.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Bonnie Coblentz is writer for the Mississippi State UniversityExtension Service.


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