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Seeds in someones hand

Did you get a suspicious packet of seeds in the mail?

What is going on with the seeds?

Seeds packets received by mail

Suspicious seed packets, Photo credit: Kentucky Department of Agriculture

Recently, there have been reports of people receiving packages of seeds in the mail. What is weird is that they did not order the seeds and have no idea where they came from. There have been reports in multiple states of these mysterious seed packages. Some reports have said that the seeds are arriving unexpectedly in packages with Chinese characters, Chinese Post markings, or labeled as jewelry. As of July 28, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) have received at least 631 reports in Florida.

What is in these seed packets?

Right now, we don’t know what is in the seed packets. This is why it is very important not to use these seeds and report them to FDACS or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

(Updated 8/17/2020) The USDA is currently testing some of these seeds to learn more. At this time, there have been no major problems with the seeds, but only a small amount of the seeds have been tested so far.

What are the risks of these unknown seeds?

Image of air potato plant

Air potato, UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright

These unknown seeds could be an invasive species. An invasive species is any organism that is moved outside of its native range and can cause damage in the new area where it is introduced. Invasive plant species can cause a lot of problems such as disrupting native ecosystems and waterways, outcompeting native plants, economic losses in agricultural or horticultural production, and even human and animal health hazards. In Florida, we are already combating many invasive plant species including air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera), hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolia) and many more.

These seeds can bring a pathogen with them. Much like the plant itself can be an invasive species, a seed could carry a plant pathogen that can also be invasive. A plant pathogen can be a bacteria, fungi, virus or other microorganism that can harm plants, animals or humans. The seed may just be a free ride for a hitchhiking pathogen to travel to a new location.

I received suspicious seeds in the mail. What do I do?

FDACS is currently advising the following:

  • Do not open the seed packets.
  • Avoid opening any packing material if possible.
  • Do not plant the seeds.
  • Do not put the seeds in the trash.
  • Limit your contact with the seeds.
  • Put the seeds and mailing materials into a sealable plastic bag.
  • Report the seeds to the appropriate authorities.
  • (Update 7/31/2020) You can arrange to drop off the suspicious seed packages at your local UF/IFAS county extension office. Contact your local extension office for more information.
  • (Update 9/2/2020) You can dispose of the seeds. Visit this blog for more information on how to properly dispose of the seeds.

Who should you contact?

Report the seed package to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry at 1-888-397-1517 or DPIhelpline@FDACS.gov.

Report the seed package to the USDA-APHIS Anti-Smuggling Hotline at 1-800-877-3835 or SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov. (Update 8/17/2020) The USDA has added a page for reporting seeds online and sending the seeds in by mail. Visit the USDA-APHIS Unsolicited Seeds webpage for more information. 

Be prepared to provide your name, address, phone number and email. This is so that they can contact you with more information on what to do about the package you received.

(Update 7/31/2020) If you are a Seminole County resident, you can contact the UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County Office to arrange to drop off your suspicious seed packages. You can call 407-665-5560 to arrange an appointment. For more information, view this video on dropping off your seeds at our office.

How do I properly dispose of the seeds?

See this blog post for more information on how to properly dispose of the seeds.

Other Resources

Here is a recent press release from FDACS on the suspicious seed packets. This is an update from FDACS on how to dispose of the seeds.

Here is a news room post from the USDA. The Aug 12th report can be found here.

Information on UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants.

2 Comments on “Did you get a suspicious packet of seeds in the mail?

  1. OMG, Thank you for exposing this! I just clicked on this to read about it from a person putting it on Facebook! I havent received any seed package and will definitely try my best to get the word out concerning this. I know about the horribly invasive plants, reptiles, etc, and the havoc they are causing . Hopefully we can catch this right away . And if we can catch the perpetrators,and severely punish them, all the better! Good Luck!

    • We appreciate you sharing this message with others! The seed packets could be a risk to our agriculture and natural resources and we hope that others will take the message as seriously as you.

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