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Ag officials warn of unsolicited seed shipments to states

seeds Washington Department of Agriculture
Washington State Department of Agriculture

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- Agriculture officials in multiple states issued warnings Monday about unsolicited shipments of foreign seeds and advised people not to plant them.

In Kentucky, the state agriculture department was notified that several residents received unsolicited seed packets sent by mail that appeared to have originated in China, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. The types of seeds are unknown and could be harmful, he said.

The commissioner stressed that the seeds should not be planted.

"We don't know what they are, and we cannot risk any harm whatsoever to agricultural production in the United States," he said. "We have the safest, most abundant food supply in the world and we need to keep it that way."

Anyone in Kentucky receiving packages of foreign or unfamiliar seeds should contact the state agriculture department immediately, Quarles said.

"At this point in time, we don't have enough information to know if this is a hoax, a prank, an internet scam or an act of agricultural bio-terrorism," he said. "Unsolicited seeds could be invasive and introduce unknown diseases to local plants, harm livestock or threaten our environment."

Several other states have also received suspicious packages of seeds that appear to have originated from China, news outlets reported.

In North Carolina, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it was contacted by numerous people who received seed shipments they did not order. The agency said the shipments were likely the product of an international internet scam known as "brushing."

"According to the Better Business Bureau, foreign, third-party sellers use your address and Amazon information to generate a fake sale and positive review to boost their product ratings," said Phil Wilson, director of the state's Plant Industry Division.

Quarles issues warning about foreign seeds

Over the weekend, we learned that Kentucky is the fourth state known to have received unsolicited seed packets appearing to have originated from China.At this point in time, we don’t have enough information to know if this is a hoax, a prank, an internet scam, or an act of agricultural bio-terrorism. Unsolicited seeds could be invasive and introduce unknown diseases to local plants, harm livestock or threaten our environment.It is incredibly important that if you receive a package of foreign or unfamiliar seeds, you report it to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture immediately. Individuals who have received suspicious packages with seeds shouldn't thow them away: put them in an airtight bag and ship them to the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's division of Plant Protection Quarantine at USDA-APHIS PPQ, P.O. Box 475, Hebron, Kentucky 41048. Individuals are also encouraged to contact the Kentucky Department of Agriculture at (502) 573-0282 or e-mail ag.web@ky.gov. #KyAg365

Posted by Commissioner Ryan Quarles on Monday, July 27, 2020

UPDATED to reflect new reporting instructions!...

Posted by Washington State Department of Agriculture on Saturday, July 25, 2020
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