The North Dakota Department of Agriculture is providing more guidance for state residents who have received unsolicited packages of seeds from China.
Meanwhile, federal agriculture officials said they believe the mystery seeds are a marketing scam.
Nearly 100 people around the state have reported receiving the shipments, according to the agriculture department. State officials advise these steps:
- Do not plant the seeds. Retain them and the packaging, including the mailing label.
- Place the seeds in a resealable plastic bag if they were opened.
- Fill out a survey at https://www.nd.gov/ndda/unsolicitedseeds. The survey also can be mailed to residents who request a prepaid envelope, and it can be returned with the seeds.
- Send the seeds, packaging and mailing label to the agriculture department either at personal expense or by requesting a prepaid envelope by calling 701-328-4765, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by checking the appropriate box at the end of the online survey.
The state agriculture department is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to identify and destroy the seeds. The mystery seeds have been showing up around the country, as well as in Canada and Europe, and USDA has been working with Homeland Security Customs and Border Patrol. Officials said they've seen no evidence that the seeds pose a health or environmental risk, The Associated Press reported Monday.
"At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a 'brushing scam' where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales," the department said in a statement. "USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment."
The agency's main concern has been the potential for the seeds to introduce damaging pests or diseases that could harm U.S. agriculture. However, officials from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, APHIS, late last week said they have identified 14 species of plants, including mustard, cabbage, flowers and herbs.
"We are not aware of any human health risks at this time," an APHIS statement said. "In an abundance of caution, people should wear gloves and limit touching the material. People who believe they are experiencing a health issue as a result of touching these seeds should contact their medical provider."
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