If you happen to get some strange seeds in the mail, there’s some things you should do and a few that you shouldn’t. Agriculture officials are warning Americans to be on alert for mysterious packages originating in China. After Alabama tested some, they were declared “safe” but just because the ones tested were okay, others might not be. Don’t plant them.
Seeds of destruction
Government officials are getting a little nervous about strange things coming out of China without warning. Especially since they gave us the little Christmas gift of Covid-19. Suddenly, strange and mysterious packets of seeds are appearing in people’s mailboxes.
Alabama officials took some initiative and looked into it. Nothing particularly sinister surfaced as of yet. The state’s top farming official assures everyone that lab testing “suggests seeds sent from China to people throughout the United States are harmless.” That does not mean they’re totally safe. Even if they are now, they might not stay that way. We simply can’t trust the source. You don’t have to raise an Audrey, like in the Little Shop of Horrors to cause a lot of havoc. Just ask anyone who ever encountered Kudzu.
Residents in around half of American states have been getting seed packages over the past few weeks. Alabama was one of the first to send some samples to the lab. Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Stan Pate explains, “that 385 residents reported getting the mailings.” They picked up and tested 252 samples. All of them were seemingly normal. “About half turned out to be flower seeds; 41 percent were vegetables like tomatoes; and 9 percent were herbs.”
A false sense of security
There wasn’t anything else to worry about either. “We found no noxious compounds, no dangerous compounds that we believe would be,” Pate relates. Still, he wants “to be clear, though,” that China doesn’t exactly have our best intentions at heart. They might send out the first seeds that weren’t treated with anything to “have a sense of security come about, and then later send some stuff out that could be harmful.”
If you do get some of the seeds, “The department urges people not to open or plant unsolicited seeds, not to throw them away and to keep packaging, including mailing labels.” In Alabama, you can report it online or over the phone but no matter where you live, the feds want to know. “This matter remains the subject of a U.S. Department of Agriculture investigation.”
There aren’t any obvious patterns developing yet. “residents in Baldwin County reported the most packages, followed by Jefferson County and Mobile County. Some 21 percent of the people reporting the Chinese seeds say they got multiple seed packets in the same package, while others got more than one package.”
People already planted them
According to Commissioner Pate, the thing that concerns agriculture officials the most is “about 15 percent of the people making reports” had already had planted them by the time state workers arrived “to retrieve them.” Just in case they might be ready to produce Triffids, “those workers dug up the seeds, along with the soil it was planted in.”
Andy Tipton, who serves as director of food safety and agriculture compliance for the Department of Agriculture and Industries, agrees that you shouldn’t plant the seeds. “One of the big worries is that people will plant an invasive species and create problems similar to Cogongrass originally from tropical and subtropical regions.” That’s a nasty plant.
“It’ll bloom, and it’ll be like a dandelion bloom, so that there’s thousands and thousands of seeds that a few of these plants and produce,” he said. “And they spread very, very quickly.” What if they were genetically altered, the same way Covid-19 is probably a genetically altered version of SARS?