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Washington agriculture officials warn not to open unsolicited plant seeds

(Photo courtesy of WSDA)

If you’ve received a packet of seeds in the mail that you did not order, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) says don’t open them, and don’t plant them as they may be invasive or harmful.

Update, Aug. 3: The WSDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are now asking the public to turn in seeds they received that may have been shipped to the United States illegally. USDA asks residents to place them and their packaging in a plastic bag, place the bag in a mailing envelope, and send it to USDA for further investigation.

If you already planted the seeds, leave the plants where they are and contact the APHIS State Plant Health Director for guidance. WSDA had previously instructed residents to double bag and dispose of them and plants grown from them in the trash before receiving this updated guidance. Residents who disposed of seeds do not need to take any further action.


On Friday, July 24, WSDA received two separate reports of residents receiving seeds from China that they did not order. The seeds have been spotted in packages labeled as jewelry, possibly as a way to get through customs.

It’s unknown what they are, but the WSDA says planting anything of unknown origin can be harmful to native plants and to livestock.

There have also been a few reports from people who purchased seeds from an online retailer thinking they were from the United States, only to learn when the package arrived in the mail that they were from another country.

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If you receive unsolicited seeds from another country, the WSDA says not to plant them and not to open the package if it is sealed. Burning the seeds is not a guaranteed way to kill them, and grinding them could release fungal or other plant diseases.

This is known as “agricultural smuggling,” WSDA said in a Facebook post, and it’s not only illegal, but poses a serious threat to farms, gardens, animals, and the environment. Report the package to the United States Department of Agriculture and keep both the seeds and packaging until the USDA provides further instruction as it may be used as evidence.

UPDATED to reflect new reporting instructions!…

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

Washington is not the only state where reports of unsolicited seeds have surfaced.

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