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Reports of receiving random seeds from China are flaring up across America. Could this be a declaration of agricultural war from China?

Agricultural war? Here’s what to do if you get random seeds from China

Post apocalyptic stories always warned us the future of warfare would be different – though most people likely imagined nukes, radiation, spaceships, and other weapons of mass destruction, it’s possible the future of war is much more subtle. There have been an increasing number of reports from people in the US receiving unexpected packages from China filled with seeds.

Other people ordered seeds online (something more and more people are doing as people’s concerns about food supply chains increase) with the expectation the seeds would come from somewhere in the US, only to see their package return address be from China. The Washington State Department of Agriculture stated on July 24th that the contents of these packages are being identified as jewelry.

There have been reports of these random seeds from across the country – forty people in Utah alone have reported getting unexpected packages of seeds from China. There have also been reports from Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Ohio, and other locations.

What the packages look like

The packages, as we mentioned, are labeled as jewelry. One person said their package was said to be labeled “rose flower stud earring”. It was obvious after opening the package this was a lie.

The packages all appear to be plastic envelopes, and frequently have Chinese characters somewhere on the label. Though, not all the packages are identical.

One should always be wary of the arrival of any unexpected package, from outside the country or otherwise.

Why this is concerning

While the packages don’t appear to be immediately harmful to people, the seeds can still pose a threat to the environment. The seeds could be an invasive plant – these types of plants thrive in certain climates that are different than their own and can take over the landscape, choking out not only native plantlife, but frequently adversely affecting animal life too. These plants can be incredibly hard to stop once they’ve taken root (no pun intended) in their new surroundings.

Another possibility is that the seeds could potentially harbor disease or even insects. Plant diseases could devastate native plantlife and hurt farms (yes, even if you plant them in your backyard – cross pollination and wind can carry the disease far away). Smuggled insects could also require increased pesticide usage on crops.

Or the plants could potentially be toxic to livestock, other animals, or even humans.

What to do with the seeds

If you find yourself in possession of one of these packages the Washington State Department of Agriculture has suggestions. The first is do not open the plastic bag they’re inside of. Then they recommend putting the baggie of seeds into a second plastic bag, such as a zip-loc. Make sure it is fully sealed.

After this it’s recommended you contact the United States Department of Agriculture, since this could be considered potential agricultural smuggling. You can find out how to contact them on their website here. You can also contact your state’s department of agriculture as well.

If you have already received a package of seeds and planted them it’s being asked that you dig them up and/or pull the plants out of the ground immediately. Take the seeds and/or plants and put them in plastic bags before you throw them in the trash – do not compost them.

What not to do

The Washington State Department of Agriculture asks people not to burn or grind the seeds up. It’s better to just double bag them – the seeds have no way of doing anything this way.

Burning seeds will not guarantee the seeds are destroyed, and, depending on the seed, the hot air could actually carry the seeds further away.

Grinding seeds or even opening the packages they’re sealed in could release fungal disease or plant disease. Though there is no proof of this yet, since the situation is still very new and not all the information is known as of yet, so caution is the first and foremost need right now.

Tensions have been rising

Why would China suddenly start sending mysterious packages of gardening seeds? Is this an act of agricultural war? The tenuous relationship the United States has had with China has been growing ever more strained, especially lately. It seems incredibly doubtful these random packages are a gesture of goodwill.

Recently the US banned certain Chinese technologies such as Huawei phones – and are considering doing the same with the popular video app TikTok. The US has also asked that a Chinese consulate in Texas be shut down. In return China asked the US to leave one of their consulates inside mainland China.

As the two countries trade jabs, the hopes of de-escalating tensions wane – leaving us with, apparently, strange unsolicited packages of seeds. It seems dramatic to say this is a precursor to potential war, but this certainly doesn’t seem to be a friendly move either. We just hope 2020 is out of surprises for us.

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  • I’m in Anaheim, CA. I received a pkg from China. Looking closely at the fine print on the white envelope, it said “necklace”. I opened it thinking it must be a late delivery of an old order I’d forgotten, and inside was a small clear zip-lock bag full of black seeds. Sort of like sunflower seeds, but solid black and slightly ridged. I remembered seeing something about this on Facebook, so I showed them to my son. He is going to pursue what to do with them tomorrow. Maybe contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture? I know better than to open the zip-lock!

    August 1, 2020

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