Mystery Seeds from China
Since the end of July, Montanans have reported receiving unsolicited seeds in the mail from China. Important Montana crops such as peas, other legumes, and sunflowers included. In addition, they also include noxious weeds. These seeds do not meet US or Montana laws and standards. They can even transmit plant pathogens that can harm important Montana and US crops. Agriculture is consistently Montana's leading industry contributing $4.6 billion in 2015 (https://agr.mt.gov/AgFacts); this highlights how important it is to protect and enhance our state crops.
Below is the latest posting from the Montana Nursery and Landscape Association including statements from the Montana Department of Agriculture about the importance of this issue, other info, and what to do if you get mystery seeds:
What's the Story Behind the Mystery Seeds from China?
Have you heard of the packets of mystery seeds that Montanans have been receiving? We spoke to the Montana Department of Agriculture's (MDA) Director, Ben Thomas, last week. He said the Department has received over 200 reports of people in Montana receiving unsolicited seeds in the mail. There have been several thousand seed packets received nation-wide, with reports as far away as Australia and the EU. 140 different varieties of seeds have been identified so far. These include vegetables and fruits, but unfortunately also include multiple noxious weeds. Testing is on-going to determine the variety of all of the seeds that have been reported.
The MDA is encouraging anyone who receives unsolicited seeds to report them to the MDA, and to spread the word to only buy seeds from licensed nurseries and seed distributors. To report receiving unsolicited seeds, fill out the self-reporting form, or mail them to:
USDA APHIS PPQ Attn: Lori Witham 1220 Cole Ave Helena, MT 59601
Additional information about mailing requirements can be found on the USDA APHIS webpage about unsolicited seeds, or on the MDA's website.
The MDA has asked us to share the following statement with you:
The Montana Department of Agriculture was made aware that Montana residents were receiving unsolicited packages of plant seeds in the mail from China in late July. These seed packets were not in compliance with the Montana Agricultural Seed Act, the Federal Seed Act, or phytosanitary import requirements for seed from foreign countries. Some seed shipments were traced to e-commerce transaction and have been reported in many countries across the world. Thousands of unsolicited se
ed packets were shipped to residents in the US and hundreds to residents of Montana. To date, USDA has identified at least 140 different types of seeds that have been shipped. In Montana, seeds for some important crops including peas, lentils, corn, and sunflowers were received from China. These seeds could transmit plant pathogens and plant viruses to important Montana crops. If you have received unsolicited seeds please do not open, plant or throw away the seed packets. Please report the see
ds to the USDA: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/planthealth/news-info/unsolicited-seeds/unsolicited-seeds-shipping-destinations
The Montana Department of Agriculture encourages Montanans to help protect Montana agriculture and natural resources by only purchasing agricultural seed from licensed seed dealers https://mtplants.mt.gov/Licenses/External/ExternalLicenseSearch.aspx
When purchasing non-agricultural seed, seed can be purchased through local Montana nurseries and many hardware and home improvement stores. All seed sold in Montana is required to be labeled on the package including the type of seed, the germination percentage, and any presence of weed seeds. This labeling protects the purchase for any quality issues with the seed and protects Montana from the unintended introduction of Noxious Weeds. An example of the information required on a seed label can be found here: https://agr.mt.gov/Topics/Seed