Several people in the U.S. are reporting the receipt of unexpected packages in the mail — tagged as jewelry, but stuffed with seeds from China, according to a local news source based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
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Mysterious seeds in the guise of jewelry from China
Utah residents told Salt Lake City's Fox 13 News they'd received packages inscribed in Mandarin (Chinese) indicating jewelry, but in reality, they contained mysterious seeds.
"I opened them up and they were seeds," said Lori Cully of Tooele to the local outlet — regarding the packages she opened on Tuesday. "Obviously they're not jewelry!"
Utah's Department of Agriculture and Food will probably begin a full investigation into the seeds, along with Customs and Border Protection. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also said on Friday that it had noted reports of several residents who received "unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China."
It added that while the agency had yet to identify the seeds, they "may be invasive plant species." The agency further requested that recipients not plant the seeds, but instead reach out to the Office of Plant Industry Services.
Officials warn seeds 'could contain invasive species'
Ryan Quarles — Kentucky's commissioner of agriculture — said on Sunday that Kentucky is "the fourth known state to report suspicious packages appearing to originate from China containing seeds."
Quarles also urged seed recipients to not plant the suspicious seeds because they "could contain invasive species." According to a tweet from him, all seed recipients should place them in a bag, wash their hands, and reach out to the Department of Agriculture.
For now, it's unclear what the seeds are or why they were sent — but an invasive species could become a serious threat, reports Business Insider. In 2016, a study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that invasive species could pose a multibillion-dollar threat for global agriculture.