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State Div. of Agriculture says shipments of foreign seeds are being sent to Alaskans

Department says seeds could pose risk to Alaskan agricultural industry and natural resources
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 11:19 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Officials with the State of Alaska Division of Agriculture said that the department has received several reports of unsolicited packages of seeds being delivered from China and other nations.

Additionally, orders for seeds purchased on the internet with the intended source being the United States are instead being fulfilled or replaced with seeds from China.

“Other State and Federal partners have notified the Division that they too have had many residents receive similar [sic] mismarked packages,” officials wrote in a Facebook post this week. “As of now, the Division of Agriculture is uncertain as to what types of seeds are in the package.”

Div. of Agriculture Director David Schade said the shipments are part of a “scheme on the internet, we believe, where they’re sending unsuspecting people seed.”

“Very concerning to us,” he said, “because we don’t want people going out, planting, thinking, ‘This is what I ordered,’ and then, no it’s not, hasn’t been tested for viruses, bacteria and that.”

CNN reported Wednesday that all 50 states had sent out warnings about the unsolicited packages. The outlet also said a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry maintained the address labels were forged.

“The exterior is labeled as anything from beads to jewelry,” said Rob Carter, a state agronomist. “And that’s really, in a sense, a way to avoid customs as they come into the country.

“An inadvertent planting of species that’s non-native or invasive could have significant and costly ramifications on our state,” he added, “and on our agricultural industry.”

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimated that there were about 15,000 interceptions of seeds nationally from sources worldwide in 2019. As it was then, the hope now is to identify the seeds through proper testing and then appropriate disposal, in particular to ensure they do not pose a risk to Alaskan agricultural industry and the state’s natural resources.

“We work hard to keep our environment safe, not just for agronomy, but the natural environment around us,” Schade said, “and make sure we keep Alaska - and our national food system - safe.”

The department wants any Alaskan who receives a package not ordered by the recipient, that seems to have mistakenly come from China or any other source in response to an order, to please contact the Division of Agriculture. You can call (907) 761-7200 or email division.agriculture@alaska.gov.

Along with responding to several questions - such as when the package arrived, if seeds were planted and where, and others - recipients should also double-bag the seeds, and then either hold on to them until contacted by the department or send them along with the original shipping container to the Alaska Plant Materials Center, Attn: China Seeds, 5310 S. Bodenburg Spur Rd.‚ Palmer, Alaska, 99645.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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