Q. I saw on social media that some people are receiving unsolicited seeds in the mail. Is this a real thing?
A: Yes, it is. We heard from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and they asked that we send along this information. In some cases people had previously ordered seed online, and in some cases the recipient has never ordered seed.
Why do we care? Several reasons.
• The seed is unlabeled, and could be an invasive plant that does not currently exist in the United States.
• The seed may contain seed-borne diseases that we don’t have in the United States.
• Some packets appear to have an unknown seed treatment applied (seed treatments are usually an insecticide and/or fungicide). Because the packets are unlabeled, we don’t know what the compounds are, nor how dangerous they could be to human health.
• Seed is an agricultural commodity that is regulated for quality and content by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as State Departments of Agriculture.
How should you handle it?
• Don’t plant the seed.
• Don’t open the packets.
• Don’t eat the seed. (I know, this probably doesn’t need to be stated, but it doesn’t hurt to be state it anyway.)
• Please retain the packaging and seed. The USDA may want to make arrangements to collect the seed for appropriate disposal.
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If you receive unsolicited seed, contact the Iowa Department of Agriculture at (515) 281-5321 or the USDA at (515) 251-4083 and report your contact information.
Call the Master Gardeners with your questions at (319) 447-0647 or send questions and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.