FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - It may sound strange, but people in Indiana and across the United States have been receiving "mystery seeds" in the mail from China and other countries. The problem is bigger than initially thought.
Don Robinson, Seed Administrator with the Office of Indiana State Chemist says in total, their have been 300 reported incidents of Hoosiers receiving these mystery seeds in the mail, and that’s just in the first 36 hours since they first heard about it.
"It’s more widespread than we thought," Robison said.
The mystery seeds have become such a concern, Congressman Jim Banks, R - Indiana, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate whether the seeds are part of a "brushing scam", which is when vendors send inexpensive products to a randomly selected address in exchange for fake positive reviews.
Just by looking at pictures, Robinson and others were able to determine some of the seeds were wheat, cucumber and a mix of seeds, but others were unidentifiable.
One of the problems is they don’t know what comes along with those seeds.
Take cucumber seeds for example. Robison said, "My counterpart in Pennsylvania has alerted us across the country that cucumbers have a disease in Asia that we don’t have here and it would be a devastating disease for the truck crop farmers and for gardeners."
The second problem, some of the seeds could be mixed with an invasive species, something James Wolff, the Agriculture and Natural Resource Education at the Purdue Extension Office in Allen County says is possible.
"There’s really that big potential that it could be an invasive species that could cause problems in the environment because they’re really hard to control," Wolff said. "They outcompete other plants that are native, especially since they’re coming from another country, they have a large potential for that."
This means the seeds could compete with things like corn, killing off some of the crops if they end up in a cornfield.
According to Robison, "Purdue has done studies on some of these weeds that if not controlled well, they could reduce yield by 80 to 90 percent."
If you’ve received mystery seeds in the mail, do not open them, do not plant them, do not thrown them away. Instead, you're encouraged to keep the seeds in the original packaging, put all of the contents of the package in a zip-top bag, place the bag in an envelope or small box, mail them to the following address andcontact the person below
USDA APHIS PPQ
Nick Johnson (Phone number 317-522-3950)
3059 N. Morton St.
Franklin, IN 46131
If you have already planted the seeds, you can either contact Nick Johnson, The Indiana DNR (find their contact information here), or you can call the Allen County Purdue Extention Office at 260-481-6826 to be instructed on what to do.