Don’t plant seeds sent from China and other foreign countries, agriculture boss warns Utahns

(Photo courtesy of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food) Residents of Utah and other states have received unsolicited packages of seeds, like this one, from China. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is warning residents not to plant the seeds for fear they would sprout into an invasive species.

Utah’s agriculture chief Tuesday implored residents not to plant any unsolicited seeds mailed from foreign countries and to tell his department about any such packages.

“We don’t introduce something that’s invasive to the state of Utah,” said Logan Wilde, the state’s commissioner of agriculture and food.

At a news conference, Wilde urged Utahns receiving unexpected seeds in the mail to drop them off at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food offices at 350 N. Redwood Road in Salt Lake City. Wilde also asked that residents bring the packaging and any mailing labels.

For residents who can’t get to Salt Lake City, Wilde said they should still contact his department to inform them of the deliveries. They then should destroy the seeds by baking them in an oven at 200 degrees for 40 minutes before tossing them in the trash.

Do not place the seeds in any green waste disposals, Wilde said. The seeds could sprout in such environments.

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) Then-Rep. Logan Wilde comments on a bill, late in the evening, on the final day of the 2019 Legislature, March 14, 2019.

For the past week, people across the United States have been receiving unsolicited seed packages in their mail.

Wilde and authorities in other states have said the deliveries appear to be part of what’s called a brushing scam in which sellers ship merchandise to consumers who didn’t consent. The sellers then post fake product reviews online ostensibly written by the people who received the goods.

Robert Hougaard, director of plant industry at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said his office is aware of 125 Utah households that have received such parcels.

Most of the packages came from China, Hougaard said; others have come from Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Some of the seeds appear to be species already present in the United States, such as black-eyed Susan.

There also appear to be seeds for a Chinese clover and an Asian mint that Hougaard warned could be harmful to domestic plant species. He said Utah’s plant laboratory is analyzing the seeds.

“We hope they are not of a noxious nature,” Hougaard said, “or they don’t have any plant disease.”

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food can be reached by phone at 801-982-2200 or by email at agriculture@utah.gov.