A Booneville, Arkansas, man has sown the seeds of mild discontent with his state Department of Agriculture.
According to KFSM-TV, local resident Doyle Crenshaw spurred the agency on to intervention last month when he planted mysterious seeds shipped from China in his garden.
Aware of countless such seed shipments arriving on American shores, departments of agriculture nationwide had issued numerous stern warnings against planting the contents of any unsolicited packages from overseas.
Crenshaw, for his part, was not in the know when he first received his surprise seed shipment — and he decided to experiment.
“The package said it was from China and said ‘studded earrings’ on the outside, and we thought that was a little odd,” Crenshaw said.
“We brought them down here and planted the seeds just to see what would happen, every two weeks I’d come by and put miracle grow on it and they just started growing like crazy.”
Americans across the country are receiving packages of mysterious seeds in the mail, mostly from China. Agricultural officials have advised anyone who receives one of these packages to avoid touching the contents and to not to plant the seeds pic.twitter.com/yoWvtnBAmy
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) July 31, 2020
The resulting plant reportedly carries orange flowers and produces large white fruit, like a squash vine.
Unable to determine with certainty what it is, however, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture has decided to remove any sign of the plant from Crenshaw’s yard, particularly as experts express concern it may be or bring about an invasive species.
“Our concern is from an invasive pest aspect, these seeds could introduce an invasive weed, or an invasive insect pest or a plant disease,” agency official Scott Bray said.
An invasive species is any non-native organism that is not incorporated into an ecosystem without harming it, according to the National Wildlife Foundation.
“The direct threats of invasive species include preying on native species, outcompeting native species for food or other resources, causing or carrying disease, and preventing native species from reproducing or killing a native species’ young,” the organization says.
The consequences often cascade throughout the ecosystem as well, injuring other species indirectly and often disrupting any local economy or agricultural endeavor that benefits from the natural ecosystem.
Concerns regarding natural dangers from abroad remain all the more pressing in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China.
Many U.S. legislators and intelligence officials have voiced opinions that the Chinese Communist Party was so negligent, self-serving and even potentially malicious in its handling of the virus that it is responsible for the deadly state of affairs across the globe.
As a result, unsolicited seed packages from China were treated with extra scrutiny when they first began arriving stateside last month.
We have received reports of people receiving seeds from China that they did not order. If you receive them – don’t plant them. Report to @USDA_APHIS at https://t.co/0U53rbAiHs pic.twitter.com/Y4yAKv5bk7
— WA St Dept of Agr (@WSDAgov) July 24, 2020
Report Unsolicited Seeds:
Anyone who has received unsolicited seeds in the mail from China or any other country is encouraged to contact the GDA Seed Lab at 229-386-3145 or e-mail SeedLab@agr.georgia.gov.
The seed packages may appear similar to the photos below. pic.twitter.com/eMUVo0MVjM
— Georgia Department of Agriculture (@GaDeptAg) July 27, 2020
Hundreds of households in at least 27 states have received the mysterious seed packages since, The New York Times reported.
The seeds within rarely seem to be the same from package to package, and often come in plastic bags bearing Chinese characters, the promise of jewelry within or simply the words “China Post.”
Fearing not only the prospect of invasive species but the potential for dangerous plant pathogens or other national security threats to be found in the packages, the U.S. Department of Agriculture initially teamed up with the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the matter and warn Americans against opening the packages.
“USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation,” the agency wrote on its website.
“USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director. Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions,” it added.
“Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”
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