CFIA investigates mystery seeds

Agency says the seeds that have been arriving by mail should not be planted

Canadian officials are continuing to investigate the origins and contents of mysterious, unsolicited seed packages that have been showing up unexpectedly in mailboxes across the country.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency began receiving reports last month of small packages containing unidentified seeds.

The unsolicited seed packages have been arriving in the mail and have been received by residents in most Canadian provinces, the CFIA has confirmed.

Similar packages have also been mailed to United States residents in a number of American states including Washington, Virginia, Louisiana, Kansas, New York, North Carolina, Utah, Arizona and Ohio.

U.S. authorities have indicated that the mysterious packages appear to have originated in China, a claim that has been disputed by government officials in Beijing.

In Canada, the CFIA said people should not plant the seeds, but retain the seeds and the packaging and contact a CFIA office.

“The CFIA is continuing to gather information from individuals who have indicated that they are in receipt of unsolicited seed packages,” the agency said in a statement distributed by Wendy Asbil, national manager of the CFIA’s invasive alien species and domestic plant health programs section.

“As the CFIA looks into the matter, we want to reiterate that the most important action for Canadians to take is to avoid planting seeds they did not order.”

“Canadians are also being asked to not put the seeds in the trash or compost them where they could sprout.”

The CFIA says the seeds could be from an invasive plant species or could contain foreign plant pests or diseases that could be harmful to the environment as well as the Canadian agriculture and horticulture industries.

Seed industry groups, including the Canadian Seed Trade Association and the Canadian Seed Growers Association, issued a joint statement reassuring Canadians that the safest way to acquire seeds is through reputable Canadian companies.

“With recent reports of individuals receiving unsolicited packages of seed in Canada and the United States, Canada’s seed industry wants to reassure Canadians of our food safety measures and that you can trust the seed you purchase from Canadian companies,” the groups said.

“The government has an excellent inspection system in place to protect the supply chain — audits, quality verification, and multiple testing points ensures that seeds that are sold for planting are safe.”

Seed imported to Canada by seed companies and by producers must be tested before use, the joint statement said.

“Plant health is a priority for our industry, and we are proud of Canadian seed companies for the measures they take to ensure the quality of seeds,” it said.

“If you receive an unsolicited package of seeds in the mail, please report it to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and do not plant the seeds. Small amounts of seed received in the mail most likely have not been tested and imported seed may be a vector for the potential spread of unwanted, invasive plant species, soil borne diseases, or insect pests. You should only plant seeds from trusted sources.”

Seed safety is always important, but the topic is particularly relevant in 2020, which is the International Year of Plant Health.

The goal of the IYPH is to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help to end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.

brian.cross@producer.com

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