Headlines News

Harmless … so far

State reveals results of tests on ‘Chinese Seeds’

One of the mysterious packages.

News Staff Writer

Rick Pate, Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI), revealed Monday (August 3) the results of tests conducted by a state lab on more than 250 packages of unsolicited seeds, apparently from China, where the COVID-19 pandemic is believed to have started.
And, while Pate said nothing sinister has been discovered by ADAI in the samples collected from Alabama residents and thoroughly tested, he admitted that the only certainty about the seed packages is the uncertainty that remains.
“We didn’t identify any unknown compounds,” Pate said during a press conference that was streamed live on Facebook. “Right at fifty percent of the samples we tested turned out to be some kind of weed or flower seed; forty-one percent were some type of vegetable seed, including tomatoes and watermelons, and nine percent were seeds of various herbs.”
He said the uncertainty comes in not knowing if there is some type of delayed danger lurking in the seed packages, all of which were labeled “China Post” and “untracked.” Several package labels indicated they contained jewelry or phone cases.
“It’s bad enough transporting seeds across state lines, but at worst, something very evil could have been happening,” said the ag and industries commissioner, who noted that some people received more than one package. “We don’t know if the first ones were supposed to be OK, then the later ones might be contaminated. Even the plastic bags they come in could have something on them.”
ADAI had by Monday received 385 reports of unsolicited seed packages delivered in Alabama. Pate said at least one package had been received in 56 of the state’s 67 counties.
ADAI field inspectors have collected 252 samples, with the only link being that over half of the recipients reported ordering seeds online in the past year. Baldwin County tops the list of reports, with Jefferson, Mobile and Montgomery counties following. Data did not indicate if any had been received in Escambia County.
About 15 percent of seed package recipients had already planted the seeds when ADAI inspectors arrived.
“We dug them up and brought the seeds and soil back to the lab,” Pate said.
ADAI asks that anyone who might receive one of the unsolicited packages do the following:
*Report the delivery at www.agi.alabama.gov/reportseeds or call 334-240-7304.

  • DO NOT open the seed packets.
  • DO NOT plant the seeds.
  • DO NOT discard them.
  • Keep all packaging, including the mailing label.
    “People need to call us or email us as soon as they receive one of these seed packages,” Pate said. “We need them to hold onto everything until we can come pick it up and take it back to the lab. Who knows? You might be talking about evidence in a criminal investigation.”