Unsolicited packages of seeds from foreign countries have been reported in several states and by at least one resident in Kankakee County.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture released a statement Tuesday cautioning people who receive unsolicited seeds not to open the package, plant the seeds or throw them out.
People who receive these packages should keep them unopened with their original packaging and labels, including mailing labels, until further instruction is provided, the department said.
They should also email their first and last name, phone number and the number of packages received to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A similar warning was also issued in Wisconsin.
Bourbonnais resident John Benoit, a retiree who operates a small greenhouse at home, said he received a package of seeds in the mail that he did not order.
It was an ordinary brown shipping package with Benoit’s name and address on it that appeared to be from China.
While Benoit has ordered seeds online before, he knew he was not expecting this order.
Benoit said he notified the Illinois Department of Agriculture when he received the package and is following their precautions.
“We don’t want to cause another pandemic over some seeds,” he said.
He said the seeds looked to him like melon or cucumber seeds, which he noted he would not be able to plant this time of year regardless of where they came from.
Chad Miller, manager of the Kankakee County Farm Bureau, said he strongly suggests people follow the guidance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agriculture officials to not open, plant or throw the seed packets away.
If thrown away, the seeds could end up growing in a landfill, he said.
Miller said officials have studied some of the seeds and concluded that they might be a type of weed that grows in China.
“We have to maintain the integrity of our agricultural system,” Miller said. “Weeds can be noxious, cause trouble and damage the environment if they were to take off.”
Crystal Sauder, education coordinator with the Kankakee County Soil and Water District, said concerns around planting these seeds are based on the unknown factors of their origin and intent.
“No one asked for them, and they don’t know why they are getting them,” she said. “If it’s an invasive species, we don’t know what it might do to native wildlife and plant life in Illinois or wherever they are planted.”