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More Than 100 Rhode Islanders Have Received Unsolicited Seeds From China

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Over the past several days the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has received reports from more than 100 Rhode Island residents who have received unsolicited packets of seeds from China. DEM is working in conjunction with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Protection and Quarantine Office to respond to this emerging issue.

"When unlabeled seeds enter the country without evidence of being inspected and certified, there is an increased risk that they may produce invasive or noxious weeds or harbor plant pests that could threaten agriculture or the natural environment," said Matt Green, an environmental scientist in DEM's Division of Agriculture. "DEM and USDA are working closely to safeguard agriculture and protect the environment and consumers while facilitating trade and movement of agricultural products."

DEM is providing the following guidance to anyone who may have received these seeds:

• Do not plant the seed and do not throw the seed away

• Keep the seed in its original packaging

• Keep all other original materials that came with the seed, such as labels and envelopes

• Do not open the package if it is sealed; if it has been opened place in a Ziploc bag

• Wash hands after handling the package or seeds if the package is opened

• Make a report to DEM to include your name, address, email address, and phone number. The report can be made by phone by calling the Division of Agriculture at 401-222-2781 ext. 4516 or via email to DEM.SPRO@dem.ri.gov

• Place the seeds and related materials in a Ziploc bag and then place the sealed Ziploc bag into a suitably sized envelope. Mail the seeds and related materials to the USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine Office at the following address with your name, address, email and phone number:

USDA APHIS PPQ 97 Barnes Road, Unit 200 Wallingford, CT 06492

• If you are unable to ship the seed or have already planted the seed, please email Chuck Baker at Charles.e.baker@usda.gov with your name, address, phone number and email address.

• If you have already planted the seed, please await guidance from USDA as to disposal of the seed and associated soil. Do not put seed or plant material in a compost pile.

For additional information on the seeds from China, visit DEM's website at www.dem.ri.gov/agriculture.

USDA is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. According to USDA, currently there is no evidence indicating this is something other than a "brushing scam" where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to US agriculture or the environment. All seeds collected will be incinerated. Visit the APHIS' website [gcc02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com] to learn more about USDA's efforts to stop agricultural smuggling and promote trade compliance.

For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.