CHICAGO (CBS) — The phone has been ringing off the hook at the Illinois Department of Agriculture about suspicious seeds popping up in the mail from China.
As CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported, it is highly dangerous to plant those seeds.
Simply put, state and federal agricultural agencies have no idea what the seeds are, who is sending them, and what, if any, harm they could do. But what they do know is that the mystery seeds and packages are popping up throughout Illinois.
The white packages with Chinese writing started appearing in mailboxes.
“It was an international label with Chinese writing on it,” said Sandra Serrato, “and it declared it as a necklace.”
But there was no jewelry inside the package – just seeds. Serrato found the package delivered to her home in Little Village.
“I didn’t think anything of it until yesterday, I saw the article about seeds coming in from China and packages labeled ‘jewelry,’” she said.
Serrato’s modest garden has sprouted the vegetables she planted, so the anonymous package took her, like many, by surprise.
“My name was on there, my address was on there – so that was my concern is, how is that I’m getting random packages all the way from China?” she said.
It is a mystery sweeping the nation from Chicago to North Carolina – seeds in the mail that they never ordered.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture is telling anyone who gets the mystery package to think twice and most importantly not to plant the seeds. It turns out Serrato is one of more than 100 and counting who contacted the state since Friday.
“My biggest concern was how do I get rid of them? I didn’t want to throw them in the garbage and then they end up sprouting in some landfill,” she said. “So I don’t know what they are and I doubt I’ll ever found out.”
The state is contacting the U.S. Department of Agriculture and all the labels and seeds will be shipped and tested. But currently, the agencies can’t say if this is harmless or a way to invade U.S. agriculture.
“If this is something that shouldn’t be within our system, our agriculture system, I definitely want to be proactive and turn them in,” Serrato said.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture said Tuesday night that the packages were not confined to a specific area of the state, so they are asking everyone to remain alert.