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Mystery seeds phenomenon makes its way to Labrador

This is one of the packages Renee Ball received in the mail from China containing mystery seeds. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is warning people not to plant seeds they recive and said they've had reports of mystery seeds showing up in most Canadian provinces. - Contributed
This is one of the packages Renee Ball received in the mail from China containing mystery seeds. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is warning people not to plant seeds they receive and said they've had reports of mystery seeds showing up in most Canadian provinces. - Contributed - Contributed
CHURCHILL FALLS, N.L. —

The first time Renee Ball received mystery seeds in the mail from China, it puzzled her. Then, a few weeks later, it happened again.

She had ordered some seeds online at her Churchill Falls home, but these didn’t appear to be what she ordered, so she put off planting them.

“I thought I’d wait, not plant them, since there wasn’t any clear address of where they’d come from other than China. I held on to them and never gave it a second thought until I got the second ones and thought that was weird. It wasn’t what I’d ordered, and the label said 'beads.'”

Shortly after that she ran across social media posts from a variety of agencies in the United States and Canada warning people about unsolicited mystery seeds sometimes labelled as jewellery and the potential dangers of planting them.

One of those agencies is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which issued a statement on July 28, which said unauthorized seeds could be the seeds of invasive plants, or carry plant pests, which can be harmful when introduced into Canada.

“These species can invade agricultural and natural areas, causing serious damage to our plant resources,” the statement read.

Ball said she never even considered planting the seeds she received, but knows some people might, which is concerning. She contacted the government about the packages she received but hadn’t heard back at the time of this interview.

“I don’t know what to do with them,” she said. “I don’t want to burn them, not knowing what they are, and I don’t want to put them in the trash, (because) they’ll make their way into the environment somehow.”

Ball said it surprised her to see how widespread the reports of the seeds are, and she couldn’t possibly speculate for the reason behind it.

SaltWire Network contacted the CFIA for an interview and was sent an audio statement from Wendy Asbil, the national manager of the invasive alien species and domestic plant health programs section of the CFIA's plant health and biosecurity directorate.

She said they had received reports from most Canadian provinces about the seeds and are working with their U.S. counterparts on the issue.

“These unauthorized seeds could be from invasive plants or could even carry plant pests, which can be harmful when introduced into Canada,” Asbil said. “They could invade agricultural and natural areas, causing serious damage to our plant resources and the environment.”

Asbil said if anyone has planted the seeds, they are asked to remove them and contact the CFIA. Anyone who has received the seeds is asked to contact their regional CFIA office.

Evan Careen is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Labrador for SaltWire Network

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