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USDA Warns Against Opening, Planting Seeds Sent From China

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The USDA is warning people against opening packages or planting seeds that appear to come from China.

People across the country have reported receiving packages of seeds in the mail. Packaging shared on social media shows they originate from China.

A variety of seeds have been received – some resemble dark grains of rice, others more like small pebbles, while others look just like sunflower seeds.

"I wasn't expecting anything," said Los Alamitos resident Shelly Duffy, who received a package of seeds on her doorstep two months ago. "Inside it was just a one-by-one clear package, sealed. It didn't look like seeds. It looked more like oregano....or some other herb."

Duffy said she kept the package on her counter until this weekend, when she saw news stories about others who has also received mysterious packages of seeds allegedly from China.

She said she called the USDA, where they referred her to the Orange County Agricultural Commissioner's Office.

Duffy isn't alone. So far, residents in eight states have reported receiving seeds from China that they didn't order. The O.C. Deputy Agricultural Commissioner said he's gotten several calls and emails about residents getting seeds.

The agricultural departments of several states have issued warnings against planting these seeds.

Authorities say anyone who receives one of these packages should avoid touching the contents and carefully put them in a plastic bag and call the state Department of Agriculture.

The USDA says it is collecting the seed packages from recipients and will test their contents.

Theories vary about the purpose of the seeds, but officials say the seeds could be an invasive species, which can be detrimental to native plants, insects and crops and cause great damage to the local environment.

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