GTA woman intrigued by bag of seeds in her mail – federal officials also worried about invasive species

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The little gray package looked unusual in Java D’Ignazio – it was very thin, did not contain any customs documents, and an odd scribble indicating where the sender is supposed to sign. She thought maybe one of her children had sent her a gift in the mail.It had its correct name, address and phone number and indicated that the contents were a studded earring valued at $ 4.91. But when she opened it, she found a small bag of tiny reddish-brown seeds, apparently sent from Singapore.

D’Ignazio is just one of hundreds of Canadians who have received similar packages of seed. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says it is aware of at least 350 cases and believes there are many more. The agency is concerned that the seeds may be of an invasive species or introduce harmful pests into the country, making D’Ignazio uncomfortable.

“That’s the unknown,” she said, holding the package as she spoke to CBC News outside her home in Mississauga, Ont.

“I have them in my hand, but I put them in a double bag and I’m going to wash my hands again. But there is an uncertainty. “

The seed packet has the correct Java D’Ignazio name, address, and phone number. (Angelina King / CBC)

D’Ignazio confirmed with her children that the package she received last week did not come from them. They told him it reminded them of something they had read in American press reports – residents of all 50 US states receiving different types of seeds by mail, mostly from China.

After discovering the seeds, she followed the advice she had read from the US authorities for wrapping the package and washing her hands.

‘Too many steps’

Then, desperate to get answers, D’Ignazio said she contacted the CFIA, but no one answered and the mailbox was full. She called the local post office, the Federal Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Peel Police.

She says no one has given clear instructions on what to do. An official told her not to bring the seeds and that someone would contact her. Another told her to throw them in the trash, she says.

D’Ignazio still has no answers. She has kept the seeds in a third bag on her balcony in the meantime.

“It made me feel like there were too many steps for an immediate problem,” she said.

While waiting to know what to do with the seeds, D’Ignazio has placed them in a third bag and stores them on his balcony. (Provided / Ignatian Java)

The CFIA released a statement on Wednesday this week, five days after D’Ignazio received the package, saying it reports investigation unsolicited packets of seeds and warn people not to plant them.

The statement says that if people receive a package, they should immediately contact the CFIA regional office and save the seeds, packaging and mailing label until a CFIA inspector contacts them with additional instructions.

“It’s almost a week after receiving the package,” D’Ignazio said of the statement. “I wonder how many people have received it, planted it [the seeds] or thrown. ”

She says she still has not been able to contact the CFIA regarding her case.

“There should be a very simple protocol if it is so important for agriculture and the environment,” she said.

Seeds can be invasive, harmful

The CFIA is warning people not to plant seeds of unknown origin.

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

Sarah Rang is the Executive Director of the Invasive Species Center, a non-profit organization based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. which aims to protect the country from plants, animals and other organisms outside its borders. She says invasive species often have no local enemies, can multiply quickly and cause problems for agriculture, forestry, recreation and tourism.

“We are very concerned about invasive species, not only because of the damage they can have on our beautiful landscapes, but also from an economic point of view, it costs a lot of money to try to control their spread,” he said. she declared.

Rang says invasive species damage costs Ontario alone $ 3.6 billion a year, much of which comes from insects that damage farmland and forests.

Fake labels used, according to the Chinese postal service

The CFIA says the origin and nature of the seeds have not yet been confirmed, but the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson was asked about the US packages at a press conference earlier this week .

Wang Wenbin said the Chinese Postal Service discovered that the address labels used were fake and contacted the US Postal Service to request that the packages be returned to China for investigation.

Canada Post confirmed to CBC News on Thursday that the Chinese Postal Service asked it to “put aside suspicious mail for authentication,” adding that the request was made to other postal services around the world.

As for D’Ignazio, she is concerned about all the international attention to the problem.

“It seems to me to be a bigger problem than just a bogus package. “

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