Thousands of Americans in approximately 30 states are receiving suspicious packs of seeds shipped directly from China – and the United States Department of Agriculture is worried. The unsolicited packages have been popping up in mailboxes recently, leaving recipients confused and disturbed.
In these days of the Coronavirus, Americans are naturally concerned about anything Chinese. The USDA is suggesting the packages be handled with caution and Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has issued a warning for the Sunshine State, where 631 residents have reported mysterious seed deliveries: “Plant seeds from unknown sources may introduce dangerous pathogens, diseases, or invasive species into Florida, putting agriculture and our state’s plant, animal, and human health at risk. Anyone receiving these suspicious seed packets should not open them, should not plant them, should limit contact with them, and should report them immediately to both our department and USDA officials.”
At this point, there’s no evidence that the packets contain anything other than seeds, and several theories are circulating as to the purpose of what appears to be a mass mailing. The most popular speculation currently is that the seed packets are part of a marketing scam known as “brushing.” In fact, the USDA has advanced this conjecture on its website, explaining that a brushing scam is “where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.”
Proceed with Caution
Many of these packages bear Chinese characters, along with the name “China Post.” Some are labeled as jewelry or toys. Federal authorities are collecting the seed packs and plan to test the contents to see “if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment,” according to the USDA.
What should you do if one of these lands in your mailbox?
- Do NOT open the parcel.
- Save the outer mailing label and packaging.
- Do NOT throw them in the trash.
- Contact your State Plant Health Director by clicking here.
Similar reports of mysterious seeds have been made across the United Kingdom, so it doesn’t appear that Americans have been singled out for this suspicious activity.
We have received reports of people receiving seeds from China that they did not order. If you receive them – don't plant them. Report to @USDA_APHIS at https://t.co/0U53rbAiHs pic.twitter.com/Y4yAKv5bk7
— WA St Dept of Agr (@WSDAgov) July 24, 2020
Report Unsolicited Seeds:
Anyone who has received unsolicited seeds in the mail from China or any other country is encouraged to contact the GDA Seed Lab at 229-386-3145 or e-mail [email protected]
The seed packages may appear similar to the photos below. pic.twitter.com/eMUVo0MVjM
— Georgia Department of Agriculture (@GaDeptAg) July 27, 2020
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.