People from many U.S. states have been receiving strange packages full of seeds, indicating they are coming from China. Officials warn not to open them if sealed, and not to plant the seeds, as the precise motive behind these mailing is still not determined.
We all want to receive a surprise gift at the door, but it turns out, we need to remember that not all surprises are pleasant! Apparently, one should be careful when receiving mysterious present via mail, as not all mailings should be opened or used right away!
Americans have recently been receiving packages that contain seeds indicated they are coming from China, and officials warn that unfortunately, they might not be a reason for gratitude.
The USDA in multiple states has warned people that they should not plant the unsolicited shipments of foreign seeds, as they could be an invasive plant variety that could damage the environment.
On July 28, they released a statement:
“USDA is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.”
Residents of over a dozen states have reported receiving these packages, including Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, and New York.
Agricultural commissioner Ryan Quarles said:
“We don’t know what they are, and we cannot risk any harm whatsoever to agricultural production in the United States. We have the safest, most abundant food supply in the world and we need to keep it that way.
At this point in time, we don’t have enough information to know if this is a hoax, a prank, an internet scam, or an act of agricultural bio-terrorism.
Unsolicited seeds could be invasive and introduce unknown diseases to local plants, harm livestock, or threaten our environment.”
The precise motive behind these mailings, and whether they are malicious or not, is not yet known.
They currently believe that it is a “brushing scam”, in which people receive unsolicited items from a seller, who uses this strategy to increase sales by posting false customer reviews afterward.
Phil Wilson, director of the North Carolina Plant Industry Division explained that “foreign, third-party sellers use your address and Amazon information to generate a fake sale and positive review to boost their product ratings.”
Yet, officials fear that the planting of non-native plants into the local environment could have devastating consequences.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services stated:
“Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops. Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.”
Anyone who receives one of these packages should follow the guidelines provided by the Washington State Department of Agriculture:
- Not to plant the seeds and not to open the package if it is sealed.
- To report the agricultural smuggling to USDA and to keep the seeds and packaging, as USDA might need them for evidence later.
New York Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball advised residents not to open the sealed packages, but to store them away from their children and pets, and to immediately email the USDA at email@example.com with their full names and phone numbers, pictures of the packaging, and any other important information.
The USDA told people to contact their state plant regulatory official or APHIS state plant health director in case they receive such a package and to keep the seeds, the packaging, and the mailing label until they are contacted back.