The mystery seeds that appear to have originated from China are appearing in mailboxes around the United States. After a number of reports from California residents, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is now coordinating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to determine the best course of action. CDFA is instructing residents to refrain from opening any unsolicited seed packets that may be received and to contact their local county agricultural commissioner’s office.
In a news release pertaining to the unsolicited packages of seeds USDA indicated that the department is closely monitoring the situation. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will be working with the “Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.”
There have been reports of the mystery seeds arriving in dozens of states, with agriculture agencies in at least 27 states issuing warnings about the potential harm the seeds could pose. Officials believe that the packages could be part of what is known as a brushing scam, in which people receive unsolicited merchandise from a seller who creates fake customer reviews to boost sales.
CDFA is directing anyone who may have received a mysterious package of seeds to not open, ship, or dispose of the seeds to prevent any accidental dispersal of whatever the seeds may be. Unopened seed packets should be held by the recipient or county official until further instructions are provided. As reports of seed packages come in, USDA will be collecting the seeds and testing them to determine if contain anything that may be of concern to American agriculture or the environment.
Anyone who has received the mystery seeds is being asked to report the incident directly to the USDA by calling their Anti-Smuggling Hotline number at 800-877-3835 or by sending an email to SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov.