Officials are puzzled and concerned over the sudden appearance of seeds being mailed from China. They are arriving in small packets, sometimes identified as jewelry, to residences across the United States and Great Britain. The packages have been reported in almost every state in the country.
What could they be? No one seems to know. Numerous state agriculture departments, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are urging people to not plant the seeds. No one knows what they are, or if there is any risk involved.
Is this an elaborate prank? If so, someone is going to great lengths, finding hundreds or thousands of addresses around the country and in England, for a joke that no one gets. More troubling is the thought that it could be some kind of a bioterrorism attack.
The seeds are a worry for American farmers. They could be an invasive species, something even worse than the Kudzu that became an invasive, noxious weed in the south. Some speculate that these Chinese seeds could introduce diseases to local plants, or they could produce a plant that is harmful to livestock.
The seeds could also be part of what is called a ‘brushing’ scheme. Criminals buy some cheap item, then sends it off to a real address. This gives them proof of delivery of an item, even if no one knows what it is. They use that proof to write a positive review about their product online, and to hold off any investigations or allegations of wrongdoing.
Whether the plants are a danger or are benign, the USDA says that mailing them to the US from a foreign country amounts to agricultural smuggling. Anyone who gets a package of seeds from China should notify their County Ag Commissioner or state agriculture department. You should not open any sealed package containing seeds, and don’t just throw the seeds in the trash, as they could grow in landfills.
Whether it’s a hoax, a part of a con game, or a real threat to our country, the seeds are a mystery.
About the Author
Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.