Reports of unsolicited seeds that appear to have originated from China are continuing to come in. Federal officials are working with state and local authorities to try and collect the seed packets and identify the contents. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has indicated the packages could be part of an online scam related to e-commerce. An instance of an individual in Stanislaus County who received a total of four packets of the mysterious seeds would suggest the seeds are indeed a part of a brushing scam.
“Our member does e-commerce online, and with all of her vendors, she changes her address a little bit so that she can check and see if those online vendors may be selling her information to others or if they’re using it,” said Tom Orvis, Governmental Affairs Director for the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau. “Coincidentally, the address on these packets all came back to one very major online retailer.”
Anyone receiving the seed packets is being asked not to plant, mail, or even throw away the contents. Officials are asking anybody who may have gotten a package of seeds to get in contact with their local ag commissioner’s office to coordinate the collection of the unsolicited seeds. While the seeds themselves could end up being completely innocuous, there is still potential that they could create significant problems for agriculture and the environment. Shipments of seeds originating from another country and arriving directly at an individual’s home bypass the necessary protocols and safety measures that are in place.
“It’s problematic because for one it’s an unlawful entry of potentially prohibited seeds and the big key is to protect United States agriculture from any types of invasive pest species, in this case, noxious weeds,” said Brian Gatza, Kern County Ag Department Supervising Agricultural Biologist. Gatza also noted that it’s important to get the unsolicited seeds to the proper authorities, “that way we can remove them out of the chain of commerce so that they don’t end up in any of these agricultural environments that could potentially cause the spread of this new noxious weed species.”
Listen to SCFB’s Tom Orvis’ full interview.