An increased number of unsolicited shipments of foreign seeds have been reported in multiple states recently. The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) and its officials have already issued warnings to people, not to plant these seeds.
“USDA is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said in a statement on Tuesday. It said, it is working closely with federal and state partners, including Customs and Border Protection, to investigate. The sane has been Tweeted in the official account.
In Kentucky, the state agriculture department was notified that several residents received unsolicited seed packets sent by mail that appeared to have originated in China, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said earlier. The types of seeds are unknown and could be harmful, he said, stressing they should not be planted.
“We don’t know what they are, and we cannot risk any harm whatsoever to agricultural production in the United States,” he said. “We have the safest, most abundant food supply in the world and we need to keep it that way.”
Anyone in Kentucky receiving packages of foreign or unfamiliar seeds should contact the state agriculture department immediately, Quarles said.
“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,” he said. “Unsolicited seeds could be invasive and introduce unknown diseases to local plants, harm livestock or threaten our environment.”
Residents of at least eight states have now received suspicious packages of seeds that appear to have originated from China, with officials in each urging people not to plant them. APHIS said the USDA is collecting seed packets from people who received them and will test the contents to see if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.
Maryland agriculture officials said in a tweet they were working with the USDA to investigate seeds sent to residents there and warned people not to plant them.
Virginia’s Department of Agriculture issued a similar warning. “The types of seeds in the packages are unknown at this time and may be invasive plant species. The packages were sent by mail and may have Chinese writing on them”. Their Tweet went like:
But many reports say that there is nothing to panic. They consider this nothing other than a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. In North Carolina, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it was contacted by numerous people who received seed shipments they did not order. The agency said the shipments were likely the product of the international internet scam known as “brushing.”
“According to the Better Business Bureau, foreign, third-party sellers use your address and Amazon information to generate a fake sale and positive review to boost their product ratings,” said Phil Wilson, director of the state’s Plant Industry Division.