Mysterious packages of seeds believed to be from China have landed in the mailboxes of Americans across several states over the past week, leading to a warning from agricultural officials not to plant them.
According to Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, officials have received multiple reports of unsolicited seed packets arriving in their mailboxes that appear to have originated from China. Around 30 U.S. states are suspected to be affected by such deliveries.
“We don’t know what they are, and we cannot risk any harm whatsoever to agricultural production in the United States,” said Quarles. “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 bioterrorism,” he continued. “Unsolicited seeds could be invasive and introduce unknown diseases to local plants, harm livestock, or threaten our environment.”
We have received reports of people receiving seeds from China that they did not order. If you receive them – don't plant them. Report to @USDA_APHIS at https://t.co/0U53rbAiHs pic.twitter.com/Y4yAKv5bk7
— WA St Dept of Agr (@WSDAgov) July 24, 2020
Many of the packages are labeled as jewelry, toys, or electronic devices and may have Chinese writing on them, according to agriculture officials. Lori Culley, from Tooele, Utah, told Fox 13 she was excited to discover two small packages in her mailbox that she believed to contain earrings.
“I opened them up and they were seeds. Obviously they’re not jewelry! ” she said. “There was an article that I found in the UK saying this has been happening over there, and they are bad seeds, they are invasive. I hope that it’s nothing too serious … don’t throw them in the garbage. Don’t plant them. Don’t touch them.”
Federal officials from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) will reportedly work with the Department of Homeland Security and local officials to prevent any more illegal seeds from entering the country.
“[We are] aware that people across the country have received unsolicited packages of seed from China in recent days,” the USDA said in a statement. “At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.”
“USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment,” they continued.
The Communist Party of China has not confirmed the seeds’ origin or issued any public remarks about them.
American authorities note that those who receive unsolicited seeds should report the packages to the Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance Program (SITC) by calling the Smuggling Hotline at 1-800-877-3835.