Dozens of unsolicited seed packages from China, often labeled as jewelry, have popped up in residents’ mailboxes across nine U.S. states, alarming agriculture officials who warn that the unknown seeds may be damaging to the environment.
Officials from states including Louisiana, Virginia, Kansas, Ohio, Washington, Kentucky, and Wyoming have sent out alerts after residents reported receiving the mysterious packages over the past few days. Seed packages have also appeared in parts of Utah, Arizona, and the UK, according to local reports.
People are urged to report any such cases to local officials for instructions on how to handle the seeds.
Photos of the packages showed they were delivered through China Post, a state-owned Chinese shipping company, and often consist of Chinese writing and labels describing the contents as necklaces or rings.
“I want to reiterate: do not plant the seeds,” Ryan Quarles, Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner, said in a statement on July 27, reminding people of the potential risks associated with the packages. He warned that unfamiliar seeds could be invasive plant species and can introduce diseases that are detrimental to the local habitat and livestock.
“We don’t know what they are, and we cannot risk any harm whatsoever to agricultural production in the United States. We have the safest, most abundant food supply in the world and we need to keep it that way.”
Washington state’s Department of Agriculture describes the act as “agricultural smuggling” and asked people who received the seeds to maintain the packaging, which “may be needed as evidence,” until receiving further instructions.
Police in Whitehouse, Ohio, suspect the seeds are part of a brushing scam, in which an online vendor ships inexpensive products unprompted, thus allowing them to submit reviews on the recipients’ behalf to boost a product’s ratings. If that happens, they say residents should contact local police, avoid opening the packages, and “one of our officers will gladly take the package off your hands.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) told The Epoch Times that its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Customs and Border Protection and state Departments of Agriculture to “to prevent the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protect U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds.”
Restressing the importance of not planting unknown seeds, a USDA spokesperson also called for the public to “hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label,” if any unsolicited packages are received.
Lori Culley, who lives in Tooele, Utah, posted on Facebook after receiving seeds marked as earrings. She said that about 40 people, mostly from her city, responded to her and said they had the same experiences.
“I hope that it’s nothing too serious,” she told Fox 13, advising those who had received the unordered seeds not to touch them or to toss them in the garbage.
“We just can’t be too vigilant. We have to. There’s too much crazy stuff going on in our world anymore, and a lot of it is coming from China.”