Did you get in the mail mystery seeds from China?

by Dr. Eowyn

I had read about this some time ago but didn’t pay much attention to it until it happened to me.

Yes, I’m one of many Americans who received in the mail a small package from China containing a plastic bag with mystery seeds, like below:

If you’ve received mystery seeds, DO NOT PLANT THEM!!!!

Tamar Lapin reports for the New York Post that the mystery seeds have been sprouting up in mailboxes across America.

From New York to Washington state, a growing number of people have recently reported receiving unsolicited shipments of seeds that appear to have been sent from China.

The packages are light grey or beige plastic envelopes, some of which state that the contents are rings, bracelets or other jewelry. But the packages actually contain clear, sealable plastic bags filled with unidentified seeds of different sizes, shapes and colors.

The package I received was a light grey plastic envelope, with a sender’s address in China, which was labeled as containing jewelry, although I had not purchased any jewelry online. Inside was a small clear plastic bag containing about 20 small unidentified seeds.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says the packages may be part of a “brushing scam” — where folks receive items they never ordered from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.

That makes no sense. If a seller is gonna post false customer reviews, why would he/she need to mail seeds? There is no logic between the cause (mailing unsolicited seeds) and effect (post false reviews).

The USDA said the packages “appear to be coming from China.” Indeed, the packages’ shipping labels clearly indicate they were sent from cities in China, including Suzhou and Shenzhen. But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin insisted that China’s postal service strictly sticks to restrictions on sending seeds, and that the labels on the packages have been falsified. He asked for the packages to be sent to China for investigation.

The USDA has issued this warning: “Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”

Agriculture officials say “Legitimate seeds imported into the United States meet rigorous standards to ensure quality and prevent introduction of invasive species, insects and diseases. People who receive seeds that they did not order, that are mislabeled, or are from a questionable source, should not plant or handle the seeds” so as not to introduce invasive species, which can displace or destroy native plants and insects, severely damage crops or bring diseases.

What to do if you’ve received mystery seeds:

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) asks anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to:

  1. Store the mystery seeds safely in a place children and pets cannot access.
  2. Submit an online report here.
  3. Mail the seeds to the designated USDA location in your State.
  4. If you prefer not to mail the package, please contact your APHIS State Plant Health Director to arrange a no-contact pick up or determine a convenient drop-off location. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.
  5. You can also email the USDA directly at erich.l.glasgow@usda.gov.

On August 11, 2020, the USDA’s APHIS said that “experts analyzing some of the seeds from China have, so far, found very few problems.”

But the fact that the seeds appear to be innocuous does not address the purpose of the mailings: What is the point? I have a really uncomfortable feeling about this. Is this China’s testing or dry run of something?



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