The United States Department of Agriculture is advising anybody who receives an unsolicited package from China containing packets of seeds to contact their local authorities. The USDA, along with local agencies in at least 28 states, has said that people should not plant the seeds and should not throw them away.
"If these seeds should bear invasive species, they may be a threat to our environment and agriculture. We don't want unknown species planted or thrown out where they may wind up sprouting in a landfill," said Steve Cole, director of Clemson's Regulatory Services unit.
While the seeds may appear to be harmless, the USDA said not to plant them because they could be invasive or introduce diseases that could be harmful to local plants and animals. The agency said it is collecting the seed packets so they can be tested to ensure they do not contain anything dangerous.
The USDA believes the seeds were sent as part of a "brushing scam," where a retailer orders items using a fake email address and has them shipped to strangers. When the packages are received, the person who placed the order is considered a "verified buyer" and can leave a positive review for the product.
China's foreign ministry claimed the mailings did not come from China, and the labels were forged. They have asked the U.S. to send the packages back to China, so they can investigate the matter.
Photo: Delaware Department of Agriculture