US and Canadian officials issued strict warnings and instructed people not to plant those mystery seeds. China says that the shipments appear to be “forged.”
USDA is well aware that people around the country have received suspicious, seed packets that seem to come from China. In close cooperation with the Homeland Security Department of Customs and Border Protection (HSCPP), other federal agencies, and state agricultural departments, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is investigating the situation.
USDA urges all recipients of an unrequested seed package to immediately contact their plant health director of the State of APHIS. Hold on the seeds and packaging, including the mailing mark, until you have been provided with more guidance by either of your state department for agriculture or APHIS. Do not plant seeds originating from unknown sources, they added.
APHIS also took to Twitter on Tuesday to advise and inform people to report any such package to the State Department of Agriculture or the State Plant Health Office.
Similar warnings were also provided on Twitter by state governments, including those in Kentucky, Florida, and North Carolina.
Could it be Brushing scam?
The USDA said it’s “actively collecting seed packages from distributors. They will check their content and assess if they contain something that may be of interest to U.S. agriculture or the environment.”
“At present, there is no evidence to suggest it to be anything other than a ‘brushing scam,’ where a dealer who then publishes fake customer reviews to raise sales for unrequested products.”
In a press release on Monday, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services officials said that unordained product shipments could possibly be brushing products.
China’s statement on mystery seeds
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the labels in the packages appear “forged” and there are “errors” in the details about them.
Speaker Wang Wenbin stated that “China Post has asked the U.S. Postal Service to deliver this fraudulent mail to China to investigate it”. He added that the Chinese postal service has strictly followed the laws on the management of seeds in the Universal Postal Union.
People mistakenly planted the mystery seed
In June, a Kentucky woman said she had received seeds and thought they were from her planting club, so she planted them. The picture she posted shows a seed shipment with Chinese postage, which is close to what news media and public officials in the country have posted.
“I planted them but didn’t know it was a bad thing. I was in a Facebook gift-giving group and I thought it was from one of the members,” she said.
The woman said that she approached the Kentucky Department of Agriculture once she discovered the seeds should not be planted. According to her, KDA told her to either burn the plant or double bag it and throw it in the trash.
A Texas woman also planted the mystery seeds she had received in the mail. She said some moss that she planted in the same dirt used for the seeds died, but the same moss planted in fresh soil thrived.
The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry has a suggestion if someone has not only received the seeds, but also planted them — use some type of herbicide to kill them, and if anything comes back, do it again. Also, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water after touching anything when connected to the seed shipments, WAFB reported.
Could this be another bio-weapon from china? The answer is still Unknown.