Citizens across the United States have reported receiving unauthorized shipments of unknown seeds, allegedly from China, and officials are now reaching out to the general public in hopes of stopping a potentially dangerous environmental mistake.
What We Know:
- The agriculture departments of several states have begun telling it residents about mysterious packages marked with Chinese writing and often labeled as jewelry. These states include, but are not limited to, Washington, Georgia, Kentucky, Delaware, and Kansas. Reports from people in states without advisories at the moment, such as Utah and Ohio, have also been receiving these unwarranted packages.
- A common warning among agriculture officials say that these packages contain seeds of an invasive plant species that can prove detrimental to local species and environments. A specific example came from a Utah resident that claimed to receive some packages in the mail that appeared to contain “earrings”.
- The Commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF), Mike Strain, asked that all Louisiana residents on Friday, inform the LDAF the moment they receive packages matching the description of the seed packages.
“Right now, we are uncertain what types of seeds are in the package,” Strain stated. “We need to identify the seeds to ensure they do not pose a risk to Louisiana’s agricultural industry or the environment.”
- The Washington State Department of Agriculture also posted on their Facebook warning residents not to open, much less plant, any of the contents the package may contain. They dub the act as “agricultural smuggling,” a practice that causes serious damage if left unchecked.
- A spokesperson for the USDA stated that the department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is “working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection and State departments of agriculture to prevent the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protect U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds”.
- Moreover, police in Ohio have a hunch that these packages could instead be an online scam and the seeds might end being harmless after all. The so-called “brushing scam” is a simple tool sellers use to boost product ratings.
The scam functions by indiscriminately shipping an inexpensive product, such as seeds, to unsuspecting recipients. They will then take advantage of the free product and might even end up reviewing it. What the sellers get out of this scam is a genuine review from an actual customer.