A few days ago, numerous people across the US found a surprise in the mail: unsolicited packages of seeds from China. Since then, there have been confirmed reports in all 50 states. The appearance of the seeds has varied, but almost all packages have come from somewhere in China. In some cases, recipients had previously ordered seeds online from other distributors, but this was not true for everyone.
At this point, it is believed to be a part of a massive brushing scam. This is a technique used to try and boost product ratings on ecommerce websites through fake ordering. A “buyer” makes an order under someone else’s name and address. The order is confirmed and shipped out, allowing the imposter to review the product with a perfect rating. This tactic has become especially common on sites like Amazon.
While the idea of getting something for free might not seem so bad, these items are typically of low quality and may even be dangerous.
Why Does This Matter?
Seeds are carefully regulated by the USDA, as well as the State Departments of Agriculture, and for good reason. Unchecked seed could contain invasive plants that are illegal to grow in your state. In a case like this, the seeds could contain harmful species that don’t currently exist in the US. These species can overtake native plants and even spread to cropland, causing serious harm.
Additionally, unverified seed can contain seed-borne diseases that can infect healthy plants.
When purchasing any seed, whether it’s gardening seed or a CRP seed mix, you should always ensure it’s coming from a reputable dealer. Never accept unmarked seed or purchase seed from an unverified distributor.
What to Do If You Receive Unmarked Seeds
First and foremost, do not plant the seeds. In fact, do not open the package of seeds. Leave it sealed. While it might make sense to simply throw them away, you should not do this either. The packaging could break, causing the seed to spill out and spread.
Instead, you should put the seed in a safe, sealed location and await further instructions from the USDA. They are currently working on a way to collect the seeds for testing and proper destruction.
If you have received unsolicited seeds, contact the USDA or your local Department of Agriculture immediately.