In Brief

Americans warned not to plant mystery seeds being sent to homes nationwide from China

Officials say the unsolicited packages have been mailed to residents in at least 27 US states

The US authorities are warning against planting mysterious seeds that have been arriving in the mail at homes in 27 states.

Members of the public are being urged to report the delivery of the unsolicited pouches, which “appear to have mostly originated from China”, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

State officials and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are investigating claims that “hundreds of residents have received seeds in the mail they didn’t order”, the newspaper adds.

The packages “typically have Chinese characters on the label”, which frequently states that the contents are jewellery, says CNN.

However, the packages actually “contain a sealed packet of unknown seeds that some state agriculture departments say could be invasive plant species”, according to the broadcaster, which adds that it is “unclear who exactly is sending these packages”, or why. 

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has issued a statement warning that “invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops.

“Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.”

Police in Ohio, where at least one resident has reported receiving seeds, say the packages could be a part of a “brushing” fraud, reports The New York Times.

As the department explains on its Facebook page, a brushing scam “is an exploit by a vendor used to bolster product ratings and increase visibility online by shipping an inexpensive product to an unwitting receiver and then submitting positive reviews on the receiver’s behalf under the guise of a verified owner”.

Although the seeds did not appear to be “directly dangerous”, the department adds, “we would still prefer that people contact us to properly dispose of the seeds”. 

The import of plants and seeds is “heavily regulated” by the Plant Protection and Quarantine Program, which is managed by the US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, says CNN.

Seeds being shipped into the US must carry a “a phytosanitary certificate that ensures the product is free of pests and diseases”, the broadcaster reports. 

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