Gotten any weird seeds in the mail lately? Here’s what you need to know

Most of the packages are mislabeled as jewelry or toys but contain a package of seeds instead.. Photo via the Washington State Department of Agriculture

Just when you think 2020 is done throwing curveballs, people start receiving unsolicited packages of seeds in the mail, seemingly from China. Yes, this is a real thing—confirmed by the USDA and ADAI—and no, I never thought I would write that sentence. Here’s everything you need to know including what to do if you receive any suspicious seeds yourself.

Here’s What We Know

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) released a statement on Monday, July 27, stating they have received “multiple reports of ‘unsolicited’ China origin seeds being delivered to residents across the state through the United States Postal Service (USPS).”

Apparently, the packages are often mislabeled as jewelry or toys, and at least 27 other states across the country have released statements urging residents to report unsolicited seeds.

Additionally, residents in all 50 states have reported receiving suspicious packages of seeds, confirmed by CBS News.

According to the ADAI statement, this practice is known as agricultural smuggling. And agriculture officials across the U.S. have warned against planting, or even touching the seeds.

“We urge all residents to be on the lookout for similar packages. These seeds could be invasive or be harmful to livestock.”

Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate

More Theories From the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a statement as well on Tuesday, July 28, stating the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and state departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.

“At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.

USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.”

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

What to Do With Suspicious Seeds

If you receive a package of seeds, here are the recommended steps to follow via the ADAI:

  1. Report the package via this survey.
  2. Don’t plant the seeds and if they are in a sealed package, don’t open the sealed package. Also, don’t throw it away.
  3. Call 1-800-877-3835 or email to SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov. For more details visit their site.

Have you received any suspicious seeds? Let us know on social at @BhamNow on Facebook and Instagram, or @Now_Bham on Twitter.

  • Most likely Instagrammin’ the Birmingham skyline, behind the camera shooting photos or writing stories (with too many puns) for Bham Now.