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Those Strange Seeds You Got in the Mail? Don't Plant Them

Officials in several states warn unsolicited packets may be from China, other overseas locations
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2020 7:46 AM CDT

(Newser) – "Do not plant seeds from unknown origins." That's the warning issued by Mike Strain, Louisiana's agriculture commissioner, after people in his state and several others say they've received unasked-for packages of seeds in the mail, which officials say may have come from China or other overseas locations. Similar notices were sent to residents in more than two dozen states—the New York Times has the list—after reports started coming in, about the seeds, which have been showing up in residents' mailboxes in white or yellow pouches with Chinese lettering, among other packaging. In some cases, the packets have been labeled as jewelry, toys, or earbuds. Strain notes some of the packages in his state appeared to be from Uzbekistan as well as from China. Snopes, meanwhile, says residents in the UK have also reported receiving the seed packets.

Although officials are still trying to figure out what's going on, USA Today reports that a police department in Ohio theorizes the seeds could be part of an online scam known as "brushing," in which a vendor sends out a cheap product to an unsuspecting recipient, then posts positive reviews for that product under the recipient's name. Another theory is that it's a form of agricultural smuggling. CNN notes it's not clear who's sending the seeds and if any of them are dangerous, but officials warn they could be, especially if they're an invasive species that could "wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects, and severely damage crops," per a release from Virginia's agriculture department. Agriculture officials are asking the public to keep seed packets sealed, put them in a zip-close plastic bag for safe measure, and to report any packets they've received. (Read more seeds stories.)

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