If you get seeds in the mail from China or other countries that you didn’t order, don’t open the seed packet and don’t plant the seeds.
Consumers in the United States, Canada, Australia and the European Union have been getting unsolicited packets of seeds from China and other countries. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is investigating.
At this point, it seems this is a “brushing scam,” where online sellers create fake orders to boost ratings. Because a shipment usually has to take place for an order to be considered valid, the seller will frequently ship an empty box or some cheap item (such as seeds). Then a review in the recipient’s name can be placed on the seller’s site.
You might be tempted to try out any free seeds that come your way, but don’t plant them. Those seeds could sprout plants that are invasive in our area. They might also introduce pests and diseases into our environment.
Working with federal and state agencies, APHIS is collecting and testing as many seeds as possible to determine whether they present a threat to the U.S. environment.
So far, the seeds they identified have been mustard, cabbage, morning glory, mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, hibiscus and roses.
Here’s what you should do if you get one of these packages:
- Immediately contact your state plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director.
- Hold on to the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your state department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions.
- Don’t open the seed packet.
- Don’t plant the seeds!