Mysterious packages of seeds from China spark warnings in US

China Post says unsolicited parcels received in multiple states bear fake return address labels

Andrew Naughtie
Wednesday 29 July 2020 15:57
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China asks US to send back mysterious seed parcels so that it can investigate

The US authorities have warned people not to open packets of seeds that have been posted unsolicited to addresses in several states.

The seeds have arrived without packaging identifying them, and the US authorities have asked recipients to return them for examination in case they belong to an invasive species.

The seeds appear to have been sent from China, and have landed in mailboxes from Virginia to Washington. The Chinese authorities have asked for the packages to be returned for examination, denying responsibility for them and saying that China Post “prohibits seeds from conveyance by post.”

“After verification with China Post,” said a spokesperson, “those address labels turned out to be fake ones with erroneous layouts and entries. China Post has contacted [the US Postal Service], asking it to send those fake packages to China for investigation.”

In a statement of its own, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) told Americans not to throw the seeds away, and certainly not to plant them.

“USDA is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.

“USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director. Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”

So far, the main worry is that the seeds could belong to an invasive plant species that could spell havoc for farming and ecosystems alike if allowed to take root. But according to the USDA, the fact that the packages are unsolicited should not in itself be considered unusually sinister.

“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,” its statement said.

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