The departments of Agriculture of several American states have published press releases in recent days warning their residents of suspicious packages containing mysterious seeds, presumably sent from China.
“The types of seeds in the packages are currently unknown and are likely to contain invasive plant species,” the Ohio agricultural department warned on Monday.
“If you receive such a package, please DO NOT sow these seeds. If they are in a sealed package, do not open the package.”
Mailings with obscure motivations
The Ohio Agriculture Department says “unwanted seeds can be invasive, contain noxious weeds, introduce disease to local plants, or be dangerous to livestock.” Similar guidelines have been issued by the agriculture departments of the states of Washington, Louisiana, Virginia and Kansas.
According to local media and photos shared by residents on social media, packages were also sent to Utah and Arizona. Some of them were cataloged as if they were jewelry and contained Chinese characters on their labels.
Kentucky is now the 4th known state to report suspicious packages appearing to originate from China containing seeds. Multiple states have opened investigations. If you receive a suspicious package of seeds that you did not order: pic.twitter.com/kHBwKIT7W5
— Ryan Quarles (@RyanQuarlesKY) July 26, 2020
The motivations behind these shipments remain obscure. According to the Ohio Police Department, this could be “brushing”, an unfair technique used in online commerce that involves improving the reviews of a product by generating bogus orders.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides a telephone number and address on its site for persons “aware of potential trafficking in exotic fruits, vegetables or meat products banned at or in transit through the United States.”