Washington: Agriculture officials in several US states issued warnings this week about unsolicited shipments of foreign seeds and advised people not to plant them.
Residents in more than a dozen states recently reported receiving seed packets they did not order that appeared to have been sent by mail from China.
The US Department of Agriculture said it is working with the Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and the state department to investigate the situation.
The department is urging US residents to report the suspicious packages and not plant the seeds. But it “doesn’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”.
In Kentucky, the state agriculture department was notified that several residents had received the packages, the agriculture commissioner, Ryan Quarles, said.
“We don’t know what they are, and we cannot risk any harm whatsoever to agricultural production in the United States,” he said. “We have the safest, most abundant food supply in the world and we need to keep it that way.”
“At this point in time, we don’t have enough information to know if this is a hoax, a prank, an internet scam or an act of agricultural bio-terrorism,” Quarles added. “Unsolicited seeds could be invasive and introduce unknown diseases to local plants, harm livestock or threaten our environment.”