Several states are issuing warnings after people reported receiving mysterious, unsolicited packages in the mail containing unidentified seeds. The packages usually have Chinese characters on their labels and are postmarked as originating in China or other eastern countries.
So far, 27 states have issued warnings urging recipients of these packages to refrain from planting or even opening the seed containers. Instead, anyone who gets such a mailing should contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture or state agricultural departments.
Leaders in these states, including Virginia, speculate these seeds could potentially be invasive species that would be destructive to local plant life.
“Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops,” the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in a news release on July 24.
“Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.”
In Washington, meanwhile, the state Department of Agriculture advised recipients of the seed packages to “NOT plant them and if they are in sealed packaging … don’t open the sealed package.”
“This is known as agricultural smuggling,” the department added. “Report it to USDA and maintain the seeds and packaging until USDA instructs you what to do with the packages and seeds. They may be needed as evidence.”
Kansas, Indiana, Arizona, and Louisiana are among other states in which such packages have been delivered.
The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry issued a statement informing the public that:
Right now, we are uncertain what types of seeds are in the package. Out of caution, we are urging anyone who receives a package that was not ordered by the recipient, to please call the LDAF immediately. We need to identify the seeds to ensure they do not pose a risk to Louisiana’s agricultural industry or the environment.
According to the Daily Mail, 40 Utah residents have received seeds in their mailboxes. Utah resident Lori Culley told KSTU that “most of the writing on the outside was in Chinese” and that the package label indicated the contents were jewelry.
Jane Rupp, president of the Better Business Bureau’s Utah chapter, told KSTU that she thought the packages might be part of a scam called “brushing,” which involves third-party sellers sending people items they never ordered so they can write positive reviews on their behalf, pretending to be verified buyers.
“That is rather random. I don’t think I’ve heard of seeds before,” Rupp told KSTU. “The first thing to do is Google your address and see what’s out there…. Numerous things will come up when you Google your address. It’s kind of scary sometimes.”
The Plant Protection and Quarantine Program, managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, regulates plants and seeds shipped to the United States from other countries.
Seeds imported into the country must have a phytosanitary certificate demonstrating that they are free of disease and pests. “If individuals are aware of the potential smuggling of prohibited exotic fruits, vegetables, or meat products into or through the USA, they can help APHIS by contacting the confidential Antismuggling Hotline number at 800-877-3835 or by sending an Email to SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov,” the USDA writes.
The strange packages come at a time of heightened tension between America and China.
On Monday, Chinese authorities took control of the U.S. consulate in Chengdu after Beijing ordered its closure, an act of retaliation for America’s order to close the Chinese consulate in Houston.
Footage released by China’s CCTV in Chengdu showed consular staff leaving the facility, the removal of a U.S. plaque, and the lowering of the American flag. China’s foreign ministry declared that its staff were inside and in control of the building.
Each nation accuses the other of using its consulate for spying purposes. “Washington has long used its diplomats in Chengdu to infiltrate Tibet and other regions in Southwest China, interfering in China’s domestic affairs,” wrote the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece Global Times.
“We have directed the closure of PRC Consulate General Houston in order to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” the U.S. State Department said last week.
If America is entering a new Cold War with Communist China, could the mysterious seed packages be a subtle form of agricultural warfare?