Overview

Mystery Seeds From China refers reports that United States citizens receiving unsolicited packages from China containing unknown seeds. While some expressed concerns about the motives behind the packages, officials believe that it may be part of a “brushing scam” in which a merchant sends unordered, low-value items and publishes reviews under the recipient’s name. These reviews give the merchant a boost in search algorithms, like those found on Amazon.com.

Background

In July 2020, some Americans began reporting unsolicited deliveries of seeds in parcels with postmarks from China. On July 24th, 2020, the verified Washington State Department of Agriculture Facebook published a warning about the seeds. They wrote, “Today we received reports of people receiving seeds in the mail from China that they did not order. The seeds are sent in packages usually stating that the contents are jewelry. Unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants, or be harmful to livestock.” The post received more than 661,000 shares, 25,000 reactions and 21,000 comments in less than one week (shown below).

That day, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services published a statement on the seeds. They wrote:

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has been notified that several Virginia residents have received unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China. The types of seeds in the packages are unknown at this time and may be invasive plant species. The packages were sent by mail and may have Chinese writing on them.

Please do not plant these seeds. VDACS encourages Virginia residents who have received unsolicited seeds in the mail that appear to have Chinese origin to contact the Office of Plant Industry Services (OPIS) by submitting a report to the Unsolicited Seed Package Reporting Tool or to the ReportAPest@vdacs.virginia.gov email.

Invasive species wreak havoc on the…

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