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PA Department of Agriculture warns of mysterious seeds received by mail

The seeds have been popping up on people's doorsteps in other states, as well.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is warning residents to properly discard and report any mysterious unordered and mislabeled seeds that appear to have been shipped from overseas.

The seeds have been showing up on doorsteps nationwide, and have been in packages labeled as jewelry.

The Department of Agriculture warns that the seeds may contain plant diseases, weeds or invasive plants that could harm the ecosystem.

You can read the full release from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture here:

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding today warned consumers to properly discard and report unordered and mislabeled seeds shipped from overseas. Consumers nationwide have received seeds in packages labeled as jewelry. These seeds may contain plant diseases, weeds or invasive plants that could harm Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry and ecosystem.

“Seeds sold in Pennsylvania are rigorously tested to ensure that they are genetically pure and regulated to ensure that what’s on the label is what’s in the package,” Secretary Redding said. “Planting seeds without knowing what they are can wreak havoc with our environment, destroy agricultural crops and incur costly control efforts for years to come.”

Note: the above picture are seeds that were sent to Kentucky.

Seeds labelled as jewelry are likely a scam known as "brushing.” Companies boost online sales by purchasing their own products through fake buyer accounts created by the company. The products are shipped to a real address, to someone who didn’t order the item. The seller writes a positive review of their items from the fake buyer account.

In the past, scammers have sent empty packages. Recent packages have been filled with unlabeled seeds.

Consumers who receive unsolicited seeds are asked to retain the seeds and packaging. If opened, double bag and seal the seeds. Do not plant them or discard loose seeds.

Report the package to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) confidential Antismuggling Hotline, 800-877-3835 or email SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov. USDA will provide further instructions.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s seed program licenses seed distributors, and analyzes and certifies seeds to help ensure that seeds are free of pathogens, invasive plants and noxious weeds.

For more information on Pennsylvania’s efforts to protect and promote agriculture in Pennsylvania, visit agriculture.pa.gov

The USDA also released a statement to FOX43.

You can read the USDA's full statement here:

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.

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. USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.

USDA is committed to preventing the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protecting U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds. Visit the APHIS’ website to learn more about USDA’s efforts to stop agricultural smuggling and promote trade compliance.