Across the United States, residents have been receiving mysterious packages from China, filled with unidentified seeds.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), this is part of a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. The 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.
The NJ Department of Agriculture (NJDA) has been receiving reports of residents receiving these seeds in the mail that they did not order. Sometimes the seeds are sent in packages stating that the contents are jewelry.
Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson), Chair of the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, warned Hudson County residents of the issue in a statement.
“We’ve all seen the recent reports on the unsolicited and mislabeled seed packages residents’ have been receiving in states across the country,” McKnight said. “More recently, some of the seeds have been identified and include common flora types.”
According to the NJDA, the seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants, or be harmful to livestock.
“The USDA and experts strongly urges residents who receive these packages not to plant them,” McKnight said. “They could be invasive to our environment, local plant and animal life.”
The NJDA advises that if they are in sealed packaging, don’t open it.
Instead, residents should take a photo of the package and seeds and send them to the USDA SITC at SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov
Residents may also send the package to the USDA Office at 1500 Lower Road, Linden, NJ 07036, addressed to Gregory Soto at USDA APHIS PPQ.
Write your name, address, phone number, and email address on a piece of paper and insert it in the package.
If you have already planted or discarded seeds, send an email to Gregory.email@example.com
Destruction options for planted seeds
If you have already planted the seeds, the state Department of Agriculture has released guidelines on how to destroy and remove them.
Remove the plants, including the surrounding soil, including three inches of soil around the seeds or plants. Where seed germination has not occurred, remove the soil presumed to contain the planted seeds.
Place plant and soil material inside a thick plastic bag. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible and then seal it.
Place the bag inside a second plastic bag. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible and seal the second bag.
Dispose of the double-bagged plant material and soil in the trash. Do not compost the seeds or plants.
Refrain from planting new plants in the affected area for 12 months and remove any plants that grow in the area.
According to the USDA, the solicitation of seeds is considered “agricultural smuggling.”
Residents aware of the potential smuggling of prohibited exotic fruits, vegetables, or meat products into or through the USA should contact the confidential Anti-smuggling Hotline at 800-877-3835 or e-mail SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov.
The USDA will attempt to protect the confidentiality of sources within the extent of the law.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Dan Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.