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Warning issued about unsolicited packages containing seeds

Across the United States, people have been reporting receiving unsolicited packages containing seeds from China in the mail.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is warning residents who receive these packages not to open or plant the seeds.

The seeds are usually sent in white packages displaying Chinese lettering and the words “China Post.” Most recipients say they did not order anything, and that the packaging was labeled as jewelry. Some recipients have reported ordering seeds on Amazon and receiving these seeds.

“If you receive unsolicited seeds from another country, do not plant them,” said Mike Philip, director of MDARD’s Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division. “If they are in sealed packaging, do not open the package. We don’t know what type of seeds are in the packages, but we do know they come in a variety of sizes and colors, with some reported to be very tiny. These unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants, or be harmful to livestock.”

The packages may be a part of a “brushing” scam. A brushing scam is an exploit by a vendor used to bolster product ratings and increase visibility online by shipping an inexpensive product to an unwitting receiver and then submitting positive reviews on the receiver’s behalf under the guise of a verified owner.

“If planted, these unknown and potentially invasive species could have a very negative impact on the environment. Additionally, we’re asking people not to throw the seeds or packages away or dispose of them,” said Philip. “MDARD appreciates the cooperation of Michiganders who receive these packages as we work together to protect Michigan agriculture.”

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service’s Plant Protection and Quarantine Smuggling, Interdiction and Trade Compliance Unit is currently investigating this situation across the nation.

If you receive an unsolicited package of seeds from China, hold on to the seeds, packaging and mailing label, and contact MDARD’s Customer Service Center, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time at 800-292-3939 or via MDA-Info@michigan.gov.

The agriculture departments in Washington, Louisiana, Kansas, Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio have issued similar statements in recent days.

For more information on MDARD’s Pesticide and Plant Pesticide Management Division, go to www.michigan.gov/mdard.

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