Starting in June, packages of various types of seeds from China were mailed unsolicited to American homes across the country. According to CBS News, all 50 states have confirmed receiving suspicious seed packages.
The FBI, Agriculture Department, and DHS are investigating and have warned citizens not to plant the seeds in the event they might be a weaponized strain to destroy domestic plants. According to Deputy Health Administrator Osama El-Lissy of the USDA’s Animal and Health Inspection Service, the 14 species identified so far include cabbage, mint, hibiscus and rosemary.
Although the seed species identified so far are harmless, experts are concerned that invasive species could damage crops. A professor of biology at Salem State University warned that unidentified seeds have the potential to “displace native plants and compete for resources and cause harm to the environment, agriculture of human health.”
Sid Miller, the Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner, emphasized that those who receive these mystery packages should be cautious. Miller noted that the seeds “Could be a bacteria. It could be another virus, some kind of invasive species.”
The USDA has stated that the seeds are likely part of a ‘brushing scam.’ In these types of scams, vendors ship product to people who did not place an order. Then, falsified reviews and shipment numbers could boost the vendor’s sales or search-power on the internet.
The USDA is urging those who receive these mystery seeds to not plant them and contact their state plant regulatory official immediately.