Officials in several states said residents have reported receiving unsolicited packages of seeds in the mail that appear to be sent from China and are urging the public not to plant them.
The agriculture departments in Washington, Louisiana, Kansas and Virginia have recently issued statements warning residents that the seeds may be invasive or otherwise harmful to local plants or livestock. People in Utah, Arizona and Ohio have also reported receiving the mysterious packages, local news outlets reported.
Some of the packages were labeled as jewelry and may have Chinese writing on them, according to agriculture officials.
Lori Culley, who lives in Tooele, Utah, told Fox 13 she was excited to find two small packages in her mailbox that appeared to contain earrings.
“I opened them up and they were seeds,” Culley said. “Obviously they’re not jewelry!”
Culley told the outlet she posted about the strange incident on Facebook, and “at least 40 people” reached out to her saying something similar happened to them.
Mike Strain, the commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, asked residents to notify his department if they receive unsolicited packages of seeds said in a statement Friday.
“Right now, we are uncertain what types of seeds are in the package,” Strain said. “We need to identify the seeds to ensure they do not pose a risk to Louisiana’s agricultural industry or the environment.”
The Washington State Department of Agriculture warned residents not to plant or open the sealed packages and urged them to report the incident, known as “agricultural smuggling” to the U.S. Agriculture Department in a statement. The USDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Police in Whitehouse, Ohio, said the seeds appear to be connected to an online scam and are not “directly dangerous.”
“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,” the department said in a statement.
Still, the police department advised residents to contact them so they can “properly dispose of the seeds.”
Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg
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