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Prank or not — Do not open unsolicited seeds received in the mail

While it is true that numerous people in the U.S. and U.K. have received packages of the unknown seeds in the mail, according to Snopes, the precise motive behind these mailings, and whether or not it is a malicious one, is not yet known. Is it a prank or hoax? One thing is certain, do not plant the seeds!

“Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops,” the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in a statement Friday, according to the Miami-Herald. “Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.”

This selling scam apparently started earlier this month. The Washington State Department of Agriculture issued a notice on its Facebook page saying: “Today we received reports of people receiving seeds in the mail from China that they did not order. The seeds are sent in packages usually stating that the contents are jewelry. Unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants, or be harmful to livestock.”

They also asked that people not plant the seeds and “if they are in sealed packaging (as in the photo below) don’t open the sealed package. This is known as agricultural smuggling. Report it to USDA and maintain the seeds and packaging until USDA instructs you what to do with the packages and seeds. They may be needed as evidence.”

Images of unsolicited seeds and packaging.

Images of unsolicited seeds and packaging.
Washington State Department of Agriculture


Besides the state of Washington, people in Virginia and Utah have also been receiving the unwanted seeds through the mail. Tooele, Utah, resident Lori Culley told Fox 13 that most of the writing on a package she received Tuesday was in Chinese, though the label indicated it contained earrings.

“I opened them up and they were seeds,” Culley said. “Obviously they’re not jewelry!” The Utah Department of Agriculture is investigating this, along with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Fox station reported. Culley was one of at least 40 people who had received the mysterious seeds.

Lask week, the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported that hundreds of garedeners across the country had received packages of unidentified seeds “thought to have been sent from China.”

In this case, all of the people receiving the packets of seeds had previously made legitimate seed purchases through sites such as Amazon marketplace and eBay. Just about all of the packages were marked as ‘petals’ and ‘ear studs’, potentially to avoid customs checks.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency, part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is asking people receiving the seeds to send details of any related purchase history – and forward the packages to its officials so they can study and then destroy them.

While investigating this story a bit further, this journalist came across an interesting bit of information. One facebook member noticed the phone number on the Washinton State Agriculture Department’s image and decided to Google it. That number sent her to Amazon Seller Central.

But the story gets even better – The Amazon link for the phone number led to a “Bad Buyer” list that includes the name, telephone number and address of the person behind the alleged seed mailings, or whatever it is called. It looks like this story might get resolved.

Written By

Karen Graham is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for environmental news. Karen's view of what is happening in our world is colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in man's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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