The U.S. Department of Agriculture, USAD and the FBI warn the U.S. public against planting unsolicited packages containing potentially poisoned or contaminated seeds from China.
Officials said the seeds could be invasive species that could threaten crops or livestock. Unsolicited seeds can be invasive species, introduce diseases to local plants or harm livestock. Invasive species damage the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects, and severely damage crops.
In the past few days, at least eight reports have come in from US citizens who received packets of seeds by mail without ordering anything. According to texts on the package, it is said to come from China.
Photos of packages posted on social media show seeds of different sizes, shapes, and colors arrived in white or yellow envelopes. Federal officials said some packages were labeled as jewelry and may contain Chinese writing.
"At the moment we don't have enough information to know if this is a hoax, a joke, an internet scam or an act of agricultural bioterrorism," said Ryan Quarles, Kentucky Commissioner for Agriculture. The USDA said it is aware that people across the country have received unsolicited packets of seed from China in recent days.
The agency works with the Department of Homeland Security and, according to a statement, claims to protect U.S. agriculture and prevent the illegal entry of banned seeds.
Police said it appears the seeds are related to a scam where suppliers send cheap products to subconscious recipients and then submit positive reviews on e-commerce websites on behalf of the recipient. The Washington State Department of Agriculture said on Facebook that the shipments are "agricultural smuggling." It has asked recipients to keep them for the USDA because 'they may be needed as evidence.
These "unsolicited Chinese shipments" coincide with increasing trade tensions between the United States and China. Initially, it looked like China would import a lot more food and goods from the US this year, but after President Trump blamed the Chinese for the corona pandemic, little has happened.