Mysterious, unsolicited packets of seeds possibly from China are arriving in some Southern California mailboxes, prompting state officials to urge recipients to refrain from planting them.
The California Department of Agriculture is aware of the packets and has been in contact with the US Department of Agriculture to determine what action, if any, is necessary for shipments arriving in California, spokesman Steve Lyle said Monday.
“In the meantime, California Department of Agriculture is instructing residents not to open any unsolicited seed packets received and to contact their local county agricultural commissioner‘s office,” he said. “Seed packets should not be opened, shipped or disposed of by residents to prevent potential dispersal of invasive species and/or quarantine pests. Unopened seed packets should be held by the resident or county official until further instructions are provided.”
According to news reports, agriculture agencies in at least 27 states — including Virginia, Washington, Louisiana and Kansas —have issued warnings that the seeds could be harmful to plants and livestock.
Police in Whitehouse, Ohio, where some of the packets were received, said on Facebook the seeds appear to be 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,” police said. “Although not directly dangerous, we would still prefer that people contact us to properly dispose of the seeds.”
Rudy Hassen of Dana Point received a seed packet Monday that was labeled on the outside as jewelry.
“I’m a bit surprised they made it through customs,” said Hassen, who contacted the U.S. Postal Service and the state Department of Agriculture after the packet arrived. “I find it disturbing, for sure.”
Source: Orange County Register
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