Officials continue to warn of, provide new way to report, unsolicited packages of seeds from China

Thu, 07/30/2020 - 1:30pm

7/30 1:45 p.m. Update: Today, the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's (DACF) Bureau of Agriculture issued an update for people receiving unsolicited packages containing seeds, purportedly sent from China.

DACF is instructing seed recipients to visit Maine.gov/dacf/seeds and follow the instructions outlined on the form.

Recipients are asked to place the seeds and shipping envelope (if available) into a resealable baggie and mail them to the following address for identification and processing.

USDA-APHIS-PPQ
15 Iron Road, Suite 1
Hermon, ME 04401


Original Story, 7/28 at 11:30 a.m.

AUGUSTA — Across the State of Maine and the United States, people are reporting receiving unsolicited packages containing seeds from China in the mail.

More than 30 states, in fact, have issued warnings about the mysterious packages, according to USA Today

Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) Bureau of Agriculture is advising anyone who gets these packages to not open or plant the seeds.

Recipients are asked to contact either DACF's Division of Animal and Plant Health, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., at 287-3200 or by emailing horticulture@maine.gov

Alternatively, recipients may contact the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service - Plant Protection and Quarantine office in Hermon at 848-0008.

Recipients should hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from DACF or USDA gets in touch with further instructions.

Individuals are urged to not plant the seeds from unknown origins as they could be invasive species with the possibility to devastate agriculture. 

The seeds are usually sent in white packages displaying Chinese lettering and the words “China Post," according to a DACF news release. Most recipients say they did not order anything, and that the packaging was labeled as jewelry. Some recipients have reported ordering seeds on Amazon and receiving these seeds.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service's Plant Protection and Quarantine Smuggling, Interdiction and Trade Compliance Unit is currently investigating this situation across the nation.

The packages appear to be part of a "brushing" scam, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development spokeswoman Jennifer Holton told the Detroit Free Press.

“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, then submitting positive reviews on the receiver's behalf under the guise of a verified owner,” the Free Press reported.