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Mysterious seeds sent from China to US identified by Trump administration

Authorities believe the packages were sent as part of a ‘brushing’ scam meant to drive up sales of online products through fake reviews

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The mysterious seed packs from China that hundreds of Americans received in the mail have been identified, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Federal officials warned those who received the seeds not to plant them over fears that some may be invasive species and could destroy native plants and insects.

Osama El-Lissy, a member of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said officials had identified more than a dozen plant species included in the seed packets.

“We have identified 14 different species of seeds, including mustard, cabbage, morning glory and some herbs, like mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, and then other seeds like hibiscus and roses,” he said.

Authorities believe the seed packets may be part of an online money-making scam that likely originated in China.

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“At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales,” a USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said.

The USDA is working alongside the US Department of Homeland Security to investigate the packages.

“USDA is currently collecting seed packaged from recipients and will test their contents to determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to US agriculture or the environment,” the statement said.

Packages have been mailed to addresses in all 50 states as well as to addresses across Canada.

Many of the packages had shipping information printed in Chinese characters on the bags, some of which were misprinted and described objects like bracelets or rings.

Most of the packets appear — according to the address labels — to have come from the Chinese cities of Suzhou.

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A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said last week that the Chinese mail service was working with the US Postal Service to have some of the packages shipped back to China for analysis.

The spokesperson claimed that the address labels on the package were forged.

Despite many of the seeds being identified, the USDA is still asking anyone who receives the seeds not to plant them. They recommend storing the seeds away from dogs and children and reporting them to the agency.

1 /1 Mysterious seeds sent from China to the US identified by the USDA

Mysterious seeds sent from China to the US identified by the USDA

Authorities believe the packages were sent as part of a ‘brushing’ scam meant to drive up sales of online products through fake reviews

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Authorities believe the packages were sent as part of a ‘brushing’ scam meant to drive up sales of online products through fake reviews

Why are people receiving strange seeds in the post from China – are they safe to plant?

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Of all the parcels you might expect to receive in the post, mysterious packages of seeds might not rank too highly on the list.

But that’s exactly what’s been happening in the US and now the UK, with reports that some people have been receiving unsolicited parcels from China in the post, containing packages of unidentified seeds.

Just what’s it all about, what are the seeds – and is it safe to plant them?

Here’s what you need to know…

Why are people receiving seeds from China in the post?

It’s not quite clear why people are receiving these packages, but warnings have been issued about them in all 50 states of the US.

The unsolicited packages often have Chinese writing on them and are often labelled as containing earrings or jewellery – which might mean they avoid biosecurity checks or charges.

Although many of the reports of packages seem to come from the US – with 630 instances reported in Florida alone – there have also been about 100 reports of people receiving them in England.

The United States’ Department Of Agriculture has issued a statement, saying it is ‘aware that people across the country have received unsolicited packages of seed from China’.

They have said they are working with Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, and other federal agencies to try and get to the bottom of what’s going on.

The USDA has suggested that the packages might be related to a ‘brushing scam’ – a ruse sometimes used by online sellers as a way of boosting their own business.

The scam involves people sending unsolicited items to people via fake customer accounts – thus generating a transaction, which allows them to leave a positive review on their websites, potentially boosting their business.

What kind of seeds are they and are they safe to plant?

The USDA has said that following investigation on some of the seeds received, saying that they include seeds for such herbs as mint, sage, cabbage, mustard, rosemary and lavender as well as for hibiscus and roses.

However they have advised anyone who receives seeds not to plant them, amid concerns some could belong to invasive species which could threaten plant life – and instead to report it to them, and await further instructions.

In the UK, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has issued similar advice.

“Biosecurity is of vital importance and we have robust checks in place to protect our plants and wildlife, including for online plant sales,’ Apha told the Guardian in a statement.

‘We are currently investigating packages of seeds marked as ‘ear studs’ sent to people in the UK. Anyone who has received such seeds should not plant them and instead report them to us.’

Anyone who receives one of these unsolicited packages should email [email protected]

Meanwhile China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a news briefing that the country has strict restrictions on the sending of seeds by mail, and that records on the parcels have been falsified.

‘China Post has negotiated with US post to return these fake mails to China,’ he explained.

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People have been receiving strange packages of seeds in the post from China – just what's it all about and are they safe to plant?