Today’s Topic: Unsolicited seeds from China being sent to North Carolina residents.

By on August 4, 2020

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

We have been getting many reports of unsolicited packs of seeds from China being sent to residents as part of what is likely a “brushing” scheme. We are asking that residents keep all the packaging, not open or plant the seeds, and contact our Plant Industry Division at 1-800-206-9333.

Today’s Topic: Mystery seeds

Summary of comments:
Our Plant Industry Division has been extra busy following up on reports about unsolicited seeds from China being sent to residents through the mail.
This has become a real hot-button topic for the department and for good reason. This is a serious threat to North Carolina and U.S. agriculture because we do not know what these are or if they could be carrying some type of plant disease or destructive pest.
I urge you to take this situation seriously. We have over 600 reports from across the state about these seeds being sent. We now have reports of these seeds in 80 of our 100 counties, so the mailings have really blanketed the state.
Staff from our Plant Industry and Agronomic Services divisions are collecting these packets for review and testing by USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service.
If anyone has received such a package, please keep all the packaging together, don’t open or plant the seeds, and call us at 1-800-206-9333 or email us at newpest@ncagr.gov.
We have concerns that these seeds could be an invasive plant species or could carry plant diseases that could be harmful to our agricultural crops.
We wouldn’t want an accidental introduction of something harmful from these seeds, so we are being proactive on this issue.
Our staff are working in cooperation with USDA and Homeland Security on this issue. It is not just happening here, I understand that seeds are being shipped all over the country.
The packaging has a return address in Chinese, but it is not real. They are often marked as jewelry or toys on the label.
At this time, these shipments are thought to be part of a “brushing” scheme, where the company creates an account in a person’s name and ships them an inexpensive item, such as seed. With the account and the shipment information, someone with the company then gives a positive review of the item. Thus, boosting the company’s online rating for sales and products.

There have been reports of these types of scams before, but it appears this may be another round of mailings.
Other inexpensive items have been shipped as well, including rubber bands, plastic toys or even empty bags.
I ask that people take this seriously. Invasive plants can easily get out of control, especially if they have nothing to keep them in check.
We want to have a better understanding of what these are.

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