MCCORDSVILLE, Ind- Mystery seeds from China are showing up in mailboxes across America.
They appear to be part of a “brushing scam,” used to increase product reviews for online shopping websites. However, their origin and potential harm are still unknown.
“It’s thousands across the country,” said Don Robison, Seed Administrator Office of Indiana State Chemist. “I’ve been in the seed business my whole life, since I was a teenager actually, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
They’re supposedly coming from China and ending up in mailboxes across the country, including the Bennet’s mailbox in McCordsville, Indiana.
“I just remember getting the mail that day standing at the mailbox, opening it and thinking to myself ‘what in the world did my mom send because these are not tomato seeds,’” said Mia Bennet.
Bennet opened her mail last month and found an envelope filled with a bag of black seeds.
“It was definitely shocking,” she said. “Number 1 what are they, and number 2 they don’t read very clearly.”
The seeds weren’t labeled, and the small sheet of paper said ‘introductions” instead of instructions, with sentences like “keep the water enough.”
“We can’t tell exactly where the seed is coming from,” Robison said.
Robison has seen hundreds of these reports and warns people should not plant seeds in their garden.
“China would have different diseases than we do in their plant culture, and those diseases we don’t want introduced in the United States,” Robison said.
He also warns not to throw them away because it could still cause harm in a landfill.
“There will be soil there and there will be moisture, so it’s the same thing as planting it,” Robison said.
Robison says the seeds have varied from cucumber seeds to sunflower seeds and in some cases just grains of sand.
Bennet sent her seeds to the State Plant Health Director and is hoping to find out what they are.
Anyone who receives unsolicited seeds should:
Keep the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, but do not open the seed packet and place all contents in a zip-top bag, then place the bag in an envelope or small box and mail it to:
USDA APHIS PPQ
State Plant Health Director
3059 N. Morton St.
Franklin, IN 46131