April O'Neil / news@WHMI.com

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is once again receiving reports of consumers receiving unsolicited packages containing seeds from China in the mail.

Similar cases were reported in 2020, leading the U.S. Department of Agriculture and MDARD to warn residents who receive these packages not to open or plant the seeds.

The seeds are sent in a diverse array of packaging, including letters to parcels in variety of colors. 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.

“If you receive unsolicited seeds from another country, do not open the packaging or plant the seeds,” said Mike Philip, director of MDARD’s Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division. “USDA testing of these packages has identified hundreds of varieties of seeds, ranging from noxious weeds, to cannabis, to a wide array of vegetable and flower seeds.”

The packages may be a part of a “brushing” scam, which is a scam used to boost 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.

“These unknown seeds could be invasive, introduce disease to local plants, or be harmful to livestock. If planted, these unknown and potentially invasive species could have a very negative impact on the environment. Additionally, we’re asking people not to throw the seeds or packages away or dispose of them,” added Philip. “MDARD appreciates the cooperation of Michiganders who receive these packages as we work together to protect Michigan agriculture.”

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 similar cases across the nation.

If you receive an unsolicited package of seeds from China, MDARD says to hold on to the seeds, packaging and mailing label, and contact MDARD’s Customer Service Center, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., at 800-292-3939 or via MDA-Info@michigan.gov.

For more information on MDARD’s Pesticide and Plant Pesticide Management Division, visit the provided link.