States issue warning about mysterious seed shipments possibly from China

Officials are calling unsolicited seed shipments a brushing scam
DOVER, Delaware (WPVI) -- Officials in Delaware and across the country are warning residents about unsolicited packages of seeds possibly being shipped from China.

Agriculture officials in multiple states issued warnings Monday about the seeds and advised people not to plant them.

The Delaware Department of Agriculture says they received several reports over the weekend. Residents in Pennsylvania have also told Action News they have received the seeds.

The packages apparently contain some sort of seed packet either alone, with jewelry, or another inexpensive item.

Jason Marcellus from North Coventry Township, Pennsylvania says his wife randomly received one of those packages.

"Even though it says stud earring, you take it out, you actually get a little pack of these random seeds," said Marcellus. "My wife had posted something online about having received it and other people have received the same type things. So, I guess it's something that has been going around the area."

Marcellus says the package came with little to no information about the seller.

Authorities believe these packages are part of a scam.

"It is believed that these shipments are part of a brushing scam where shippers send out low-cost items at their own expense in order to rank higher on e-commerce sites. Brushing helps the seller create a more legitimate appearance to their profiles," said the Delaware Department of Agriculture.

Officials in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and North Carolina issued similar warnings.

"Seeds sold in Pennsylvania are rigorously tested to ensure that they are genetically pure and regulated to ensure that what's on the label is what's in the package," Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. "Planting seeds without knowing what they are can wreak havoc with our environment, destroy agricultural crops and incur costly control efforts for years to come."

Anyone who has received a package with seeds is asked to report the shipment to the Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance Program (SITC) by calling the Smuggling Hotline at 1-800-877-3835.
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