If you get mysterious seeds in the mail, don’t plant them, Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture warns

If you get mysterious seeds in the mail, don’t plant them, Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture warns

HARRISBURG, Pa. — If seeds you didn’t order show up in the mail, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is warning you to properly discard and report them.

The unordered and mislabeled seeds might contain plant diseases, weeds or invasive plants that could harm Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry and ecosystem.

Nationwide, people have received seeds shipped from overseas that are in packages labeled as jewelry, according to the department.

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“The way I put it was, go figure because I’m always the one that ends up with things like this,” said Brenda Lynn of Jeannette.

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When Lynn got the package in her mail, she didn’t think much of it, at least it first.

“I thought it was a pair of earrings. I don’t remember ordering earrings, but I order a lot of things and sometimes I just forget. And since we’ve been in this pandemic, things are two months and waiting, I opened it up and found seeds,” Lynn said.

On the label, it says it’s jewelry from China, but inside the package were seeds — not labeled, and not ordered by Lynn.

“No instructions. Nothing. Just two packs of seeds and the address of course you can google but can’t find anything,” she said.

“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,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture 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.”

Seeds labeled as jewelry are likely a scam known as “brushing.” That’s when companies boost their online sales by purchasing their own products through fake buyer accounts created by the company. The products are shipped to the address of someone who didn’t order them and the seller writes a positive review about them from the fake buyer account.

People who receive the seeds are asked to keep the seeds and the packaging, not plant or throw them away and, if opened, double bag and seal them.

The package should be reported to the United States Department of Agriculture via its confidential Antismuggling Hotline (800-877-3835) or by emailing SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov. The USDA will provide further instructions.

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