‘Suspicious, unsolicited’ seed packages coming from China, authorities say

In this April 19, 2018 photo, Seth Crawford, co-owner of Oregon CBD, displays hemp seeds being prepared for sale to industrial hemp farmers at his facility in Monmouth, Ore. Applications for state licenses to grow hemp, marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin, have increased more than twentyfold since 2015 and Oregon now ranks No. 2 behind Colorado among the 19 states with hemp cultivation. (AP Photos/Gillian Flaccus)
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Do not plant the seeds.

State and federal authorities both put out news releases on Tuesday warning Bay Staters that it appears that “suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed” from China are suddenly showing up on people’s doorsteps — and that people should call the plant police if one shows up.

“While the exact types of seeds in the packages are unknown, the seeds are thought to be invasive plant species, and not believed to be harmful to humans or pets but could pose a significant risk to agriculture or the environment,” the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources said.

The MDAR is trying to nip this in the bud, telling people not to plant the seeds, and rather to contact “state plant regulatory officials” if they get such a package.

“Invasive plant species can threaten the integrity of local ecosystems and displace native plants, including rare and endangered species,” the DOA said. “The most effective approach to mitigating the risk of invasive plant infestation is to take steps to ensure they are not planted.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says this appears to be some Chinese company trying to sow the seeds of its success in American markets.

“At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales,” the USDA said in a statement. “USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.”

Anyone receiving such a package in Massachusetts is asked to fill out a form on MDAR’s website. Federal and state officials all vowed that perpetrators of scams like this will reap what they sow.