Officials in several states said residents have reported receiving unsolicited packages of seeds in the mail that appear to be sent from China and are urging the public not to plant them.
The agriculture departments in 30 states have recently issued statements warning residents about the seeds: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia,Washington, and Wyoming.
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Some of the packages were labeled as jewelry and may have Chinese writing on them, according to agriculture officials.
Lori Culley, who lives in Tooele, Utah, told Fox 13 she was excited to find two small packages in her mailbox that appeared to contain earrings.
“I opened them up and they were seeds,” Culley said. “Obviously they’re not jewelry.”
Culley told the outlet she posted about the strange incident on Facebook, and “at least 40 people” reached out to her saying something similar happened to them.
Sid Miller, Texas agriculture commissioner, urged Texans not to plant these seeds, as they could contain harmful invasive species or be otherwise unsafe, according to a release. Invasive species are organisms not native to a certain region. The introduction of invasive species could cause the destruction of native crops, introduce diseases to native plants and could be dangerous to livestock.
“An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture," Miller said in the release. The Texas Department of Agriculture "has been working closely with USDA to analyze these unknown seeds so we can protect Texas residents.”
Mail scam hits Texas: Found unsolicited seeds from China in the mail? Do not plant them, officials warn
Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, asked residents to notify his department if they receive unsolicited packages of seeds in a statement Friday.
“Right now, we are uncertain what types of seeds are in the package,” Strain said. "We need to identify the seeds to ensure they do not pose a risk to Louisiana’s agricultural industry or the environment.”
The Washington State Department of Agriculture warned residents not to plant or open the sealed packages and urged them to report the incident, known as "agricultural smuggling" to the U.S. Agriculture Department in a statement.
A spokesperson for the USDA said the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is aware that people across the country have received the packages and urged anyone who does to contact their state plant regulatory official and keep the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until they receive further instruction.
"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 statement said. "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."
Contributing: Alana Edgin, San Angelo Standard-Times
Follow N'dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Unsolicited packets of seeds may be mailed from China, states warn