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Mystery seeds return to Michigan

MDARD is warning anyone who receives them not to open or plant them.

October 13, 2023

2 Min Read
Raw seed mix isolated on a white background
MYSTERY SEEDS: Previous USDA testing of seeds mailed from China has identified hundreds of varieties of plants, ranging from noxious weeds to cannabis and a wide array of vegetable and flower seeds — all of which could be potentially invasive and harmful to Michigan plants and livestock. VictoriaBobr/Getty Images

Remember when unsolicited packages of seeds mailed from China were showing up in mailboxes a few years ago?

They’re showing up again, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is warning anyone who receives them not to open or plant them.

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

“Most recipients say they did not order anything, and that the packaging was labeled as jewelry,” MDARD wrote in a statement, noting that a similar situation arose in 2020. “Some recipients have reported ordering seeds on Amazon and receiving these seeds.”

MDARD said the packages may be a part of a “brushing” scam, which is when a vendor tries to bolster 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. 

“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,” said Mike Philip, director of MDARD's Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division. 

“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.”

USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service is investigating the situation across the nation.

MDARD is asking people not to throw the seeds or packages away or dispose of them. Instead, they want people to hold on to the seeds, packaging and mailing label, and contact MDARD’s customer service center — which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday — at 800-292-3939 or via [email protected].

Source: MDARD

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