NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) -The United State Department of Agriculture released test results for some of the seeds they have received.
“It has identified a bunch of different things like hibiscus, a bunch of different type of herbs and mints,” said Dr. Kevin Ong, Texas A&M Professor and Director of the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. “I know that kale, cabbage was also recorded as mustard seed.”
Earlier this week, federal and state authorities warned that unsolicited packages disguised as jewelry but with seeds inside were showing up at address across the country.
“I don’t know why they do it, it’s a mystery,” said Dr. David Creech, Stephen F. Austin State University Regent’s Professor, Professor Emeritus and director of SFA Gardens.
Authorities say they believe this is a “brushing scam,” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales, but they are still unsure what kind of seeds most people are receiving. Dr. Ong says they want to protect native species.
“We don’t want it to become a weed,” he said. “Even worse, if it’s one of those noxious weeds that we may not have established in the United States, having one those could be introducing a new species that could displace our native species and that could impact us economically or environmentally.”
Dr. Creech has been an international consultant in China. Dr. Creech says the seeds shipped from China can vary, but he’s only seen two pictures of the seeds.
“I think one of them was a citrus and one of them was a cantaloupe, cucumber was something like that,” he said.
He says there are heavy restrictions on bring seeds into the United States.
“You can’t just bring seeds over of any kind really but those are especially restricted because they directly relate to the industry that’s in the USA,” Dr Creech said. “You can get it in, but it takes a real effort in terms of paperwork, but just throwing them in the mail and sending them not direct is not a good idea.”
Authorities ask if you receive one of these packages not to touch them. Do not throw them away, flush them down a toilet or plant them. Report them to the USDA.
“Please understand that there have been numerous reports in Texas,” Dr. Ong said. “There may be a delay up to several weeks a response from the USDA after making the report.”
If you receive these unsolicited packages, you can contact your county’s extension office agency. You can find your local agency here: https://counties.agrilife.org/.
To report unsolicited seed packages to the USDA, send an email to SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov. In that email include your name, email, phone number, a description of the package information and a photo of the label and material.