Caution urged after mystery seed mailings arrive in South Carolina
The mysterious packages of seeds that have been reported nationally as being delivered to homes unsolicited are also turning up in South Carolina.
State agriculture officials are warning South Carolinians to be wary of unsolicited packages of seeds mailed to them.
The South Carolina Department of Agriculture and Clemson University's Regulatory Services division are working together to investigate after residents reported receiving packages they did not order.
Similar reports, many involving addresses from China, have been made to agriculture officials across the country.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is collecting reports and coordinating a national investigation. The USDA is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.
USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director. Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.
At this time, the USCA reports that they 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. 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.
USDA says it is committed to preventing the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protecting U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds. Visit the APHIS’ website to learn more about USDA’s efforts to stop agricultural smuggling and promote trade compliance.
If you receive an unsolicited package containing seeds:
• Do not open the seed packets or handle the seeds.
• Do not plant unidentified seeds. They may be invasive species that could displace or destroy native ecosystems.
• Retain the seeds and packaging and put them in a zip-top bag.
• Contact the APHIS Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance (SITC) program.
APHIS SITC may be reached at their website, by phone at 800-877-3835 or by email SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov. More guidance from USDA is expected soon.
“Whatever the reason for these mailings, it’s important to use caution when it comes to unidentified seeds,” said South Carolina Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Derek Underwood, who oversees the agency’s Consumer Protection Division.
"If these seeds should bear invasive species, they may be a threat to our environment and agriculture,” said Steve Cole, director of Clemson's Regulatory Services unit. "We don't want unknown species planted or thrown out where they may wind up sprouting in a landfill."
Answers to further questions may obtained from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Seed Lab though email at email@example.com or by phone at 803-737-9717, Clemson University’s Department of Plant Industry (firstname.lastname@example.org, https://www.clemson.edu/public/regulatory/plant-industry/invasive/) or a local Clemson Extension Office (https://www.clemson.edu/extension/co).