Chinese seed mailing

Unsolicited packages of seeds addresses from China have been reported to agriculture officials across the United States.
Image Credit: Washington State Department of Agriculture

CLEMSON — An influx of calls from across the state has led Clemson University’s Department of Plant Industry (DPI) to create an online reporting site for South Carolinians who have received unsolicited packages of seeds mailed to them.

The South Carolina Department of Agriculture and DPI, a state regulatory agency, are working together to investigate the mailings, which have been reported from coast to coast across the United States. The types of seeds in the packages are unknown at this time and may be invasive plant species or could harbor a plant disease.

“We have already received hundreds of reports of these seed packages from citizens of South Carolina and are trying to streamline the process and make it as easy as possible for people who have been affected,” said Steve Cole, director of Clemson’s Regulatory Services unit.

The Clemson website includes instructions for reporting and safely storing the seeds until state and federal officials have set up a program to collect and/or destroy the seeds.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is conducting a national investigation and collecting information from all affected sites.

APHIS officials have said it appears that the shipment of seed packets is a “brushing scam” in which sellers send unsolicited items to unsuspecting consumers and then post false reviews to boost sales.

“We are working cautiously to ensure that no potentially dangerous plant species or diseases find their way into our environment,” Cole said.