Last week, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer assigned to the Champlain Port of Entry, received an unsolicited package from China at their personal residence.
The package, manifested as a ring, actually contained mystery seeds from China identical to the various seeds being shipped to numerous random residences throughout the United States. As part of their job, CBP officers are also trained to identify potential threats to the U.S. Agriculture system. The officer delivered the seeds to CBP agriculture specialists at the Port of Champlain, who then forwarded them to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for an official botany identification.
“Unsolicited packages of seeds may contain invasive species or other materials that could harm U.S. agriculture and the environment,” said Assistant Director Sharon Swiatek, of the Buffalo Field Office. “U.S. Customs and Border Protection continues to work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other partner agencies to target, detect, intercept, and thereby prevent the entry of these potential threats before they have a chance to do any harm”
“Fortunately this package of mystery seeds was sent to an officer who took the necessary precautions and ensured they were delivered to USDA for further investigation,” said Area Port Director Steve Bronson. “We have a large agriculture community in Champlain and we all play a role in protecting that industry. These unknown seeds could potentially have been destructive to the farming community had they made it into the soil.”
Should a member of the public receive a package of mystery seeds, please send the package to the following address:
USDA APHIS PPQ
Attn: Erich Glasgow
230-59 Int’l Airport Center Blvd
Suite 100, Room 109, Bldg. C
Jamaica, N.Y. 11413
The U.S Department of Agriculture released the following guidance to the public:
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, 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. 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 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.