WARRICK CO., Ind. (WFIE) - People across the country have been receiving packets of unsolicited seeds in the mail from China, including southern Indiana.
“I wasn’t sure if these were seeds I had previously ordered that had been canceled,” Newburgh resident Vinnie Sarageno said.
Officials with Purdue Extension are warning people about getting these packets of unsolicited seeds.
“So I got the package about two weeks ago,” Sarageno said. “I had ordered some stuff off Amazon back in March when COVID shut down started, I wanted to grow my own fruits and vegetables. A friend of mine in Wisconsin yesterday posted on Facebook that the Department of Agriculture in Wisconsin was warning people about these black seeds, and they posted a picture and it was the same seeds with the same envelope that I had received.”
Purdue Extension officials ask those who have received a packet of these seeds in the mail to give them a call. Once reported, the seeds can get logged and then disposed of properly.
“This envelope came - it had Chinese lettering on it,” Sarageno said. “The only thing that was in English was my name and address.”
Purdue Extension says it’s possible the seeds are part of a “brushing” campaign in which online retailers send out unsolicited packages and use the fake sales to improve the seller’s ratings in the marketplace.
“Just please, please do not plant them,” Amanda Mosiman, an educator for agriculture and natural resources at Purdue Extension Warrick County said.
Officials say to not throw the seeds away either because they don’t want the seeds in contact with the soil, and they don’t know if they are harmful or invasive at this point.
“I know the USDA here in Indiana - our state chemist is just trying to currently figure that out,” Mosiman said. “Most likely, it’s a scam or somebody’s sending it for Amazon, or they want reviews but we just don’t know.”
Purdue Extension officials say the seeds could be harmless. However, since they’re unsure right now, it’s better to take precautions.
The Indiana Department of Agriculture wants anyone who receives unsolicited seeds to place them in a zip-top bag along with the packaging and mailing label, and send them to the state plant health director at the following address:
USDA APHIS PPQ
State Plant Health Director
3059 N. Morton St.
Franklin, IN 46131