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State Ag Officials Warn About Chinese Seed Scam

Washington Department of Agriculture

Washington and Idaho state agriculture officials are warning you to be on the lookout for a surprise package that might arrive in the mail from China.


Officials from the respective states' Departments of Agriculture say they have received reports in the last week from people who received unsolicited mailed envelopes from China. Idaho officials say they've heard of about 20 cases.


“They had something else labeled on them like jewelry, but when they opened the package, they were seeds, and they had not ordered seeds or jewelry," said Washington Ag Department spokeswoman Carla Salp, who says they appear to be some sort of citrus seeds. But other types of seeds are being reported in other states.

Salp says they are warning folks not to plant them because of the potential dangers to native plants.


“When it comes to seeds we're talking mostly about diseases. And so the fear is that something comes in that is infected with something, some form of disease that's new, and then it could take off here locally, and really pose a threat to plants we have here," Salp said.


Idaho state officials recommends these actions:

  • Do not plant the seeds,
  • Do not open the seed packages,
  • Contact the Idaho office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at (208) 373-1600,
  • Retain the label and seed package,
  • Wait for further instruction from USDA about disposal and follow-up.

Salp says the situation is likely a Chinese company sending the unsolicited seeds to the U.S. in a practice called “ brushing.” They write up fake reviews with the person to whom they sent that package as a verified purchaser in an effort to boost online sales.