Officials at the Department of Agriculture identified several of the seeds that were mailed to citizens from China.
An analysis of the seeds revealed that some Amazon shoppers were sent a “mix of ornamental, fruit and vegetable, herb and weed species” in packages they did not purchase. Officials maintained that people should not plant any mysterious seeds they are sent and should continue reporting them to law enforcement.
“This is just a subset of the samples we’ve collected so far,” Osama El-Lissy, deputy administrator for the department’s Plants Protection and Quarantine division, said.
Amazon customers throughout the country reported that they had received mysterious packages of seeds in the mail that they had not ordered. The seeds were shipped from China and were sometimes mislabeled as earrings, beads, or other products. Officials believe it may be part of an Amazon “brushing” scam whereby sellers obtain the addresses of customers and send them an unrequested product in the hopes that the customer will use the product and leave a positive review.
Bernd Blossey, a professor in the department of natural resources at Cornell University, told the New York Times that the seeds identified would not hurt the general environment but that other packages that have yet to be identified could contain invasive species that could harm the U.S. food supply if they are planted. He suggested burning the seeds rather than tossing them in the trash because they could sprout in a landfill.
“Obviously, planting rosemary or thyme in your garden isn’t something that will endanger our environment,” he said. “But there may be other things in there that have not been identified yet. Any time you gain something unknown, my suggestion is burning them, not even throwing them in the trash.”
The Chinese government denied responsibility for the seed shipments after U.S. officials questioned whether the shipments could be considered “agricultural bioterrorism.”