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Michigan warns residents against planting unsolicited seeds mailed from China

Cal Abbo
The Detroit News

Residents across the U.S. who have received unsolicited seed shipments from China should not plant them, the Michigan Department of Agricultural and Rural Development said.

"The seeds are usually sent in white packages displaying Chinese lettering and the words 'China post.'" the department said in a press release. "Most recipients say they did not order anything, and that the packaging was labeled as jewelry." MDARD advises all Michigan residents to avoid opening or planting any seeds they receive.

Robin Rosenbaum, Michigan's state plant regulatory official, said the state doesn't have an official count of how many have reported receiving the seeds. Since Friday, she has received 21 calls herself, but many more have called her colleagues in the department or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"If you receive unsolicited seeds from another country, do not plant them," Mike Philip, director of MDARD's Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division, said in the news release. "These unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants, or be harmful to livestock."

The state agricultural department noted one theory that Rosenbaum said the USDA is investigating. The seed packages might be a part of a brushing scam, which involves a vendor shipping an inexpensive product to an unknowing recipient and submitting positive reviews as the recipient to boost its online ratings.

Philip added that recipients should not dispose of the seeds and should report them to the state. "MDARD appreciates the cooperation of Michiganders who receive these packages as we work together to protect Michigan agriculture," he said.