Mysterious Seeds From China: What Is Their Purpose?

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Seeds in envelope from China in the mail (Caption: Mysterious Seeds From China: What Is Their Purpose?)Residents across the globe are receiving mysterious packages of seeds (as in those you can plant) in the mail from China. It’s capturing the global headlines, and still, no one knows what their purpose is. Is it agricultural bioterrorism? Is it brushing (read: deceitful e-commerce technique to boost a seller’s ratings by creating fake orders)? Or is it aliens sending trojan horse DNA and making it look like it’s from China?

The expert researchers at Exploring Life’s Mysteries that brought you the truth behind 2012 and the Denver Airport conspiracy (featured on the Travel Channel), present what we know so far on the mysterious China seeds.

Article Overview

Who Is Receiving The Seeds?

CBS News has reports of residents in all 50 states receiving unsolicited seed packages from China. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, meanwhile, has reported that recipients in at least 22 U.S. states and several other countries have received packages.

How Many Seeds Are We Talking About?

Florida has reports of having received more than 600 shipments of seeds, and In New York, the State Department of Agriculture has received 500 shipments and counting. This means on a national scale the number of seed deliveries is probably in the thousands to tens of thousands, and on a global scale, possibly in the hundreds of thousands.

What Are We Doing About It?

In the U.S., in addition to the USDA and FDA, the FBI, DHS (Dept. of Homeland Security), and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) have all launched investigations. Canada, the U.K., and Australia are all conducting investigations as well.

What Do They Look Like?

The seeds vary in shape, size, and color, and arrive in clear plastic bags packaged within standard white or grey envelopes. The labels are misleading – they indicate that the packages contain  various items ranging from jewelry to plant species like bonsai (when in fact they contain the mysterious seeds).

Seeds in the mail from China
Courtesy of / Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

What Types Of Seeds Are They?

The USDA has identified 22 species of seeds so far, and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern as far as “species” is concerned. Everything from mustard seed to cabbage and roses is being mailed.

USDA Findings On Mystery Seeds

While the USDA has so far determined that the seed species examined are harmless, if the are planted in non-native areas they could damage native crops. Additionally, there are reports of purple coating on some of the seeds, which could indicate an insecticide or fungicide.

What Is China Saying?

China’s Foreign Ministry has stated that the mailing labels are forged and they’ve asked the U.S. to return the packages to China for investigation.

Are The Seeds Really From China?

Mailing labels indicate points of origin in China, such as the city of Suzhou (west of Shanghai) and Shenzhen (in Guangdong province), and other areas. China insists that the mailing labels are being falsified, that their postal service restricts the shipping of seeds. In addition, some of the mailing labels indicate points of origin outside China, such as the U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates).

What Should I Do If I Received Seeds?

The official guidance from the USDA is not to plant (or even handle) the seeds. Instead, turn over the seeds in their original packaging to U.S. agriculture departments.

Contact your local USDA state plant health director or your local state plant regulatory official listed on the NPB (National Plant Board). Meanwhile, do not open, handle or plant the seeds, keep them stored away from children and pets and retain them in their original packaging.

Planting them could result in invasive species (think Kudzu) destroying our native ecosystems. Do not throw them in the trash either, as they might sprout in landfills.

When Did This Begin?

The mysterious seeds began arriving at the doorsteps of unsuspecting U.S. residents in early to mid-July of this year. In trying to pinpoint the exact date, our researchers came across this Amazon listing for Rare, Black With Red Dahlia Seeds by a “Generic” company with a stock image of a Black Dahlia with consumer feedback that was posted before the majority of larger news outlets reporting on the mysterious seeds.

While Amazon will not allow us to repost the comments of those who recently purchased these seeds, you can go check for yourself to see what their experience was.

Could It Be “Brushing” And What Is That?

Brushing is a deceitful e-commerce technique to flood a market with free products in exchange for exposure. The USDA maintains this as a possible explanation for the mysterious seeds as they wait for more evidence, since this has happened in recent years, just not at this volume. The Amazon platform is frequently exposed to this tactic.

How Does Brushing Apply To The Mysterious Seeds?

For example, a seller in China for a product on Amazon may not be getting enough “verified buyer” U.S. based reviews for a product. To place a “verified buyer” review, a product has to be purchased. How is this system gamed? Simple enough – a seller creates a product listing on Amazon, and then immediately buys the product many times. Once the postal service marks the package as received, the seller logs in as the purchaser account and leaves a positive review for their product.

Identity Theft Concern

The key variable is the shipping address – if you have received a package of these mysterious seeds, it could mean your identity has been compromised. Read our comprehensive guide on protecting your identity on our sister site Safe Smart Living.

You Think Seeds Are Mysterious?

Wait until you see what we have in store for you here!

Have a theory on what the purpose of the mystery seeds is? Let us know in the comments!

Sources: WSJ (2);  NY Post; CBS News (2)

About The Author:

Alex started Exploring Life's Mysteries with his wife Michelle, as they set out on a quest to discover the mysteries of life together. Alex loves to philosophize, wonder what our purpose is, and travel the world in search of new cultures, ideas, and lifestyles. He has been an international traveler since he was 6 months old and has lived in and visited over a dozen countries from Southeast Asia to South America.

He holds a Management Science degree from the University of California at San Diego and a Computer Science degree from NJIT. He brings over a decade and a half of content marketing and publishing experience to Exploring Life's Mysteries.

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