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Minnesota Department of Ag beginning to identify some unsolicited seed deliveries

Image courtesy Minnesota Department of Agriculture

As of Friday, over 700 Minnesotans have reported receiving unsolicited packages of seeds in the mail, that appear to be coming from China. Minnesotans who have received the packages have indicated they either never made an online seed order, or they purchased seeds online earlier in the year but never got them and their order indicates it is still unfulfilled.

And it’s not just Minnesotans. People in a number of midwestern states, Australia, Canada, and the European Union have also been receiving the unsolicited seed packages.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has identified some of the seeds as being cosmos, radish, mung bean, juniper, basil, cucurbit, and zinnia. While these are not seeds from invasive plants, seeds may carry disease and pests can hide in packaging. So far, there is no indication these unsolicited seeds have gone through appropriate inspection or that they are properly labeled.

Federal officials are investigating the source of the seeds, and the USDA is currently referring to the situation as a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.

Minnesotans should do the following if they have received unsolicited packages of seeds.

  • Save the seeds and the package they came in, including the mailing label.
  • Do not open the seed packets.
  • Do not plant any of the seed.
  • If the packets are already opened, place all materials (seeds and packaging) into a tightly sealed plastic bag.
  • Contact the MDA at (www.mda.state.mn.us/unlabeledseeds).

If you have planted the seeds you received, please destroy any plants that have germinated. While plants and soil are usually prohibited from trash collection, in this unusual situation, pull up the plants, double bag them and the surrounding soil, and dispose of everything in the trash. Do not compost the seeds, plants, or soil. Please notify the MDA if you have disposed of any seeds or plants.

You should always buy seeds from a reputable source. According to Minnesota law, all seeds sold in the state must be properly labeled, and those selling seeds are required to have a permit from the MDA. You can look up seed permit holders on the MDA website. Never plant unlabeled or unknown seeds.


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