Mysterious seeds

Agriculture officials in multiple states including North Dakota issued warnings Monday about unsolicited shipments of foreign seeds and advised people not to plant them.

North Dakota's Department of Agriculture and State Seed Department have received several reports of state residents receiving unsolicited seed packets in the mail that originated in China, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said.

“We’re not sure why these seeds are being sent or what the motives are behind this,” he said. “Unsolicited seeds may be invasive and introduce diseases harmful to plants or livestock.”

People in several states have received packets of unknown seeds. Agriculture officials around the country say they don't know if the seeds are a hoax, a scam or an act of agricultural bioterrorism, according to The Associated Press

North Carolina's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said the shipments could be the product of an international internet scam known as “brushing,” the AP reported.

“According to the Better Business Bureau, foreign, third-party sellers use your address and Amazon information to generate a fake sale and positive review to boost their product ratings,” said Phil Wilson, director of that state's Plant Industry Division.

Any North Dakotan who receives unsolicited seeds in the mail should keep them and the mailing label and contact the agriculture department by calling 701-328-2391 or by emailing doa-phytos@nd.gov. The agriculture and state seed departments will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to identify and destroy the seeds.

“Individuals who receive unsolicited seeds should be concerned,” said Jason Goltz, regulatory manager of the State Seed Department. “The introduction of a noxious weed or new disease can have devastating effects on agriculture and our food supply.”