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Mysterious Envelopes From China Rapidly Spreading Across the US

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It all started last month when US residents began receiving little gray and beige envelopes (sometimes marked as jewelry) in their mailboxes.  Wrapped and sealed in clear plastic is a variety of tiny mysterious seeds that are apparently shipped from China. 

Two packages containing unknown seeds from China. (Kentucky Department of Agriculture)

At least 14 of the seed species had been identified as of July 29, according to Deputy Administrator Osama El-Lissy of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The seeds include mustard, cabbage, and morning glory. Mint, sage, rosemary, lavender, hibiscus, and rose seeds were also found.

The USDA advises residents not to plant them and to contact their state plant, regulatory official.

State seed control officer, Robin Pruisner, at the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in Iowa, told Reuters that their have been reports of the seeds appearing to have a purple coating.

The seeds are regarded to be hazardous to the environment as the purple might contain poisonous insecticides or fungicides. If so, it could prove especially harmful to crops. “I’ve had people describe to me that the seeds are coated with something purple. I haven’t had it in my hands yet, but it sounds an awful lot like seed treatment,” she said.

According to a NY post, an Arkansas man who was one of the 1st people to receive the seed packages planted them on his property. The results were crazy, he said. “We … planted the seeds just to see what would happen,’’ Booneville resident Doyle Crenshawn  told local CBS-TV affiliate KSFM.

This was before warnings against planting the seeds were issued. Scott Bray of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture told the outlet, “Our concern is from an invasive-pest aspect: These seeds could introduce an invasive weed or an invasive insect pest or a plant disease.”

Apparently the plant is producing huge white fruit from orange flowers that resemble those of a squash.

It’s not known what’s the intention behind the mysterious seed packages, but the Agriculture Department has said it is most likely part of a “brushing” scam, meaning the seller sends unsolicited items to someone and then posts false-positive customer reviews to promote sales.

US agriculture officials are urging recipients to keep the seeds sealed and to call them so they can be collected.

Moreover, there is the issue of personal privacy. Phylicia Clark of the Better Business Bureau told CBS DFW that if you are a victim of brushing, “your identity has been compromised.”

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