The Minnesota Department of Agriculture continues to receive reports of citizens getting unsolicited seed packages in the mail. So far, more than 700 Minnesotans have made reports to the department.
The packages have contained a variety of seeds. Seed analysts with the MDA Laboratory have identified some as 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.
The MDA is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the issue. All seeds collected in Minnesota are being sent to USDA for additional identification and destruction. 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.
Those receiving 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.
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 mda.state.mn.us/unlabeledseeds.
Anyone who planted the seeds they received, should destroy any plants that have germinated, MDA officials said. While plants and soil are usually prohibited from trash collection, in this unusual situation, MDA recommends pulling the plants, double bagging them and the surrounding soil, and disposing of everything in the trash. They should not be composted.
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. Seed permit holders can be found on the MDA website.