The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) continues to receive reports of citizens getting unsolicited seed packages in the mail. To date, over 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 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 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. Their latest statement on the seed packages can be found here.
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 through this form (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 through our contact form.
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.
Allen Sommerfeld, MDA Communications