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Residents warned not to plant ‘mystery seeds’
mystery seeds
Stanislaus County residents should not plant any unsolicited seed packets they receive in the mail. - photo by Photo Contributed
Mystery seeds arriving in the mail sounds more like a plot point in a reboot of the “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” movie, but officials are warning it could pose a real threat to the area’s agriculture.
The mystery and unsolicited seed packages have been arriving in mailboxes across the country, including Stanislaus County. The packages are coming from China and are often labeled as jewelry.
The Stanislaus County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office has already taken about a dozen calls from residents who have received these seeds. These packages may contain invasive plant seed species which pose a threat to the agriculture and livestock.   Invasive species can devastate the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects, severely damage crops, and poison livestock.  
“Preventing the introduction of invasive species is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations,” said Stanislaus County Agricultural Commissioner Milton O’Haire.
County agricultural commissioners routinely work with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture to intercept such packages.  
“Part of our surveillance system for invasive agricultural plants, pests and diseases, include agricultural commissioner staff conducting inspections at shipping terminals such as Federal Express, United Parcel Service, U.S. Postal Service and Amazon,” said O’Haire.
The USDA believes the seeds are being mailed out as part of a “brush scam,” which is when a seller sends someone an unsolicited package and then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.
The USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.

The Commissioner encourages recipients of these seeds to not open the package, do not plant or dispose of the seeds and to contact the office at (209) 525-4730 so arrangements can be made to collect the seeds for proper destruction.