The Postal Service will continue to deliver to households what appear to be mysterious seeds from China — with hopes that Americans will report the items to agriculture officials, a spokesperson said today.
State agriculture officials have asked the Postal Service to consider halting the deliveries, which federal agencies fear may contain invasive weeds or pests that could wreak havoc on native plants.
"The Postal Service is bound to protect the sanctity of the mail and ensure all mail is delivered intact to the addressee," said a spokesperson, Kimberly Frum. "If a seed package is delivered to a USPS customer, then it is suggested to follow the current USPIS and USDA guidance."
The USPIS is the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
That guidance includes sealing the seeds in a bag and calling a local office of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. USDA has said it will test seeds it receives to determine the species and their origin.
Seeds should not be planted, USDA said.
Frum said the Postal Service, a quasi-governmental agency, is conferring with USDA on the issue and is "in ongoing consultation with our federal, state and local partners."
Employees at various international mail facilities have been told to report to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Postal Inspection Service "if they notice anything unusual," Frum said.
So far, questions about the seeds appear to outnumber known facts. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture said 37 states reported on a survey that they’ve received the mystery seeds.
Although USDA said it has identified 14 species of seeds from cabbage to roses to undisclosed weeds, officials have said they’re not sure the seeds are really from China — only that the packages appear to be. So far, they said, they haven’t seen evidence of pests or diseases.
Federal agriculture officials have said the mailings may be a marketing scam in which the sender ships the items unsolicited, which can form the basis of fake product reviews later.