The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) are asking the public to turn in seeds they receive that may have been shipped into the United States illegally. 

Residents throughout the country have reported receiving packages containing unidentified seeds labeled as something else – usually jewelry. Some people reported ordering the seeds but they did not know the seeds would be coming from another country. Others had not ordered the seeds at all.

Mislabeling packages in order to get seeds and other plant materials into the country is agricultural smuggling. This bypasses the safeguards that prevent invasive species, plant diseases and pests, or plants that could harm livestock from establishing in the country. Seeds and plants that are smuggled into the country could do serious harm to farms, gardens, and the environment. 

USDA is asking residents to place these seeds and their packaging in a plastic bag. Place the bag in a mailing envelope and send to USDA for further investigation. Washington residents can submit seeds they suspect have entered the country illegally to USDA at the following address:

USDA-APHIS-PPQ – Attn: Jason Allen
Seattle Plant Inspection Station
835 South 192nd Street, Bldg D, Ste 1600
Seatac, WA 98148. 

Those who have planted the seeds should leave the plants where they are and contact the APHIS State Plant Health Director for guidance. 

WSDA had previously instructed residents to double bag and dispose of the seeds and plants grown from them in the trash before receiving this updated guidance. Residents who disposed of seeds do not need to take any further action. 

Questions about submitting seeds should be sent to the APHIS State Plant Health Director.

WSDA first learned of the illegal seed shipments on July 24, when two separate individuals reported receiving seeds they did not order and which appeared to be from China. After posting an alert on social media, the agency received hundreds of similar reports. Almost all of the reports the agency received had “China Post” on the label, but a few reports have involved other countries as well. 

At this time, USDA does not have any evidence indicating this is something other than a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. 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.

USDA is committed to preventing the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protecting U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds. Visit the APHIS’ website to learn more about USDA’s efforts to stop agricultural smuggling and promote trade compliance.