While gardening has been a popular activity during the pandemic, Canadians are being warned not to plant seeds that have been sent to them from unknown sources that they didn't ask for.
Mysterious, unrequested packages containing seeds are not only being received in Canada but also in several other countries, as Canadian officials work to determine where these items are coming from.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) originally issued an alert on July 28 that it had launched an investigation into reports from several individuals who had received packages of seeds that they didn’t request.
The CFIA warned any recipients not to plant the seeds as they could be for invasive plants or carry plant pests.
By August 6, the CFIA had received over 750 reports from people in all Canadian provinces who had received packages of unsolicited seeds. (No one in Canada’s territories had reported receiving the packages.)
The CFIA is collecting information about these packages, including contents, the sender, return addresses, postmarks, and the labelling on the packages.
Based on information collected so far, the CFIA found that the packages are postmarked from various countries. Many of the packages have been declared as toys or jewelry.
The CFIA have identified that some of the seeds in the packages received in Canada are from a number of plant species, including tomato, strawberry, rose, and citrus, and some common weeds, such as shepherd’s purse and flixweed.
After visual inspections conducted so far, the seeds appear to be low risk. Nonetheless, the CFIA is asking Canadians not to plant any of these seeds.
Although some recipients have reported ordering seeds online in the past, the reason for the seeds being sent, and who is sending them, remains unknown.
The CFIA, Canada Border Services Agency, and Canada Post are all working together with international partners to identify the origins of the seeds and to stop them from being sent.
According to the CFIA, one possibility is that the packages are part of a “brushing” scheme, in which an e-commerce business is attempting to boost online sales by sending unsolicited products to customers and posting fake positive reviews online.
The CFIA is asking anyone who receives unrequested seeds to place everything that is received (including the seeds, packaging, and mailing label) in a sealed bag, report the package to a regional CFIA office, and then wait for further instructions from the CFIA.
Anyone who receives these packages should refrain from planting, flushing, disposing, or composting these seeds so that they don’t sprout or spread.
The CFIA is asking anyone who has already planted or composted the seeds to remove them, including anything that grew from them; place everything in a sealed bag, along with any remaining packaging; and contact the CFIA.
Anyone who doesn’t have the seeds anymore but still has the packaging is asked to save the packaging aside and report it to the CFIA.
If you threw the seeds in garbage but still have the packaging or any other information related to their origins, the CFIA is interested in hearing from you.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture on an investigation into suspicious packages received by U.S. citizens.
The USDA stated in a news release on July 29 that individuals in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the European Union have reported receiving these packages.
On August 6, the USDA stated that the packages appear to be coming from China and provided similar advice to American citizens as the CFIA.
Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) found that the seeds received in Scotland have been treated with a chemical pesticide, and is advising anyone who has touched them to wash their hands. SASA is also stating that the seeds appear to be from China and may be part of a brushing scam.