News Under investigation: ‘Mystery seeds’ from China arrive in Australian mailboxes

Under investigation: ‘Mystery seeds’ from China arrive in Australian mailboxes

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A bizarre trend of mysterious seeds being sent to unsuspecting Australians has been uncovered, with the federal government investigating multiple reports of packages being received nationwide.

The first reports of unsolicited packets of seeds being mailed out emerged from the United States over the past few weeks.

The envelopes, which the recipients did not order, appeared to have been sent from China, and were filled with unknown matter.

American news outlets have reported that citizens in all 50 states have received such mail, with the US Department of Agriculture warning people not to plant the seeds – fearing they could possibly be invasive foreign plant species.

However, after testing, many were found to be from plants including mustard, cabbage, mint, rosemary, lavender and roses.

These were recovered in Maryland, USA. Photo: AAP

American authorities, still investigating the odd trend, theorised that it could be a “brushing scam” – where e-commerce sellers send unsolicited packages to unsuspecting recipients, then pose as customers to write false customer reviews for their products online.

The New Daily asked the Australian federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment last week if such seeds were being mailed here.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson said the department had received multiple reports of similar packages being received around the country.

“In total, the department has received seven reports of unsolicited seeds arriving in Australia within the last two weeks,” they told The New Daily.

“The seed packets were sent in mail arriving from China, Malaysia and Taiwan, and the articles were destined for addresses in Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.”

The agriculture spokesperson said that “all packets of seeds were unidentifiable”, with an investigation ongoing to figure out exactly what type of seeds were being sent and why.

No photos of the seeds were available, but the department provided The New Daily with a photo of “similar examples of unidentified seeds detected in international mail”.

An example of “similar examples of unidentified seeds detected in international mail”. Photo: Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

In a separate media statement, the department’s head of biosecurity operations Emily Canning urged Australians to report if they received such unsolicited packages.

“If you do receive seeds in the mail that you did not purchase, do not plant the seeds or put them in the garbage. Secure the seeds and immediately report it to the department,” Ms Canning said.

“Imported seeds that do not meet biosecurity conditions can threaten our environment, agricultural industries and even backyard gardens. They could also be carrying invasive species or harmful plant diseases.”

Ms Canning said mail from overseas was screened at the border, with sniffer dogs and X-rays to “intercept any potential risk items that arrive”.

Although officials say these mystery packets are a new trend, people often send and order seeds through the mail.
“We do regularly intercept seed packets from overseas that are mis-declared as jewellery, gifts, earrings and garden tools,” she said.

“These items are either exported back to the sender or destroyed, to ensure they do not harm Australia’s agriculture or environment.”

Ms Canning said the unsolicited mail could be a “potential biosecurity breach”, and urged anyone receiving such packages to visit or call 1800 798 636.