Mysterious seeds find Panola Co. mailboxes

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Any Panola County citizen who receives unsolicited packages of seeds should contact the Mississippi State University Extension Office in Batesville, or drop the packages of seeds off at the Cliff Finch Building on Eureka St.

More than 60 counties in the state have collected the seeds, mostly sent from a China address, in the past two weeks. Anyone receiving the seeds are urged to contact their local Extension Office, which will be forwarded to the United States Department of Agriculture for testing.

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Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson said this week that more than 40 states have reported seeds sent to residents. Gipson said authorities are not sure how or why the mass mailings suddenly began last month, but are suspicious of the intentions of those sending the seeds.

Gipson said the seeds collected so far have been a wide variety including watermelon, cantaloupe, beans, and some invasive weeds like morning glory and pigweed.

“Don’t put these seeds in our Mississippi dirt,” Gipson implored listeners of a radio interview Tuesday.

State officials worry the seeds may  contain dangerous chemicals, or are designed to introduce a species of plants to the states that will be detrimental to agricultural operations around Mississippi.

Some believe the seeds are arriving in local mailboxes as part of a “brushing” scheme sometimes used by unscrupulous vendors. In that scenario seeds or other goods are sent without orders to customers, creating a fake account that vendors can then use for false reviews and statistics about the popularity of their product based on the number of orders ostensibly placed by customers.

If unable to drop off seeds at the local MSU Extension Office, residents can continue to contact the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce’s Bureau of Plant Industry by phoning (662) 325-3390 for further instructions.