Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans planted the mystery seeds they received in the mail over the summer, against the advice of US authorities, while others decided to pop them in their mouths. That's according to Jason Koebler at Vice, who read through "thousands of internal emails" from state agricultural authorities and the USDA. They revealed a seed operation "much larger than ... was originally reported," Koebler writes, noting "it is safe to say that tens of thousands of Americans received what they perceived to be Chinese mystery seeds in July." Agricultural departments in several states were overwhelmed as they received more than 1,000 reports of mysterious seed packages, often appearing to be from China and said to be part of a "brushing" scam. Some people admitted to eating the seeds or the plants that grew.
Koebler notes several recipients had, in fact, ordered seeds from Amazon. "Like a dumbass, I planted them, not knowing there was a problem," a New Mexico woman reported in late July. She said "everything that's in the garden where I planted them ... are starting to die." The USDA notes many of the seeds were for flowers, herbs, and vegetables and were not harmful, per the New York Times. However, some were identified as "noxious weeds," Koebler writes. The USDA advised states to destroy all seeds and plants, just to be safe. The documents revealed little "about how the scam worked, or why it happened," Koebler adds, noting this "seems to be much larger than any other known brushing campaign or any other seed mailing campaign." Authorities, including the FBI, continue to investigate. (Amazon has now banned seed imports.)