USDA Identifies Some Mysterious Unsolicited Seeds
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July 31, 2020: People all across the United States are reporting receiving mysterious packets of seeds in the mail from an unknown person or organization in China. In several cases, the customs paperwork on the outside of the envelope are labeled on the outside as if they contained jewelry (being variously labeled as bracelets, rings, or earrings). The inner package holding the seeds is unlabeled and unexplained.

The USDA has asked people to NOT plant the seeds, and instead report them to authorities and turn over the seeds for inspection. At least 14 species of plants have been found in the mysterious seed packets, some colored by an as-yet-unidentified purple substance.

It is unknown at the time of reporting what the seed distribution may be intending. Several nefarious plots have been conjectured.

It may simply be a mildly shady business practice, an ill-considered viral marketing campaign that is now potentially in danger of causing a mass hysteria.

Somewhat more nefarious, it could be a brushing scam where a product is sent to people, whose accounts online are hacked or spoofed to create convincing (but false) reviews from "confirmed purchasers" (in other words a touch of identity theft combined with abuse of automatic package tracking systems of online marketplaces). It is thus far unclear if the company pulling such a scam (if that's what it is going on) is claiming to sell seeds or jewelry.

And things get crazier from there. This could be the opening salvo of biological warfare or ecological warfare program.

The seeds (especially the ones with the unidentified purple residue) could be contaminated or poisoned with some sort of insecticide, fungicide or herbicide. In theory, this could contaminate the soil or cause a blight, poison the water table, harm livestock that graze on the resulting crops, or have some other sinister effect.

The seeds could be some sort of invasive species that will grow out of control and run wild (like kudzu or eurasian millfoil), aggressively compete with local flora and/or starve out local wildlife that relies on the local plant species for survival. This could sabotage the food chain of America.

Genetic engineering could be involved, either to make an invasive species (as proposed above) more successful or insidious, or to introduce some sort of negative trait (via natural pollenization of any such plants that grow from the planted seeds) into the local biome. Things like: Making the blossoms of the plants toxic to bees to accelerate or compound the colony collapse disorder phenomenon; self-terminating seeds that can grow to adulthood just fine themselves but produce only sterile offspring; plants that are vulnerable to a specific defoliant that could be deployed years later should the US end up at war with the nation or faction that sent the seeds; etc.

More prosaically the seeds could be those of a plant which produces a controlled recreational drug (coca, opium poppy, cannabis, Datura), designed to cause a nuisance to US law enforcement by shuffling a large number of people through their investigative processes.

Alternately, the whole thing could be some sort of clumsy smokescreen cover for an espionage operation gone wrong. Like, the sender needs to get a series of messages to a dozen or more sleeper agents inside the US. So they put microdot in with seeds, or micro laser-engrave a message on a bunch of seeds, and send it to their deep cover agents. Somehow the FBI catches wind of this, and intercepts the seeds. Potentially, if the FBI traced all packages sent from that company through customs they could now compile a list of all enemy agents on US soil. So, to obfuscate this client list, the foreign agency sends innocuous seeds (or seeds with dummy messages hidden on them) to thousands of non-agents in the US. No US agency has the manpower to track down and sort through the thousands of seed packets to find out who's a real sleeper agent and who is an innocent. It's crazy, and clumsy, and draws attention to itself, so this sort of scheme is an act of desperation the likes of which you'd probably only implement as a way of salvaging a situation where a significant number of agents were already exposed to counter-intelligence investigations. The jewelry mislabeling is also some part of the message scheme to the agents, who presumably know to only pay attention to seeds that come in bracelet-labeled packages, and simply dispose of seeds unread if they were labeled as earrings (as earring packages are always dummy seeds sent as another layer of obfuscation).

Speaking of espionage, it could also be a spamming/de-sensitising operation, where Chinese Intelligence creates a history of acting in bizarre ways so that some future operation gets less attention than it should. These seeds may just be garden centre surplus - the next delivery or the next but one may be the one that actually does … whatever they are planning. They may also be monitoring the US response to learn more about the American playbook.


Game and Story Use

  • Sounds like the plan of a supervillain! The genetically-engineered seeds get planted, grow up and cross-pollinate with local flora, and everything seems fine and meaningless for a few years. Then one day, the villain triggers the activation sequence and suddenly the dormant genes express themselves and US agriculture and commerce grind to a halt. That's when the villain shows himself, demanding a ransom!
  • There are also potential pod people / Day of the Triffids / "The Happening" scenarios, if the seeds are for scary alien plants or plant monsters. See also alien biology for more ideas.
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