This summer, several mysterious packages were delivered to people who had never ordered them. These packages, most of which come from China, contain only ... seeds. “ These seeds of unknown origin can be vectors of diseases not present on French territory or turn out to be invasive plants, ” warns the Ministry of Agriculture and Food in a press release published at the end of August. Contacted by Le Figaro , the ministry has so far only identified around thirty cases at the national level.
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The ministry then asks people who have received one of these packages to send photos of the shipping slips of the packaging and sachets containing the seeds to the National Veterinary and Phytosanitary Investigations Brigade of the Ministry for investigation. the address email@example.com. The ministry indicates that it is not necessary " especially not to sow them ", and invites the individuals concerned to place them in a plastic bag and to throw this hermetically sealed bag in a garbage bin, so that the seeds are destroyed. It is also recommended to wash your hands and disinfect any object in case of contact with the seeds.
" Initially, we are trying to take stock of the seed shipments ", details the ministry to Le Figaro , adding that " the photographs also make it possible to determine the species concerned. " In a second step, we will try to identify the operators at the origin of the consignments in order to act with the health authorities of the countries concerned ", he continues, specifying that the consignments " come mainly from Asia (China, Thailand Taiwan). "
Across the Atlantic, similar cases have been observed since July: all 50 US states have been affected, and more than 750 Canadians have also received unsolicited packages. If both the United States and Canada also ask their citizens not to sow unknown seeds, the first investigations finally reveal few health risks. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has managed to identify 14 species of plants, including seeds of roses, cabbage, mustard and lavender. Likewise, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has identified seeds of tomatoes, strawberries and several common weeds. " We are going to analyze the information received and have discussions with the European Commission and other countries experiencing the same phenomenon ", assures the French ministry.
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A question arises. Why send seeds to people who haven't ordered them? For the USDA, this is none other than the “ brushing technique ”, known as “ brushing scam ” in English. This practice aims to boost sales by issuing false positive reviews on e-commerce platforms. On many platforms, the publication of a notice is only possible upon receipt of a package. The sellers therefore create a fake account. This fake account places a “ real ” order to be delivered to the address of an individual, who has not asked for anything. The seller sends him a package containing low value products, here, seeds. To keep packages smoothly across borders, most are declared as toys or jewelry, reports the CFIA. The seller then uses the fake account created to confirm receipt of the package and write a false positive review. The better the seller's store scores, the more it will be featured on e-commerce platforms, which will increase its sales.
As for the recipients of these packages, they would be people who recently ordered one or more items online, for the USDA. " These are apparently gifts, shipped for commercial purposes, following an order made via the Internet, " confirms the French ministry. However, the French government is considering all options to explain these unsolicited mailings. Asked about the “ brushing technique ” that could be behind this practice, he replies that he cannot “ say anything for the moment. "