The novel coronavirus pandemic was undoubtedly the most significant and frightening event of 2020, but it was far from the strangest thing that occurred last year. There were numerous strange occurrences in a year that many people will remember for a long time. Last year, thousands of Americans received unsolicited seed packages containing unknown Chinese seeds.

Since 2020, there have been numerous reports on the subject. People shared their stories about unexpected deliveries. The mystery turned out to be much larger than anyone had anticipated. The USDA, on the other hand, provided a straightforward explanation. China did not, contrary to popular belief, conduct a carefully orchestrated agricultural scam against the United States using nefarious seeds. However, it was still a scam.

According to an incredibly detailed Motherboard report, thousands of Americans from all 50 states received such packages over the summer, and various agencies are investigating the matter. The USDA advised the public not to plant or consume the seeds.

In addition to the USDA’s Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance group (SITC), the FBI and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) launched their own investigations. They were planted by some of the seed recipients. Others proceeded to eat them.

While these stories are frightening, they appear to support conspiracy theories that China is carrying out some sort of attack. However, authorities who looked into the matter discovered that some of the seeds aren’t harmful. According to a Utah lab, it’s not just one species, but a slew of them, including “rose, amaranth (not Palmer), 2 mints, False Horse Balm, Self Heal, Lespedeza, and Sweet Potato.” Seeds of onion, cucumber, tomato, radish, peppergrass, alfalfa, corn, lettuce, hollyhock, and spearmint were discovered in New Mexico.

Someone else discovered they obtained oregano seeds and consumed the resulting crop. Other seeds are “noxious weeds” that are already present in the United States. However, according to a New Mexico analysis, planting them is prohibited. This has been covered extensively by local news outlets over the last year.

The official line eventually became that this was a ‘brushing’ campaign in which small items of value were sent to people whose online accounts had been compromised, or were sent to people as a ‘gift.’ To leave a positive review from a ‘verified buyer’ (which is weighted higher because the person nominally bought and used the product), you must have actually bought or received an item, so reviews from that account or name will be weighted higher.

On the morning of June 5, a woman named Sue Westerdale, who lives in a small town in northern England, posted something strange in the Facebook group “Veg gardening UK.” She had received a mysterious packet of seeds from China, labeled “ear studs” on the envelope, and wondered if this had happened to anyone else.

The fact that this occurred during a global pandemic added to the fear. People were concerned that the world would be subjected to targeted biological attacks. Nobody can really blame them. However, after further investigation, it appears that the timing is due to the compromised Amazon accounts, rather than a deliberate attack.

Forbes investigated this topic in 2017. The article discussed how Chinese packages were being delivered to homes in Pennsylvania that were clearly addressed to people who lived there. The topic of the story at the time was hair ties. However, the author pointed out that the new landscape of cross-border shipping opens up a plethora of opportunities for fraud.

Borders have become major loopholes for criminals to violate the laws of whatever country they are shipping goods to in a world where goods can virtually be sent anywhere more or less freely. For the most part, if the seller of a product is on the other side of an international border than the buyer, no rules, regulations, or laws apply; intellectual property, consumer safety, and postal laws become moot, as the country where the offense occurs is beyond the legal reach of the parties seeking retribution. Cross-border e-commerce has become the new “Wild West,” a place where anything goes, including sending piles of unwanted hair ties to random women on the other side of the world.