Local and state officials have issued a warning about unsolicited seeds being sent from China.

The Greeneville Police Department cautions the public about unsolicited seed packets apparently mailed from China to some local residents.

“This is possibly some sort of attempt to harm the environment. Do not plant the seeds. The (Tennessee) Department of Agriculture is handling the situation with the seeds,” a post on the Greeneville police Facebook age said.

In recent days, officials in at least 27 states have asked residents to report receiving unsolicited seed packages that appear to have been sent from China. They warn the seeds may be invasive or otherwise harmful.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has been contacted by residents who received seeds in the mail that they did not order. It advises residents not to plant or even handle the seeds.

“The seeds appear to have been shipped from China, and in some cases, the envelopes are labeled jewelry or beads,” according to the Department of Agriculture.

“While we have no reason at this time to suspect that these seeds were sent with ill intention, we want to take every precaution to be sure an invasive or otherwise threatening plant species doesn’t take hold here,” state Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher said.

Hatcher said that imported plant materials “go through rigorous testing and inspection to ensure they are not carrying any plant disease or pests and do not pose any threat to health and environment.”

There is no evidence so far to indicate the unsolicited seeds have gone through appropriate inspection, or if they are even the type of seed they are labeled to be, Hatcher said.

He said U.S. Department of Agriculture officials believe the seeds may be a “brushing scam,” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales.

The Greeneville Police Department recommends sealing the seeds inside two plastic bags and mailing all packaging to: Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Attention Plant Certification, PO Box 40627, Nashville, TN 37204.

While mailing the seeds to the Agriculture Department is preferred, residents can also use an online form to notify the state agency about receiving the unsolicited seeds, then double-bag the seeds and all packaging and dispose of it in the trash. Lack of air, light, and water is a safe way to effectively dispose of the seeds, the state says.

If already planted, “dig them up or the sprouts and double bag and place them in the trash,” the GPD says.

For more information from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, go to https://www.tn.gov/agriculture/news/2020/7/28/tda-issues-guidance-on-unsolicited-seeds.html.

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