This is a disturbing video presented by newsflare. I can’t present the video here because you have to buy it and I’m not prepared to do that. I’ve created a screenshot instead. I’ve watched the video. It shows a large number of crows either dead or dying beside the road and in the field beyond they are also dying and in distress. It’s unpleasant.
The scene was found by a farmer in eastern China. He is the man who made the video. He was in Tongcheng in Anhui province on December 15. The reason? Local government officials blamed the mass deaths of these birds on farmers who sometimes mix seeds with pesticides. The birds were poisoned by pesticides. Pesticides are incredibly toxic.
A Science Daily article tells us that pesticide-coated seeds are increasingly used but the practice is underreported. These appear to be seeds coated in pesticides by the retailer or manufacturer. It appears that the video relates to farmers mixing pesticides with seeds themselves, which no doubt is dangerous to the farmers as well.
Pesticides such as neonicotinoids are coated onto seeds. Farmers often don’t know what pesticides are used. There appears to be a lack of data about the effects and the advantages. There should be improved labelling of pesticide-treated seeds and the posting of information about the active ingredients contained in treated seed products on public websites, the scientists concluded.
This is needed to protect human health and the environment and, as you can see on this page, to protect wildlife including birds.
As you can imagine, seeds coated with a pesticide limits crop damage from fungus and insects. But in sowing the seeds the farmer has to take extra precautions. People handling the seeds must be aware of the danger and therefore they should be handled with the same care as other pesticides. The pesticide treated seeds are brightly coloured.
The seeds should be disposed of carefully to avoid them being eaten by animals. If there are leftover seeds there may be regulations as to how to deal with them. Seeds treated with pesticides should not be burnt or composted. They should never be consumed or used for animal feed. They should be kept away from children and if the seeds are spilled there needs to be a proper cleanup or they should be covered with soil to prevent wildlife from eating them.
I conclude, therefore, that in the case in question, in China, the farmer was careless with respect to these pesticide-treated seeds. I would have thought that in a western country the behaviour of this farmer would quite possibly lead to criminal prosecution. I expect, however, that in China nothing will happen because they are very lax on animal welfare. In fact, there are still no animal welfare laws in China other than some very limited restricted regulations. There are no general laws which protect animals in any context either wild, livestock or domestic.
The agropages.com website provides me with more information about seed coating agents in China. Chinese pesticide produces are seeing an annual growth of 10% plus in the domestic seed coating agent business. The Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China want 90% plus seed coating treatment for winter wheat in key planting regions.
It is said that China was one of the first countries to treat seeds with chemical agents. It started in earnest in the 1970s. From 2010, regarded as phase 3, many foreign pesticide producers developed leading products. One such manufacturer, Syngenta, focuses on the following chemical agents: difenoconazole, fludioxonil, azoxystrobin, thiamethoxam and metalaxyl.
It appears that many multinational businesses are doing business in China in the seed coating market. The treatments are registered to treat wheat, corn, soybeans, peanuts and cotton in northern China. This makes up 80% of the market share. In the south, these treatments are mainly used for rice and vegetables but they account for a mere 8% of the market. Corn and wheat represent 31% of the market for these pesticide treatments on seeds.
Some more on birds: