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60-Second Earth

Bird Seed Poisons Wild Birds

To improve shelf life, Scotts Miracle-Gro used a pesticide toxic to birds in its bird seed. David Biello reports

Birds face many man-made mortal threats: windows, cats, habitat destruction, even climate change. And now, there's poison—in their bird seed.

You see the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company had been in the habit of applying banned pesticides to its wild bird food products. In particular, the company applied a chemical known as Storcide II to its bird food despite a warning label for that product that reads "Storcide II is extremely toxic to fish and toxic to birds and other wildlife."

Why add a compound toxic to birds to food meant to be eaten by birds? Because Scott didn't want bugs infesting its bird food during storage.

By the time Scotts stopped adding the pesticide in March 2008, the company had sold some 70 million bags of adulterated bird food. The company also submitted false documents to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, distributed pesticides with misleading labels and distributed illegal pesticides. As a result, the EPA slapped the company with $12.5 million in criminal fines and civil penalties.

So when you put out new bird seed this winter, at least you won't be inadvertently poisoning any chirpers. Oh, and keep those cats inside, too.

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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