Just as the Toyota Prius was a major environmental breakthrough in the automotive industry, so have pesticide treated seeds served as a similar breakthrough in sustainable agriculture. 

The Prius popularized hybrid vehicles, raised environmental awareness and enabled drivers to dramatically slash carbon emissions – by more than 50 percent. 

The innovation of pesticide treated seeds could reduce the use of pesticide applications five-fold. In this respect, a Tesla may be a better comparison. 

But let’s stick with the Prius, which still requires gasoline just as some seeds still require being treated with pesticides. But that’s not the point. The point is that both industries have been moving at reducing potential environmental impacts without compromising our need for transportation or food.

In thinking about pesticide-treated seeds this way, it is easier to appreciate why they represent a revolutionary advancement in sustainable farming and farmworker safety. 

So just what are pesticide-treated seeds? 

Like a Prius, you can think of them as a kind of hybrid. Before planting, seeds may be specially treated with a pesticide that precisely address threats to the plant. The strategy is to protect the seed from the very beginning so that the emerging plant will be healthier and more inoculated from disease and pests that can destroy them.  

The resulting benefits for the environment and farmworkers are both obvious and subtle: 

  • Fewer pesticides. Most notably, is the reduction of pesticides used throughout the life of a crop. Without pesticide treated seeds, the amount of pesticides required could be five times or more than with the treated seeds 
  • More protection for beneficial Insects. – Pesticide treated seeds are laser focused on controlling a narrow range of known pests, therefore minimizing harm to beneficial insects and non-target organisms.
  • Less runoff: Pesticide treated seeds are less apt to impact the immediate surroundings because fewer pesticides, applied early, either eliminate or seriously reduce water contamination and improve soil health.
  • Reduced carbon footprint. Healthy plants require less tilling, which means that plants stay in the ground and can continue to capture carbon. It also means fewer miles on a tractor, which emits greenhouse gases.
  • Vital for Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) Seed treatments can be a vital component of a sustainable IPM system by eliminating need for future pesticide applications.  
  • Decreased exposure to farmworkers. Unlike traditional methods that involve direct pesticide application, pesticide treated seeds reduce the need for workers to handle and apply products in the field because the seeds are already in the ground, planted in accordance with strict safety standards that protect workers. This greatly reduces the potential for accidental exposure and minimizes the health risks faced by agricultural workers. 

Furthermore, the adoption of pesticide treated seeds is supported by stringent regulations and industry standards. Seed treatment products undergo rigorous testing and approval processes, ensuring their safety and minimizing potential environmental risks. 

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Pesticide treated seeds represent a significant improvement in worker safety and environmental protection. Their use can minimize the risks associated with direct pesticide handling, safeguarding the well-being of farmworkers. Moreover, pesticide treated seeds offer targeted protection for the environment, preserving ecosystems and mitigating environmental impacts. 

Like the Prius, they represent a quantum leap for society and the environment.

Renee Pinel is the President & CEO of Western Plant Health (WPH), a Sacramento-based trade association whose member companies promote the environmentally safe and agronomically sound use of their products.