In an Ohio federal court hearing on Sept. 7, 2012, Scotts Miracle-Gro Company agreed to pay $12.5 million in fines and penalties for violating federal pesticide laws, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Philly.com reports.
Of the fines, Scotts will pay $4 million and perform community service acts for eleven violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This act covers the sale, distribution and manufacturing of pesticides, and the fine is the largest criminal penalty to date under FIFRA. An additional $500,000 will be contributed to organizations such as Ohio Audubon’s Important Bird Area Program, Cornell University Ornithology Laboratory and The Nature Conservancy of Ohio that work to protect bird habitat.
Although sentenced on Sept. 7, the fertilizer company pled guilty to “illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products that are toxic to birds, falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels and distributing unregistered pesticides” in February 2012.
The other $8 million in fines comes from an EPA investigation that followed after the initial violations were discovered. A civil agreement with the EPA for additional violations, including distributing or selling unregistered, canceled or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions, resulted in more than $6 million in penalties and $2 million on environmental projects, such as acquiring, restoring and protecting 300 acres of land to prevent runoff of agricultural chemicals into nearby waterways. This is also FIFRA’s largest civil settlement to date.
The insecticides added to Scotts wild bird food products were Actellic 5E and Storcide II, but these were prohibited by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to Philly.com’s article, “Information on the Storcide II product label warns: ‘Exposed treated seeds are hazardous to birds and other wildlife. Dispose of all excess treated seeds and seed packaging by burial away from bodies of water.’” The reason for putting this chemical in the food was to keep bugs from eating the food before the birds could.
An EPA press release stated: “In the plea agreement, Scotts admitted that it applied the pesticides Actellic 5E and Storcide II to its bird food products even though EPA had prohibited this use. Scotts had done so to protect its bird foods from insect infestation during storage. Scotts admitted that it used these pesticides contrary to EPA directives and in spite of the warning label appearing on all Storcide II containers stating, ‘Storcide II is extremely toxic to fish and toxic to birds and other wildlife.’ Scotts sold this illegally treated bird food for two years after it began marketing its bird food line and for six months after employees specifically warned Scotts management of the dangers of these pesticides. By the time it voluntarily recalled these products in March 2008, Scotts had sold more than 70 million units of bird food illegally treated with pesticide that is toxic to birds.”
Scotts acknowledged the settlement in a press release from Scotts Miracle-Gro Chairman and CEO Jim Hagedorn on the company website.
“As we reach closure on these issues, it’s important for all of our stakeholders to know that we have learned a lot from these events and that new people and processes have been put in place to prevent them from happening again,” Hagedorn says. “Our consumers are at the heart of our business, and I hope they’ll see our openness, cooperation and acceptance of responsibility are all a part of our commitment to provide products they can trust and rely upon.”