The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company was sentenced in federal court September 7, and ordered to pay $4 million to settle charges that it had laced wild bird feed with a pesticide toxic to birds in wild bird feed, according to the Department of Justice.
Millions of Americans enjoy the sight of wild birds flocking to feeders they fill with seed. They will no doubt be shocked to learn that some of that feed, sold by one of the nation's most recognizable brands, may have been harmful to the birds that ate it. The Department of Justice did not provide information about evidence of injuries to birds resulting from the problem.
The pesticide was reportedly added to prevent insect infestations in the feed, but was specifically labeled as "toxic to birds" as well as to fish and other wildlife, according to the Department of Justice.
The case, which covered other alleged violations of pesticide laws, represents the largest ever settlement under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. The company must also pay $6 million in Environmental Protection Agency penalties and spend $2 million on environmental benefit projects. In all, penalties exceed $12 million.
“As the world’s largest marketer of residential use pesticides, Scotts has a special obligation to make certain that it observes the laws governing the sale and use of its products. For having failed to do so, Scotts has been sentenced to pay the largest fine in the history of FIFRA enforcement,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with EPA to assure that pesticides applied in homes and on lawns and food are sold and used in compliance with the laws intended to assure their safety.”
According to the Department of Justice:
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 Storicide 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 also pleaded guilty to submitting false documents to EPA and to state regulatory agencies in an effort to deceive them into believing that numerous pesticides were registered with EPA when in fact they were not. The company also pleaded guilty to having illegally sold the unregistered pesticides and to marketing pesticides bearing labels containing false and misleading claims not approved by EPA. The falsified documents submitted to EPA and states were attributed to a federal product manager at Scotts.
Thomson Reuters quoted the company as saying 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."
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