Posted on June 25th, 2012
On February 21, 2012, the SCOTTS MIRACLE-GRO COMPANY pleaded guilty in Ohio to eleven FIFRA violations. Scotts admitted to illegally applying an insecticide to its wild bird food products that is toxic to birds, falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distributing unregistered pesticides, all in violation of FIFRA. Scotts also admitted that in an effort to protect its bird food from insect infestation, the company applied to its line of wild bird foods the pesticides Storcide II and Actellic 5E, neither of which were approved by EPA for use in bird foods, the former bearing the warning, Storcide II is extremely toxic to fish and toxic to birds and other wildlife. Scotts continued to sell the products for six months after employees warned management of the dangers of these pesticides. Until its voluntary recall of these treated bird foods in March 2008, Scotts illegally sold over seventy million units of insecticide-treated bird food — Environmental Crimes Case Bulletin1
In the charging document, the EPA noted that “during the summer and fall of 2007, a pesticide chemist and an ornithologist working for Scotts warned Scotts about the potential threat to birds from using Storicide II.
Despite these warnings, Scotts continued the use of the pesticide. According to court documents, Scotts Miracle-Gro sold more than 73 million packages of these poisoned bird foods nationwide to an unsuspecting public for a period of more than two years. Only 2 million of those 73 million units could be recalled.
Just days before the case went to court, Scotts Miracle-Gro had conned the National Wildlife Federation into partnering on a visible public relations campaign. A few days later, after the litigation was announced, the NWF reported “Scotts announced a pending legal settlement related to events in 2008 that predate our partnership, which has made it clear that the partnership is not viable.”
On or about March 14, 2012, a judge accepted the guilty plea.
Scotts Miracle-Gro continued to ship the 93 poisoned brands of bird seed until March 2008. It is not likely that any remains in stores today. But for damages done, a class action complaint was filed June 13, 2012.2 There is no way to estimate how many birds were sickened or killed by the good intentions of bird lovers, or by the reckless disregard for the welfare of wild birds shown by Scotts Miracle-Gro.
Highly toxic to fish. Toxic to birds. Toxic to wildlife… Exposed treated seed may be hazardous to birds. — from the labels of pesticides that Scotts Miracle-Gro added to 73 million bags of bird seed which it sold under 93 brand names.
- “USA v The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company – FIFRA Criminal Prosecution”, United States District Court for the southern district of Ohio, Eastern Division, Case: 2:12-cr-00024-JLG Doc #: 1 Filed: 01/25/12. Retrieved 19 March 2012. [PDF]
- “USA v The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company – FIFRA Criminal Prosecution”, Government’s Plea Agreement Submission of Elements and Penalties for 7 USC §136j. Retrieved 19 March 2012. [PDF].
- Storcide II product label (PDF) and MSDS (PDF).
- Actellic® 5E product label (PDF) and MSDS (PDF).
- Pirimiphos-Methyl IRED Facts (EPA Factsheet).
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental Crimes Case Bulletin. January-February, 2012. link Scotts also pleaded guilty to the fraudulent conduct of its Federal Registration Manager who submitted false documents to EPA and to state regulatory agencies in an effort to deceive them into believing that the pesticides were registered with EPA, when in fact they were not. Scotts pleaded guilty to having illegally sold these unregistered pesticides.
In another set of charges, Scotts entered pleas of guilty to counts of having marketed pesticides bearing labels containing false and misleading claims not approved by EPA. Under the terms of the plea agreement, both Scotts and the Department of Justice recommend that Scotts pay a criminal fine of $4 million to the federal government and that it perform community service by contributing $500,000 to organizations that protect bird populations and habitats through conservation, research, and education. ↩
- Brumfield et al v. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. link ↩