Today the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company was sentenced for eleven criminal violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that it plead guilty to in February, for knowingly selling toxic birdseed to consumers that was contaminated with deadly pesticides. As punishment, the company has agreed to pay a $4 million fine and perform community service. A separate civil agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will cost Scotts more than $6 million in penalties and $2 million for environmental projects to resolve additional civil pesticide violations.
The charges levied against Scotts Miracle-Gro are serious, and the judgement represents the largest criminal penalty under FIFRA to date. By settling, the company admits that it distributed or sold unregistered, canceled, or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions. Among the company’s crimes is the illegal application of insecticides to wild bird food products that are toxic to birds, falsification of pesticide registration documents, distribution of pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distribution unregistered pesticides.
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.
“The misuse or mislabeling of pesticide products can cause serious illness in humans and be toxic to wildlife,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s sentence and unprecedented civil settlement hold Scotts accountable for widespread company noncompliance with pesticide laws, which put products into the hands of consumers without the proper authorization or warning labels.”