The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company has agreed to pay $12.5 million in fines, civil penalties and charitable contributions, under a settlement arising from violations of federal pesticide laws. The violations included the distribution of mislabeled and unapproved pesticides, and falsification of pesticide registration documents. The company also used two pesticides in wild bird seed that were not allowed for that purpose. The tainted bird seed was recalled from the market in 2008. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a press release confirming the settlement, as did Scotts Miracle-Gro.
“The misuse or mislabeling of pesticide products can cause serious illness in humans and be toxic to wildlife,” EPA compliance official Cynthia Giles stated in the agency’s press release. “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.”
The $12.5 million in payments breaks down as follows:
- $4 million in criminal fines for 11 violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), plus community service. This was a sentence handed down in federal district court in Columbus, Ohio for “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,” the EPA stated. Scotts Miracle-Gro pleaded guilty to the charges in February.
- $6 million in civil penalties. These penalties are part of a settlement with EPA for violations of FIFRA, which “include distributing or selling unregistered, canceled, or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions,” EPA officials stated. The company also agreed to spend $2 million on environmental projects to resolve these violations.
- $500,000 in contributions to charitable causes. Scotts Miracle-Gro will donate $100,000 to each of five organizations that protect bird habitat. The organizations include Ohio Audubon’s Important Bird Area Program, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Urban Forestry Program, the Columbus Metro-Parks Bird Habitat Enhancement Program, the Cornell University Ornithology Laboratory, and The Nature Conservancy of Ohio. These donations are “to support the protection of bird populations and habitats through conservation, research, and education,” the EPA stated.
The $4 million criminal fine and the $6 million civil penalty are the largest criminal and civil penalties ever imposed under FIFRA. Scotts Miracle-Gro Chairman and CEO Jim Hagedorn issued an open letter (PDF) in which he apologized for the violations and explained the circumstances from the company’s point of view. He stated in the company’s press release that the violations weren’t in line with the company’s mission or core values, and that steps will be taken to prevent similar problems in the future.
“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 said. “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.”