Scott’s To Pay $12.5 Million In Fines, and I’m Not Blue About That

According to a recent EPA press release, the Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company has been ordered to pay $4 million in fines and perform community service for committing eleven criminal violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which governs the manufacture, distribution and sale of pesticides.

I blogged about this back in February, when the news first came out. But now Scott’s has also been ordered to pay an additional $6 million in penalties and to spend $2 million on environmental projects in order to resolve civil pesticide violations. In addition to the fines, Scott’s will also contribute $500,000 to organizations that protect bird populations and habitats. That adds up to a total of $12.5 million, which makes this both the largest criminal settlement and the largest civil settlement under FIFRA to date.

In the plea agreement, Scott’s admitted to adding two pesticides to its bird food products even though the EPA had prohibited this use of the pesticides which, according to label information, are “extremely toxic to fish and toxic to birds and other wildlife”. They also admitted they continued to sell the products for 6 months after two employees (one an ornithologist and the other a chemist) specifically warned management of the dangers of the pesticides used in those products. By the time they recalled the toxic products, they had sold more than 70 million units of the illegally treated bird food.

I don’t know about you, but this whole saga has outraged me on a number of levels. To violate the public’s trust by knowingly selling bird food that is toxic to birds and other wildlife is just unconscionable to me. I don’t think $12.5 million is nearly enough for a company that had $2.8 billion in revenues last year according to their 2011 Annual Report.

And speaking of their annual report, I love the photos of the smiling people using Scott’s products. I guess it might be bad PR to show photos of all the dead birds resulting from their tainted bird food! They did post their mea culpa press release on the company’s investor relations web page, where they maintain that “no one else in the company knew about the illegal activities of one of our associates”. Only one? I find it impossible to believe that only one person at the company realized that using those pesticides on the bird food was illegal and unsafe. That makes me want to resort to my school yard days and say “liar liar pants on fire”! Or in today’s parlance, how about “no mas pantalones“.

I still think gardeners everywhere should just stop using all Scott’s products. That would send a message far bigger than any $12.5 million fine. I surely won’t be using their bird seeds, potting soils or their unnaturally blue-colored fertilizers. They have lost this gardener’s trust, as well as my respect. Please join me in what some of the readers of Garden Rant are calling their I Don’t Do Blue Campaign. Your conscience will feel better, and so will your garden. Remember our motto – I Don’t Do Blue!

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3 Responses to Scott’s To Pay $12.5 Million In Fines, and I’m Not Blue About That

  1. Robin says:

    Well, if the Scott family doesn’t use their own products, neither should anyone else! I told you in the past that one of my son’s clients is a Scott.

    That fine is absolutely nothing to them!

  2. I agree, sending a message via the almighty dollar is far more effective. I don’t buy Scott’s products, and haven’t for years. I was outraged when the National Wildlife Federation was trying to justify their proposed partnership with Scotts some months ago. So glad they finally saw Scotts for who they really are. I’m also happy they got caught out this time too, although the cynic in me thinks that the punishment for them is barely a wrist-slap. Hopefully if enough consumers turn their backs on them, they’ll actually take notice.

  3. LynnS says:

    Thanks for this write up. I don’t use any Scott products and never will after reading about this. You’re absolutely right about the blatant lying — and to place profit over defenseless birds makes me even angrier.

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