Earlier this year, I wrote about the disturbing news that Scotts Miracle-Gro had knowingly put insecticides in its bird feed—despite the fact that the chemicals were known to be toxic to birds. Needless to say, many of you were outraged (rightfully so) by the news and expressed it in the comments.
Now their punishment has been handed to them by the government.
According to NBC News, Scotts Miracle-Gro was hit with $12.5 million in fines and penalties, the largest ever given through the pesticide law. The company was charged with 11 counts of criminal violations by the EPA and lost big in a civil suit—aside from $6 million in fines, they agreed to spend $2 million toward environmental projects. Half a million dollars will also be split among Ohio Audubon’s Important Bird Area Program, the Columbus Metro-Parks Bird Habitat Enhancement Program, the Cornell University Ornithology Laboratory and a few other places.
Still, after their punishment, it’s awful to think about just how many birds were killed and how many bird lovers unknowingly poisoned their backyard friends in the two years the company sold more than 70 million units of laced food.
In the plea deal, Scotts Miracle-Gro admitted to using the insecticides in the bird food, even though it had been prohibited by the EPA. Here’s more from the EPA’s press release.
“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.”
Another damning piece of information was that the company also admitted to submitting false documents to the EPA “in an effort to deceive them into believing that numerous pesticides were registered with EPA when in fact they were not.” It turns out the poison in bird food was just another abuse of trust and disregard for the environment perpetrated by Scott Miracle-Gro.
After the ruling, the company released a statement repeatedly emphasizing things like the perpetrator of these horrible lies and abuses acted alone. Here’s a quote from Scotts Miracle-Gro Chairman and CEO Jim Hagedorn.
“While no one else in the company knew about the illegal activities of one of our associates, the company nonetheless bears the responsibility for her actions, and for that we apologize,” Hagedorn said.
Earlier in the press release from the company, Hagedorn also tried to offer a reassurance to stakeholders and customers.
“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.”
I don’t know the specific details of the violations, but the company says the perpetrator has pleaded guilty to federal crimes and awaits sentencing. Yet, a hefty fine and numerous apologies will likely not win back the hearts or loyalty of bird lovers and environmentalists.
Do you think the fines were punishment enough and would you ever buy Scotts Miracle-Gro products again?