WASHINGTON - Lawn and garden products company Scotts Miracle-Gro will pay $12.5 million in fines for poisoning bird feed and violating pesticide laws, officials said Friday.
Scotts will pay record criminal and civilian penalties for a litany of pesticide violations, including "illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products that are toxic to birds," the Justice Department said in a statement.
The company pleaded guilty in February to that violation as well as falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels and distributing unregistered pesticides.
A Columbus, Ohio, federal court on Friday sentenced Scotts to pay a $4 million fine and perform community service for 11 criminal violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
In a separate agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which resolves additional civil pesticide violations, Scotts agreed to pay more than $6 million in penalties and spend $2 million on environmental projects.
Both the criminal and civil settlements are the largest under FIFRA to date, the Justice Department said.
"As the world's largest marketer of residential-use pesticides, Scotts has a special obligation to make certain that it observes the laws governing the sale and use of its products," said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice.
As part of the criminal settlement, Scotts will contribute $500,000 to organizations that protect bird habitat.
In the plea agreement, Scotts admitted that it applied pesticides to its bird food products against EPA rules to protect them from insects during storage.
Scotts sold the illegally treated bird food for six months after employees warned management of the dangers of the pesticides, the department said.
"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," it said.
Scotts, based in Marysville, Ohio, also imported pesticides into the United States without required documentation. More than 100 Scotts products were found in violation of FIFRA.
"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," Jim Hagedorn, Scotts chairman and chief executive, said in a separate statement.