Scotts Miracle-Gro’s Big Fine, and Garden Writers Speaking Up


We reported in January that Scotts Miracle-Gro had entered a guilty plea for knowingly selling bird food they’d poisoned with a pesticide (to prolong its shelf life) and was slapped with a $4.5 million fine.  “Too low!” some critics cried.  Well, turns out it’s $12.5 mil, with more legal action on its way via angry customers bringing a class action against the company.

From an EPA press release, this is how the fines stack up:

–  a $4 million fine and perform community service for eleven criminal violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act … This is the largest criminal penalty under FIFRA to date.

–  In a separate civil agreement with the EPA Scotts agreed to pay more than $6 million in penalties and spend $2 million on environmental projects to resolves additional civil pesticide violations. The violations include distributing or selling unregistered, canceled, or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions. This is the largest civil settlement under FIFRA to date.

– Scotts will contribute $500,000 to organizations that protect bird habitat, including $100,000 each to the 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 to support the protection of bird populations and habitats through conservation, research, and education.

The EPA adds:

“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. For having failed to do so, Scotts has been sentenced to pay the largest fine in the history of FIFRA enforcement,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with EPA to assure that pesticides applied in homes and on lawns and food are sold and used in compliance with the laws intended to assure their safety.”

Class Action group seeking more members

According to the Safe Lawns blog, “At least a dozen, perhaps more civil lawsuits are in the works against Scotts Miracle Gro as a result of its February 2012 admission that it knowingly tainted bird seed with pesticides that are toxic to birds and otherwise misled pesticide regulators in the sales and labeling of more than 100 products. A class-action lawsuit is being readied and lawyers are aggressively seeking consumers who purchased an estimated 73 million tainted bags of Scotts birdseed between November of 2005 and March of 2008.”

So, consumers of bird-killing bird food, you might want to sign up.
Garden Writers Speak Up!

I’d so love to see that header a reality, by GWA members challenging the Scotts “chief environmental officer” when he speaks to them next month at their big meeting in Tucson.  You know, when he reassures garden writers of Scotts’ commitment to sustainability, blah-blah-blah, like Scotts reassure its captive audience of garden writers every year over the breakfast they pay for.

This is your chance, writers.  From the GWA flyer:


  1. Probably the only thing worse than them spraying Bird Seed with insecticides would be if the very seeds they used were of GMO origin. One has to wonder how weird will it all get before it’s over.

    I’d love to hear a audio, or even video of the whole thing. No way could I be there.

  2. It’s like a tiny glimmer of hope that Scott’s may someday be force to show something like morality in its business practices! Not that I’m going to hold my breath but there is still hope…

  3. Funny that there should be such an uproar about all of the pretty birds being poisoned. Funny that there should be a relatively swift consequence for what Scott’s has stupidly done to our fine feathered friends. What’s not funny is how ridiculous it all is when you consider that WE are being poisoned with impunity by our industrial food system. For decades we have been subjected to pesticides, insecticides, unproven genetic modifications, pollution and super bugs being created and deemed acceptable by the mainstream food supply. But corporations (and birds) are people, too, I suppose.

    • I don’t think anyone’s NOT in an uproar about the poisoning of our food. But prior to this big companies like Scott’s just patted us on the head & said “Aw, isn’t that cute !” and went on peddling their products. This is a first step.

  4. I’m beginning to see a running theme from Susan. First, I read the Espoma war on organic lawn food and watched how they were going to take down the chemical market with the thought provoking ad. Then, the issue on our overseas dependence on fertilizer and how it could threaten our food market. Now, we seeing how chemical manufacturers are contaminating the food we give to wildlife, so as to prevent natural contamination of the bird food in the first place. Makes me wonder if someones running for office, maybe?

    Big chemical has interfered too much with everyday life and the effects are showing. Smaller, organic companies don’t need to advertise to get consumers to switch from the chemical mainstream when you read about the meddling involved in our products. Maybe next time, they could mix round-up in with the bird food so we don’t get a weed problem from the fallen seed. Now that thinking, like a ‘Miracle-woe’ chairman!

    • The thought of running for office gives me the heebie-jeebies – I have TOOO many skeletons in my past and am too much of a wus when it comes to in-person confrontations. I’m a little bolder here online, but still, surprisingly wussy.

  5. This may be a really dumb question, but I have to ask why are only Ohio-based programs getting any compensation? Wasn’t the poisoned bird food sold all over the U.S.?

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