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Amidst Wildlife Federation Firestorm, Scotts Miracle Gro Fined $4.5 Million for Toxic Bird Seed, Falsifying Records

UPDATE: Petition Asks NWF to Say No to Scotts’ Sponsorship:


On the same week Scotts Miracle Gro tried to buy an image upgrade by sponsoring the National Wildlife Federation, word has come out of a federal court that the company will pay millions of dollars in fines for selling bird seed it knew was tainted with pesticides toxic to birds.

Though the company had no comment yesterday, it pleaded guilty to charges that it sold 73 MILLION UNITS of tainted bird seed from 2005 to 2008. According to an article in today’s Columbus, Ohio, newspaper, the company continued to sell the bird seed “despite warnings in the summer and fall of 2007 from a pesticide chemist and an ornithologist, both of whom worked for the company.”

The company also pleaded guilty yesterday to falsifying documents with the Environmental Protection Agency so that it could rush new weed ‘n feed and ant killing products to market back in 2006. When Scotts’ fallacy was revealed — after the products containing cancer-causing agents had already been on the market for two years — the company blamed the actions on a single female employee, who was abruptly fired after years with the company.

Many in and around the company called her an obvious “scapegoat,” who unjustifiably took the blame for an error that could not possibly have been hers and hers alone. In a 2008 article in the same Columbus newspaper, Scotts spokesman Jim King admitted the fired employee had a supervisor who reviewed her work, but the supervisor was not terminated according to people within Scotts.

“There aren’t very many people working for Scotts in that end of the company,” said our colleague at Scotts who asked not to be named. “But I knew the woman who was let go very well and it would be completely out of character for her to knowingly falsify records.”

When SafeLawns phoned the woman this morning, she pleasantly declined comment, as she has done previously with other media inquiries.

Meanwhile, our phone and email in-box has been lit up today as the story of Scotts’ latest transgression spreads across North America.

The company, many folks believe, must have known this ruling in federal court was coming down for several months. The timing of the sponsorship with the National Wildlife Federation, announced by NWF on Jan. 18, was clearly designed to draw attention away from what is believed to be the largest fine ever levied on a pesticide company.

“It is whitewashing at the highest, most obvious level,” said Rand Jordan. “I’ve yanked my NWF habitat sign out of my backyard. I’ll never, ever support them again.”

Many called on the National Wildlife Federation to return Scotts’ money and demand that the world’s largest purveyor of lawn and garden poisons change its ways.

“I’m sickened. Just sickened about the whole thing,” said Sue Leonard of Fort Worth, Texas.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1023
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  • Alice S.

    Thanks, Paul for another important story.

    How can any company sell a product as appearing to benefit birds when it can kill them? And then the whitewashing by affiliating with NWF.

    I am writing to NFW and there will be NO MORE DONATIONS to them from me. I am immensely saddened by their loss of integrity.

    • Mike

      Alice, its amazing you deal with your frustrations with the federation by threatening to cut off donations. Where shall you donate your tax-write off next year?

      It’s amazing in the business world that a company cannot attempt to change its image by partnering with an environmentally friendly federation without someone complaining. The response? “Loss of Intergrity, NWF are a bunch of sell-outs”. Not saying you specifically, since you have said you previously donated, but it’s amazing at the outrage considering probably 70% of these people probably have not donated a single penny to the federation.

      Despite popular belief among the environmentalist community, money is what is able to help the Federation achieve its goals. Partnering with Scott’s isn’t going to change the federations goals and I’m sure they plan to work with Scotts to help make them more eco-friendly. Think about it, a “toxic” producing company is GIVING money to an environmental company to fund its work and seek best practices, and that is a loss of integrity. Isn’t that actually more along the lines of NWF’s goals of promoting safer environmental practices?

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  • Beatriz Moisset

    Thanks for this post and the additional research you did on the subject.
    Will you, please, ask your readers to sign the petition to terminate the partnership between NWF and Scotts?

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  • Parker/Midge Symmes

    As if the earlier news was not enough, this latest revelation is absolutely obscene, unthinkable and deplorable, The National Wildlife Federation has committed what nearly amounts to a criminal act against the very ones they seek to aid and protect by joining forces with the likes of Scott’s Miracle Gro!

  • Chiot’s Run

    I have no words besides – this makes me sick.

  • ChrisL

    Just the very fact that NWF partnered,in the first place,with a company whose products are detrimental to wildlife, and the environment in general, is most disturbing.

  • Timothy Dale Edwards

    NWF seems to have sold its soul. By associating with a pesticide company, they give the company an endorsement. You are judged by the company you keep. This is what the pesticide company is counting on. However, it goes both ways.

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  • susan harris

    Keep up the great reporting on this, Paul.
    And for those disillusioned with the NWF, there ARE other (and better) conservation groups to support, ones that are clearly more deserving of our donations. No point in petitioning them to end this partnership; the whole leadership of the NWF would have to change before I’d consider supporting them again.

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