Thursday, March 22, 2012

Scotts Miracle-Gro added bird-killing pesticides to birdseed!

Common Redpoll

(Transcript of today's For the Birds)

When we go to any store to buy food for ourselves, our pets, our domesticated animals, or the wild birds in our backyards, we don’t think much about how we’re entrusting the well-being of ourselves and those critters to that store and its vendors. When anyone buys tainted products, even if it can be proven that the cause was accidental, we still hold the company that sold it to the store liable, because they are responsible for testing to ensure that they’re products meet minimum standards. What about when a corporation knowingly adds dangerous pesticides to bird seed--pesticides known to be toxic to birds?

That’s exactly what happened in 2007 and 2008, when Scotts Miracle-Gro company started adding two pesticides to birdseed mixes to control insect pests. One of the pesticides contained chlorpyrifos-methyl, which is not only toxic to fish, birds, and wildlife, but is required to carry precautionary labeling. The other pesticide was pirimiphos-methyl, which doesn’t have the precautionary labeling only because it’s not supposed to be sold for ANY use where it could come into contact with food or the environment. It is registered only for use as an interior surface paint additive to kill insects that are vectors for diseases.

Scotts started adding these dangerous pesticides to birdseed in 2007, despite clear warnings by two of their employees, one a pesticide chemist, the other an ornithologist. The corporation ignored them, continuing to distribute their products until March 2008. At the same time, a corporate manager responsible for federal registrations of their products intentionally falsified pesticide registration documents for two lawn products. (Scotts is Monsanto's exclusive agent for the marketing and distribution of consumer Roundup®)

When wild birds are poisoned at bird feeding stations, their deaths may be attributed to all kinds of causes. When a large outbreak of dying birds occurs in a backyard, the first thing we blame is disease, and people usually bring in and disinfect their feeders; when they put them out again, they don’t worry at all about putting bird seed back into them. No one really noticed anything about dying birds, although there were lots of people calling and emailing me directly and via the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and other people and organizations associated with birds, in 2007 through 2010, about dying feeder birds. I and just about everyone else thought this was due to disease outbreaks--I know I didn’t even consider the possibility of tainted seeds because the problem was so very widespread.

But in late January 2010, almost two years after Scotts stopped using the pesticides [and initiated a recall], a San Diego couple purchased Scotts Miracle-Grow Morning Song Wild Bird Seed from their local Wal-Mart to feed their outdoor aviary birds. Out of a flock of 100 birds, all but eight died. They didn’t suspect the seeds at first, but then they trapped dozens of field mice for translocation away from their property. They fed the mice these seeds, and within a few hours every one of the mice was dead. That Wal-Mart continued selling the seeds, claiming they only remove items from their shelves after a recall. Meanwhile, the couple sent the seeds for independent testing. This alerted the EPA, and within three days, on February 2, pulled seeds from local retailers and launched an investigation.

When the EPA first learned that the company was illegally adding these pesticides to birdseed and discovered the falsified documents for Scotts’ other outdoor products, they pressed charges. The case finally made it to court this year. On March 13, 2012, Scotts entered guilty pleas to all charges, and offered to settle for a $4 million fine and a half-million dollar contribution to support wildlife research and preservation. The judge has not yet made a decision. Scotts documents show that they had sold at least 73 million packages of this toxic birdseed [only about 2 million units were successfully recalled], so although their proposed settlement is huge, it’s far less than the profit they made. Meanwhile, I’ll never again purchase any products sold under the Scotts, Miracle-Gro, Country Pride, or Morning Song labels. This corporation has violated my trust forever.

Additional information: Excellent investigative report by "GrrlScientist" with linked citations