Friday, March 23, 2012

Scotts Miracle-Gro Sold Poison Bird Seed

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is one of the largest producers of lawn and garden products in the world. Among its products are such widely recognized brands as Miracle-Gro and Ortho. Scotts also distributes the consumer Roundup manufactured by Monsanto.

Scotts also produces wild bird food under the brand names Morning Song, Country Pride, and Scotts Songbird Selections. On March 13, Scotts Miracle-Gro entered guilty pleas in US District Court in Ohio for knowingly selling birdseed that was poisoned with the pesticides Storcide II and Actellic 5E, neither of which is approved by the EPA for use in bird foods. Their use was a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA. More importantly, their use likely sickened and killed an unknown number of songbirds and other wildlife.

The pesticides were applied to prevent the birdseed from being infested with insects during shipping and storage. However, both pesticides contain active ingredients that are labeled as being toxic to fish, birds, and wildlife. The ingredients are known to cause overstimulation to the nervous system, that in small doses can cause nausea, dizziness, and confusion, and in higher doses, paralysis and death.

The very real dangers from the use of this product can be seen in a case in San Diego, California, where a couple purchased a package of Morning Song bird food for use in their outdoor aviary. Almost 100 birds died as a result, nearly their whole flock. Also killed were "dozens of field mice" that ate the seed.

What is worst about this case is that Scotts Miracle-Gro was warned about this problem by two of its employees, one a pesticide chemist and the other an ornithologist, as early as summer of 2007. And yet the company knowingly manufactured and sold the products with the prohibited and dangerous pesticides for almost another year. The products were only pulled from the market in 2008 when the company came under investigation by the federal government for falsifying pesticide registration documents on two other products, and likely feared that the investigation would reveal the illegal pesticide use in the birdseed.

Scotts has pleaded guilty, and is hoping to quietly reach a settlement with the court on a fine, which would include a $500,000 donation for wildlife study and preservation, so that the company can move on and be done with this matter. Whatever fine is imposed will not begin to make up for the suffering and deaths of the birds and other wildlife that ate the companies poison, or the betrayal that the company committed to the wildlife lovers who purchased the products.

I believe it is likely that I bought Scotts' bird seed during the period that the poison was included, and it absolutely sickens me to think that by doing so I might have unwittingly caused the deaths of any birds or squirrels that came to my feeders.

Regardless of whatever fine is imposed on Scotts Miracle-Gro--the higher the better--I hope that this case is well enough publicized that it will cost the company a substantial amount of business. I can promise that I will never buy one of their products as long as I live. And I hope that anyone else who reads this will do the same.

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