Monsanto Company has agreed to plead guilty to 30 environmental offenses related to the use of a pesticide in corn fields in Hawaii, according to information released today by the US Department of Justice and the US Protection Agency of the environment. The agreement is detailed in court documents dropped off today in Hawai’i.
The pesticide, an ammonium glufosinate product sold under the brand name Forfeit 280, was used in 2020 in corn fields in O’ahu. “Monsanto allowed workers to enter the fields for a ‘restricted access interval’ of six days after application of the product,” according to a press release from the EPA.
According to the EPA and the Department of Justice, the company further agreed to plead guilty to two more counts relating to the storage of a banned pesticide which were the subject of a deferred prosecution agreement in 2019. .
The plea agreement calls for Monsanto to serve three years of probation, pay a total of $ 12 million, and continue for another three years a comprehensive environmental compliance program that includes a third-party auditor.
Of that payment, half will go to community service payments in Hawai’i. Four Hawaiian agencies will receive $ 1.5 million in payments:
- Ministry of Agriculture, Revolving Fund for Pesticide Use – Pesticide Elimination Program / Pesticide Safety Training;
- Ministry of the Attorney General, Criminal Justice / Investigations Division;
- the Ministry of Health, Environmental Management Division, to support environmental health programs; and
- the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Aquatic Resources Division.
Maui Now has reached out to Monsanto for comment on the plea. In a statement, Darren Wallis, vice president of
Communications, North America Crop Science said:
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“The behavior at issue in the agreement is unacceptable and contrary to company values and policies, and we sincerely regret it. To ensure good compliance, the company is taking significant corrective action to improve its controls, including strengthening its policies and procedures which now require a robust, multi-step approval process to authorize the use of pesticides in fields. in Hawaii, and improved training. Together, we are confident that these measures will ensure legal compliance and maintain our high safety standards. “
The US Department of Justice Says: “Due to Monsanto’s conduct in allowing workers 30 times to enter fields sprayed with Forfeit 280 during the REI, the company violated a 2019 DPA relating to the storage of waste. ‘a prohibited pesticide. According to documents filed today, Monsanto will plead guilty to two felony charges filed in 2019 that the government would have dismissed had the company complied with federal law.
“Together with the DPA on the two felony charges of illegal storage of acute hazardous waste, Monsanto pleaded guilty in early 2020 to an offense of unlawfully spraying a banned pesticide – specifically methyl parathion, the ingredient Penncap-M’s asset – on crop research at one of its facilities in Maui, ”according to the USDOJ.
US lawyer Tracy L Wilkison called Monsanto a “serial violator of federal environmental laws”, saying: “The company has repeatedly violated laws relating to highly regulated chemicals, exposing people to pesticides can cause serious health problems “.
Monsanto maintains, “No adverse health effects associated with the Hawaii business have been reported to the company. “
The company gave details of the corrective actions it is taking to further improve compliance controls. This includes:
- Strengthened company-wide pesticide use procedures, including procedures to ensure that all US sites compare the labels of products in their inventory with the United States. The EPA’s pest control product labeling system, performs additional label comparisons before in-season use, and requires site manager review and approval of pesticide use plans. Monsanto Reaches Deal With U.S. Government To Solve Hawaii Problems
- Implemented a new multi-level approval process in Hawai’i to ensure label compliance for each pesticide. Monsanto has always required applicators to read and comply with these labels, but the new process adds several additional approvals, including by:
- A second pesticide applicator
- The Manager of Integrated Pesticide Management (IPM)
- Agronomy Manager
- Site administration
- Improve training for all Hawaii employees to ensure compliance with applicable laws, including FIFRA and RCRA, and company policies.
- Expand standard operating procedures in Hawaii by adopting a new procedure for
- Entry / Exit Controlled Areas to address situations where a product may have multiple Restricted Entry Interval (REI) depending on the activity and to clarify that the longer duration REI will govern all covered activities.
- The creation of new IPM roles in Hawai’i explicitly focused on overseeing and ensuring compliance, record keeping, equipment operations and consistency across sites. This includes the increased experience and skills required for IPM teams whose members must also be certified by the State of Hawaii.
- Creation of a new internal group of experts at the Hawaii sites to work collaboratively to develop best practices.
“The defendant in this case failed to comply with regulations governing the storage of hazardous waste and the application of pesticides, putting people and the environment at risk,” said Scot Adair, special agent in charge of the program. Hawai’i Environmental Protection Agency law enforcement. “Today’s advocacy agreement shows that the EPA will hold accountable those who violate laws designed to protect communities from exposure to dangerous chemicals.
Mansanto has been operating in Hawaii’s agriculture industry since the 1960s. In 2017, the company reportedly designated 1,500 acres of farmland on O’ahu as Significant Farmland, “ensuring that the land is preserved for production. agricultural activity in perpetuity “. The company also worked collaboratively to help establish the 220-acre agricultural park in Kunia, where local farmers currently grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. The company reports that it has donated more than $ 2 million to community organizations over the past 10 years. “The company continues to place the highest priority on the safety and well-being of its more than 600 employees and the support of local communities,” according to a company statement.
The sentence detailed in today’s court documents is subject to US District Judge J. Michael Seabright’s approval.
This case is the result of an investigation by the US Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division.
* Wendy Osher of Maui Now contributed to this report.