“Serial violator” of environmental laws Monsanto will plead guilty to illegal use of pesticides in Hawaii
Court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii reveal that Monsanto has agreed to plead guilty to 30 environmental crimes, the Associated Press reports. The American agrochemical and biotech corporation allegedly let workers enter an area of corn fields in Oahu that had been recently sprayed with Forfeit 280.
This admission constitutes violation of federal law, which prohibits entry into areas sprayed with the glufosinate aluminum-based product for a period of six days after the application. On 30 occasions, Monsanto disregarded the restricted-entry interval (REI), which was extended from the original 12-hour period in 2016 for all products with glufosinate aluminum ingredients. Workers entered the fields to conduct “corn scouting,” despite the government imposed REI.
Per the court filing, Monsanto also says it will plead guilty to two felony crimes involving storing banned pesticides. The chemicals were the subject of a 2019 Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Central District of California. Had Monsanto complied with federal law, the two charges related to the illegal storage of hazardous chemicals would have been dismissed, the release states.
In 2019, the company pleaded guilty to unlawfully spraying methyl parathion—the banned, active ingredient in Penncap-M—on research crops at the company’s Valley Farm facility in Kihei, Hawaii, in 2014 (United States v. Monsanto Company). This action violated the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2013 cancellation order, issued in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The EPA is authorized to cancel a pesticide registration when the chemical’s use presents unacceptable risks that registrants fail to address.
On top of this violation, Monsanto sent workers into the sprayed fields seven days after the application, rather than waiting the required 31 days to enter.
Penncap-M was a restricted use pesticide. Monsanto knew the chemical needed disposal but proceeded to store 160 pounds of the chemical at a Molokai facility. According to the Department of Justice press release, this action qualified the company as a “Large Quantity Generator” of hazardous waste.
Monsanto’s actions related to the DPA and prior guilty pleas cost the company $10.2 million in fines and community service payments to various entities in the Hawaiian government.
The most recent plea agreement cost the company a criminal fine of $6 million, plus additional community service payments totaling $6 million.
U.S. Attorney Tracy Wilkison released a statement in which she referred to Monsanto as a “serial violator of federal environmental laws,” adding that, “The company repeatedly violated laws related to highly regulated chemicals, exposing people to pesticides that can cause serious health problems.”