Monsanto to plead guilty to criminal count of spraying banned pesticide

Updated: Nov. 21, 2019 at 3:09 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Monsanto has agreed to plead guilty to illegally using a banned pesticide on Maui research crops, the U.S. Justice Department said.

In court documents, the agribusiness giant agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor offense of unlawfully spraying a banned pesticide ― methyl parathion, the active ingredient in Penncap-M.

The company admitted to using the pesticide on corn seed and research crops at its Maui Valley Farm facility in 2014, even though it knew methyl parathion had been banned by the EPA a year earlier.

Monsanto also said it told employees to go back into the fields seven days after crops were sprayed. The area should have been blocked off for 31 days, the government said.

Under a deal with prosecutors, Monsanto will pay $10 million ― a $6 million criminal fine and $4 million in community service payments to several government agencies.

The company will also pay a fine of $200,000.

Felony charges against the company will be dismissed in two years if it meets the terms of the deal.

“The illegal conduct in this case posed a threat to the environment, surrounding communities and Monsanto workers,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna, in a news release.

“Federal laws and regulations impose a clear duty on every user of regulated and dangerous chemicals to ensure the products are safely stored, transported and used.”

In a statement, Monsanto said in using a banned pesticide the company “did not live up to its own standards or the applicable laws.”

“The health and safety of our community, employees and environment have always been our number one priority,” said Darren Wallis, Bayer vice president of communications for North America.

“We have taken steps to improve internal processes and implemented additional training. We did not live up to our own standards or the law. We accept responsibility and are deeply sorry.”

In court documents, Monsanto also admitted to improperly storing and transporting Penncap-M, a violation of federal law. Monsanto stored 160 pounds of the hazardous waste at a Molokai facility, and 111 gallons at various sites on Maui, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release.

The plea agreement comes as Monsanto faces a mounting number of lawsuits over the potential health effects of its products, and the company’s admissions are certain to add to community concerns.

Just last month, a suit filed on Maui blamed birth defects on chemicals from Monsanto corn fields.

In a statement, the attorney for the families that filed suit say Monsanto’s use of a banned pesticide “illustrates its criminal disregard for the health and safety of its workers.”

“We call on Monsanto to stop its reckless use and storage of toxic pesticides in the vicinity of people’s homes and schools and to provide full public disclosure about its historical use of pesticides.”

This story will be updated.

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