Monsanto admits to illegal use of pesticides on Maui
Monsanto Co. has agreed to plead guilty to using a banned pesticide on corn seed and research crops at its Valley Farm facility in Kihei, Maui.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
Monsanto Co. has agreed to plead guilty to using a banned pesticide on corn seed and research crops at its Valley Farm facility in Kihei, Maui, and will pay $10 million for illegally storing the chemical on Maui and Molokai.
The company will plead guilty to one misdemeanor count for illegally spraying Penncap-M, whose active ingredient is methyl parathion, at its Maui facility in July 2014, according to court documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Honolulu. Use of the pesticide was prohibited after December 2013 by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The company also admitted that it told employees to reenter the fields seven days after the spraying, even though the product required a 31-day waiting period, according to a news release from the Department of Justice. The legal agreement makes no mention of remedy or compensation to the employees involved.
In addition to the guilty plea in connection with the spraying, Monsanto admitted to transporting and storing the pesticide in violation of federal law on Maui and at its facility in Kaunakakai, Molokai.
“The illegal conduct in this case posed a threat to the environment, surrounding communities and Monsanto workers,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. “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.”
Under a deferred prosecution agreement for two felony counts of unlawfully storing an acute hazardous waste, the company will pay a $6 million criminal fine and $4 million in community service payments to several Hawaii government entities.
Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company that acquired Monsanto in 2018, issued a statement Thursday acknowledging that it fell short of its own standards as well as the law.
“As stewards of the land, it is our responsibility to use agriculture products safely and to manage our waste correctly,” said Darren Wallis, Bayer’s vice president of communications in North America. “We take this very seriously and accept full responsibility for our actions.”
The $4 million community service payments will be divided among five Hawaii state agencies, each of which will receive $800,000:
>> Department of Agriculture, to create and fund a Pesticide Disposal Program and for training and education.
>> Department of Land and Natural Resources, Maui Division of Aquatic Resources, for use in its marine programs.
>> Department of Health, Environmental Management Division, for water quality monitoring, water quality improvement, training and education.
>> Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, for use in the cleanup of the island.
Under the deferred prosecution agreement, the felony charges will be dismissed in two years as long as Monsanto makes the payments and maintains a comprehensive environmental compliance program at all its Hawaii facilities. That includes hiring an experienced environmental compliance auditor that is not affiliated with the company to conduct audits every six months.
The company will also be on probation for two years in connection with the misdemeanor guilty plea and will pay an additional $200,000 fine, the maximum possible for that offense.
U.S. attorneys in Los Angeles handled the case after their counterparts in Honolulu were recused. The case followed an investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In a statement of facts filed in court, Monsanto admitted it stored 160 pounds of Penncap-M hazardous waste at its Molokai facility from March 2013 through August 2014, and 111 gallons of Penncap-M hazardous waste at Valley Farm and its Maalaea and Piilani sites in July 2014. The company also violated federal law by failing to identify the hazardous material when it brought Penncap-M to its Valley Farm site.
In October 2014 Monsanto disposed of Penncap-M and other waste using a licensed hazardous waste disposal company.
“To protect human health and the environment, pesticides must be properly applied and stored,” said Jay M. Green, special agent-in-charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Hawaii. “EPA will continue to work in close partnership with our state and local counterparts to bring cases against those who knowingly threaten the health and safety of Hawaiian communities.”
Janelle Saneishi, spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture, said officials needed to review the legal agreement before offering any comment. Other state agencies did not respond to requests for comment late Thursday.
Monsanto Legal Docs 11:21:2019 by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd