This week’s $10 million finding against Monsanto Co. for illegal usage and storage of a banned pesticide is sure to reignite concerns over the handling of powerful pesticides here. And it should, given details of Monsanto’s blatant actions, including:
>> Illegally spraying Penncap-M (active ingredient, methyl parathion) at its Valley Farm facility in Kihei, Maui, in July 2014, even though the pesticide had been banned for use after 2013.
>> Telling employees to re-enter fields seven days after spraying, when they shouldn’t have been allowed to enter for 31 days.
>> Transporting and storing Penncap-M, in violation of federal law, on Maui and at its Molokai facility.
Persistent worries over agribusiness companies’ handling of restricted use pesticides (RUPs) recently spurred two tougher laws here, which went into effect Jan. 1: requiring a more comprehensive annual accounting to the state of all RUP products used, including total quantities and active ingredients for each; and forbidding application of any RUPs within 100 feet of a school property during normal school hours.
Of course, creating laws is one thing; actual adherence to laws is another. Given the state Agriculture Department’s chronic staffing pleas, it’s good to know that other agencies — such as the Environmental Protection Agency in this $10 million Monsanto mea culpa — also work to help keep companies honest.