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Monsanto Pleads Guilty to Illegal Pesticide Use

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

Last week, Monsanto company agreed to plead guilty for previous charges including illegal pesticide storage on Molokai and using banned pesticides on Maui, along with new charges of knowingly using pesticides inconsistent with its labeling on Oahu, according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Court documents filed last Thursday in United States District Court in Honolulu include a deferred prosecution agreement related to a felony count of unlawfully storing an acute hazardous waste at its Molokai facility in 2013-2014. Monsanto will pay more than $22 million in fines. 

Monsanto admitted to spraying a glufosinate product sold under the brand name Forfeit 28 in 2020 in Haleiwa “a manner inconsistent with its labeling,” according to court documents. Workers entered the fields 30 times less than six days later for “field corn scouting contrary to the restricted-entry interval” on the pesticide’s label. They were charged with 30 counts of misdemeanor crimes. 

Previous charges filed in 2019 involve the use or storage of methyl parathion, the active ingredient in Penncap-M, which was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2013. Monsanto sprayed Penncap-M on corn seed and research crops at its facility in Kihei in 2014.

Even though Monsanto knew its use was prohibited, the company admitted in court documents that in addition to spraying it in 2014, it told employees to re-enter the sprayed fields seven days later – even though workers should have been prohibited from entering the area for 31 days.

From March 2013 through August 2014, even though the pesticide was on the company’s lists of chemicals that needed disposal, Monsanto stored 180 pounds of Penncap-M hazardous waste at its Molokai facility, court documents stated. It was ultimately disposed of with a licensed hazardous waste disposal company in September, 2014. 

Monsanto similarly illegally stored a total of 111 gallons of Penncap-M at three facilities on Maui.

“The illegal conduct in this case posed a threat to the environment, surrounding communities and Monsanto workers,” said United States 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.”

As part of its fines, Monsanto has agreed to make a total of $4 million in community service payments. Five Hawaiian agencies that will each receive $800,000 are: the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, to create and fund a Pesticide Disposal Program and for training and education purposes; the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Maui Division of Aquatic Resources, for its marine programs; the Hawaii Department of Health, Hazardous Waste Branch, for training and education programs; the Hawaii Department of Health, Environmental Management Division, for water quality monitoring, water quality improvements, and training and education purposes; and the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, for clean-up of the island.

“To protect human health and the environment, pesticides must be properly applied and stored,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Jay M. Green 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.”


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