According to a release from the Environmental Protection Agency, Scotts Miracle-Gro was sentenced today to pay the highest criminal penalty and the highest civil penalty in the history of the federal pesticide program for eleven criminal violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act "(FIFRA"). Scotts pleaded guilty to "illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products that are toxic to birds, falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distributing unregistered pesticides."

In addition to paying a criminal penalty of $4 million, Scotts agreed to pay more than $6 million in civil penalties and spend $2 million on environmental projects to resolves additional civil pesticide violations. EPA said the penalties were appropriate for the "widespread company noncompliance with pesticide laws."

How does this happen? Scott's is the worlds largest marketer of residential pesticides, who you would think as a corporation would want to protect its reputation. However, Scott's admitted to applying a pesticide to its bird food products during storage even though the warning label stated the pesticide was "extremely toxic to fish and toxic to birds and other wildlife.” The illegally treated bird seed was sold for two years, even six months after an employee warned management of the dangers to wildlife.

Aside from the fact that they were caught, the only good news is that Scott's is contributing $100,000 each to the Ohio Audubon’s Important Bird Area Program, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Urban Forestry Program, the Columbus Metro-Parks Bird Habitat Enhancement Program, the Cornell University Ornithology Laboratory, and The Nature Conservancy of Ohio to support the protection of bird populations and habitats through conservation, research, and education.

The existence of "widespread company noncompliance" in the country's major marketer of residential pesticides gives pause. What level of million dollar penalties is needed for it to become economically advantageous to follow the law?