Monsanto and its parent company Bayer AG have agreed to pay $10.2 million in criminal and civil fines for illegally spraying the highly toxic and banned pesticide Penncap-M on research fields in Maui and Molokai.
The agrochemical company, most known for its signature herbicide Roundup and genetically modified Roundup-resistant crops, also stored Penncap-M on the islands, violating laws prohibiting the storage of an “acute hazardous waste,” the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a Nov. 21 announcement.
Monsanto pleaded guilty to using Penncap-M in Hawaii in 2014 even though the company knew the chemical was banned the previous year. Methyl parathion, the active ingredient in Penncap-M, is a potent neurotoxin that can cause sweating, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest and death even after a brief exposure to the chemical in air or water.
According to the DOJ, Monsanto admitted that after spraying the insecticide, it ordered employees to re-enter the treated field a week later. The company did this even when it knew it should have prohibited workers from entering the treated area for 31 days.
“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.”
Monsanto will pay a $6 million criminal fine and $4 million in community service payments to Hawaiian government agencies, with each receiving $800,000 of the settlement. The DOJ said it will dismiss the criminal felony charges against Monsanto in two years if the company pays the fines and complies with the terms of the settlement agreement.
The company will also pay the maximum possible fine of $200,000 to resolve the misdemeanor offense of spraying fields with Penncap-M.
Monsanto is also on the hook for billions of dollars in damages to cancer sufferers who sued the company alleging exposure to Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate gave them non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a potentially fatal lymphatic cancer. The company has already lost three key lawsuits and faces thousands more.
The company is also sparring with farmers and environmentalists in the Midwest over the use of Dicamba, a pesticide that is known to drift and severely harm non-Dicamba-resistant crops. Arkansas and Missouri banned the sale and use of the pesticide in July 2017 but Monsanto is lobbying hard to make sure the pesticide keeps its U.S. market.
Monsanto also has been and continues to be named in toxic tort lawsuits around the world for its role in unleashing multiple other harmful chemicals into the environment, including agent orange, Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxide.
Beasley Allen is investigating cases involving non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma related to the commercial application of Roundup/glyphosate. For more information or to discuss a possible claim, contact John Tomlinson, Danielle Ingram, Michael Dunphy or Rhon Jones.