A well-known pesticide, chemical fertilizer, and lawn and garden products company faces $12.5 million in fines after pleading guilty to illegally applying toxic insecticides to its own wild birdseed products. Scotts Miracle-Gro's toxic birdseed scandal came to light during a Scotts bird food lawsuit charging that company sold 70 million bags of the chemically treated bird food over a two-year period before recalling the product in 2008.
A federal district court issued an unprecedented sentence, mandating that the company pay $4 million in fines and perform community service. The criminal penalty is the largest to date under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). "As the world's largest marketer of residential-use pesticides, Scotts has a special obligation to make certain that it observes the laws governing the sale and use of its products. For having failed to do so, Scotts has been sentenced to pay the largest fine in the history of FIFRA enforcement," says Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. "The Department of Justice will continue to work with EPA to assure that pesticides applied in homes and on lawns and food are sold and used in compliance with the laws intended to assure their safety."
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The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) own investigation found the company applied chemicals known to kill birds on its own birdseed products to deter rodents from damaging the seed while in storage; the company also falsified documents to cover up the illegal activity, in addition to marketing untruthful or inadequate pesticide labels on its products, according to investigators. Part of the $12.5 million penalties includes contributing $500,000 to bird-friendly organizations such as 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.
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You can always take matters into your own hands when it comes to feeding birds in your own backyard. Plant native trees—they'll support a protein buffet for neighborhood and migrating birds!
Doug Tallamy, PhD, professor and chair of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, recommends planting native oaks wherever they'll grow, which is in all but the driest areas of the country. "They support 534 species of caterpillars, which is really important bird food," explains Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. "
Native trees from the Prunus family, such as black cherry, pin cherry, and American plum, support more than 450 caterpillars, while native willows rank a close third. Native blueberries, native poplars (example: cottonwood), and native maples like sugar, red, and Oregon are great choices for caterpillar diversity, too.