EPA Posts List of Safer Chemical Ingredients for DfE Safer Product Labeling Program

Design for the Environment (DfE):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today posted a List of Safer Chemical Ingredients that contains chemicals that meet stringent criteria applied by the Design for the Environment (DfE) Safer Product Labeling Program. This program recognizes products that are high-performance and cost-effective while using the safest chemical ingredients. At present, more than 2,800 common household and other products carry the DfE Safer Product Label. This list of safer chemical ingredients will help product manufacturers identify chemicals that the DfE program has evaluated and identified as safer alternatives.  This list only includes chemicals in products that were voluntarily submitted for evaluation through the DfE Safer Product Labeling Program. There may be other chemicals not included in this list that are also safer. The list and additional information can be found at http://www.epa.gov/dfe/saferingredients.htm You can contact Bridget Williams in EPA’s DfE Program at 202-564-8558 or by email at williams.bridget@epa.gov for further information.

EPA Undertakes FIFRA Enforcement Initiative Against Companies Selling Alleged Plant Growth Regulators

FIFRA Enforcement:

On September 13, 2012, EPA issued a press release announcing three enforcement actions the agency recently settled against Missouri pesticide distributors under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  EPA alleged the distributors violated FIFRA by selling and distributing unregistered and misbranded pesticides. All three cases involved the sale and distribution of “plant growth regulators,” which are regulated as “pesticides” under FIFRA.  (Readers are forgiven for not knowing that plant growth regulators, several of which are natural and found in seaweed, are pesticides under FIFRA.)  Although the agency’s press release doesn’t mention it, the enforcement actions appear to be part of a broader, “under-the-radar” initiative against companies producing growth regulators, many of which are marketed as “biostimulants” or “fertilizers,” and not “pesticides.”

FIFRA defines plant growth regulators as substances intended to accelerate or retard the growth of plants.  Among other things, substances considered to be plant regulators may include hormone additives intended to stimulate plant root growth or fruiting, such as gibberellins, auxins, and cytokinins derived from seaweed. Products containing these additives are often marketed as fertilizers or biostimulants, but EPA says such claims do not exempt the products from regulation as pesticides.

The three settlements are summarized below, but others are pending within EPA and we suspect the agency is pursuing investigation of still more.

  • On June 14, 2012, FIFRA-07-2012-0015, Mayberry Seed Company of Essex, Missouri, agreed to pay a $17,160 penalty to resolve violations of FIFRA. EPA alleged that Mayberry distributed or sold an unregistered plant growth regulator and fungicide on at least 14 occasions between April 1, 2010, and August 25, 2011.

  • On July 5, 2012, Southeast Cooperative Service Company, Inc., of Advance, Missouri, agreed to pay a $12,000 civil penalty to resolve multiple sales of an unregistered plant growth regulator and fungicide to at least four individuals between April 1, 2010, and August 21, 2010.

  • On Sept. 4, 2012, FIFRA-07-2012-0029, AgXplore International, LLC, of Parma, Missouri, agreed to pay a $237,573 civil penalty to resolve violations of FIFRA, including 212 counts for the sale or distribution between May 7, 2009, and March 25, 2012, of 19 different unregistered pesticide products, including plant regulators, insecticides, and fungicides. AgXplore International, LLC has informed its customers and distributors of its violative products.

Under FIFRA, distributors of pesticides must ensure that pesticides intended for distribution within the U.S. are registered both if the distributor claims the substance can be used as a pesticide or if the product is intended to be used for a pesticidal purpose, including as a plant regulator.

Many plant growth regulator products are properly registered with EPA. Companies which comply with pesticide registration requirements must pay registration fees and may also incur significant costs in ensuring their products are correctly formulated, perform as intended, and are properly labeled. Accordingly, entities which produce, sell or distribute unregistered pesticides place themselves at an economic advantage relative to their competitors who comply with the law.

EPA registration requirements also protect consumers by ensuring that products are formulated in accordance with the product label. Without proper registration and labeling on pesticides (including required safety information), users may unintentionally misapply pesticides and cause damage to crops or non-target areas and may lack adequate first aid information in the event of an accident.

As part of their respective settlements with EPA, each of the three companies has certified that it is presently in compliance with FIFRA and its regulations. 

Stay tuned for future postings regarding this development.

EPA Levies Record-Setting Penalties under FIFRA

FIFRA Enforcement:

On September 7, 2012, EPA and the Department of Justice announced criminal and civil settlements with the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company for alleged violations of  the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), the federal law governing manufacture, distribution, and sale of pesticides.  Scotts produces pesticides for commercial and consumer lawn and garden uses.  The case levied the largest criminal penalty, and the largest civil settlement, ever sought under FIFRA.  According to the EPA’s press release, Scotts had sold more than 70 million units of bird food illegally treated with pesticide that is toxic to birds.   The settlement leaves one asking:  “How did this happen at such a well-known and respected company?”


Scotts was sentenced in federal district court in Columbus, Ohio.   Scotts must pay a $4 million fine and perform community service for eleven criminal violations of FIFRA.   In addition to the $4 million criminal fine, Scotts will contribute $500,000 to organizations that protect bird habitat, including $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.

Scotts pleaded guilty in February 2012 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 the plea agreement, Scotts admitted that it applied the pesticides Actellic 5E and Storcide II to its bird food products even though EPA had prohibited this use.  Scotts purportedly had done so to protect its bird foods from insect infestation during storage.  The company admitted that it used these pesticides contrary to EPA directives and in spite of the warning label appearing on all Storicide II containers stating, “Storcide II is extremely toxic to fish and toxic to birds and other wildlife.” Scotts sold this illegally treated bird food for two years after it began marketing its bird food line and for six months after employees specifically warned Scotts management of the dangers of these pesticides.

Scotts also pleaded guilty to submitting false documents to EPA and to state regulatory agencies in an effort to deceive them into believing that numerous pesticides were registered with EPA when in fact they were not. The company also pleaded guilty to having illegally sold the unregistered pesticides and to marketing pesticides bearing labels containing false and misleading claims not approved by EPA. The falsified documents submitted to EPA and states were attributed to a federal product manager at Scotts.

The criminal case was investigated by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Environmental Enforcement Unit of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation. It was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Jeremy F. Korzenik of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, by Michael J. McClary, EPA Criminal Enforcement Counsel and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney and by Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Marous.


In a separate civil agreement with EPA, Scotts agreed to pay more than $6 million in penalties and spend $2 million on environmental projects to resolves additional civil pesticide violations. The violations include distributing or selling unregistered, canceled, or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions.

At the time the criminal violations were discovered, EPA also began a civil investigation that uncovered numerous civil violations spanning five years. Scotts’ FIFRA civil violations included the nationwide distribution or sale of unregistered, canceled, or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions. As a result, EPA issued more than 40 Stop Sale, Use or Removal Orders to Scotts to address more than 100 pesticide products.

In addition to the $6 million civil penalty, Scotts will complete environmental projects, valued at $2 million, to acquire, restore and protect 300 acres of land to prevent runoff of agricultural chemicals into nearby waterways.

The civil case was investigated by U.S. EPA Region 5’s Land and Chemicals Division and Office of Regional Counsel, and the U.S. EPA Headquarters Office of Civil Enforcement, assisted by the Office of Pesticides Program.

Agency Press Statements

According to EPA’s press release: “The misuse or mislabeling of pesticide products can cause serious illness in humans and be toxic to wildlife,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s sentence and unprecedented civil settlement hold Scotts accountable for widespread company noncompliance with pesticide laws, which put products into the hands of consumers without the proper authorization or warning labels.”

“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,” said 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.”


More information about the civil settlement and recalled products: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/fifra/scottsmiraclegro.html