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Monsanto to plead guilty to illegal pesticide use in Hawaiʻi

The sign at Monsanto headquarters in St. Louis.
James Finley
/
AP

The Monsanto agrochemical company will have to pay a total of $22 million for committing more than 30 environmental crimes in Hawaiʻi.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the company agreed to plead guilty for illegally using an ammonium-based pesticide last year on cornfields in Oʻahu.

Monsanto also allowed workers to enter the field during a six-day federally restricted entry time period after the product named Forfeit 280 was sprayed on the fields.

It will have to pay $12 million and serve three years probation.

This is in addition to Monsanto’s guilty plea in 2019 for unlawfully spraying a banned pesticide on Maui in 2014. The company agreed to pay $10 million in that case.

“Monsanto is a serial violator of federal environmental laws,” U.S. Attorney Tracy Wilkison said in a statement. “The company repeatedly violated laws related to highly regulated chemicals, exposing people to pesticides that can cause serious health problems."

Overall, the money will pay a total of $12 million in criminal fines and $10 million to several state agencies and community services.

Monsanto apologized in a statement but said no adverse health effects had been reported to company officials in association with the violations.

“The conduct at issue in the agreement is unacceptable and contrary to the values and policies of the company, and we sincerely regret it,” said Darren Wallis, Monsanto's vice president of communications for North America crop science.

The company said it will change procedures and training.

The Department of Justice statement said Monsanto has agreed that company representatives will appear in court to enter guilty pleas for the offenses “in the near future.”

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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