Scotts/Miracle Grow Fined 4.5 Million for Toxic Bird Seed

Well, it’s kind of old news by now but I wanted to include some info about it here, not only for my own record-keeping purposes but also to let anyone who hasn’t heard about this know.

I first read about the National Wildlife Federation’s plan to partner up with Scotts-Miracle Gro on Margaret Roach’s blog, A Way To Garden, in late January.

Naturally, (no pun intended – really) gardeners across the country were up in arms (to put it mildly) at the thought of the NWF, who claims to  “protect and defend wildlife and the wild places they need to survive” getting into bed with the toxic nightmare that is Scotts.

Petitions were circled and gardeners and environmentalists helped get the word out.

The idea that the NWF, of all organizations, could team up with the corporation behind Miracle Gro and other harmful “lawn care products” just felt like a total sellout and a complete betrayal on NWF’s part.  These two companies couldn’t be more diametrically opposed in their ethics, missions, and purposes.  How the NWF could even consider this is beyond me.  It really frightens me to think that so many things seem to go the way of big business at the risk of sacrificing the standards and ideals they supposedly uphold!

Many garden bloggers proudly display the “Certified Wildlife Habitat” badge sponsored by the NWF.  These folks have put thought and effort into creating a backyard habitat that protects, nurtures, and provides for wildlife.  Several of them vowed to remove those badges and signs should this partnership go through.

A few days ago I learned from Dave over at Our Happy Acres that the deal is off…and WHY.

It turns out Scotts was just fined 4.5 million buckaroos for selling chemically treated bird seed – KNOWINGLY selling toxic bird seed, that is.

According to this article, Scotts has “pleaded guilty to charges that it sold 73 MILLION UNITS of tainted bird seed from 2005 to 2008. According to an article in today’s Columbus, Ohio, newspaper, the company continued to sell the bird seed “despite warnings in the summer and fall of 2007 from a pesticide chemist and an ornithologist, both of whom worked for the company.”

Horrific.  Utterly horrific.    The article goes on to say:  “The company, many folks believe, must have known this ruling in federal court was coming down for several months. The timing of the sponsorship with the National Wildlife Federation, announced by NWF on Jan. 18, was clearly designed to draw attention away from what is believed to be the largest fine ever levied on a pesticide company.”

I’m glad they’ve been called out on it, and I’m glad the deal with NWF is off.  It’s just truly a shame this had to happen at all…chemically treated food for wildlife…the NWF considering such a partnership in the first place…I’m hoping they’ll get such an earful about this from their membership / the public that they’ll keep their priorities straight and forget the idea of teaming up with the likes of Scotts anytime in the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to create safe habitats for all sorts of wildlife in your own backyard, Donna over at Garden’s Eye View has included some information and helpful links mid-way through this post.

As always, spread the word.  A lot of gardeners out there might be aware of the harmful “gardening” products that Scotts makes, but there are plenty of people who don’t garden but feed birds and other wildlife that should know about them!

16 thoughts on “Scotts/Miracle Grow Fined 4.5 Million for Toxic Bird Seed

  1. Aimee thanks for the shout out and for keeping everyone informed. Being part of the blogging team at Beautiful Wildlife Gardens has kept me informed on this and the BWG blog and their sister blog Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens are a great resource for this topic and building a wildlife habitat in your garden…

  2. So most of my container gardens are filled with Scott’s potting soil, and most of my seeds are started in it too. I’ve tried a wide variety of potting soils, and had the best luck with Scott’s Miracle Grow Moisture control. What’s a good alternative? Peat moss isn’t a sustainable resource, and doesn’t wet well for me. What do other people use for potted plants and seed starting?

    • That is such a great question…worthy of a whole separate post, actually, to see what other people use! I’d love to know!

      I use Fafard’s potting mix because it is chemical / fertilizer-free, and because I can buy large bags of it at the closest garden center. Last year I mixed it with some of my own compost (roughly 50/50 mix/compost) before filling pots. I also had a bag of perlite on hand to add for good drainage. Fafard’s does contain peat, though, so if you’re trying to avoid peat altogether it might not be your best bet.

      Last year I picked up a coir brick to try this year in place of peat. It’s a coconut shell product, compacted into a brick that will evidently expand when wet and can be added to potting mixes. It was really cheap. We’ll see how it works this year!

      When you use a mix that doesn’t have a chemical fertilizer built-in, you’ll usually need to give the plants some food as they grow. Bone meal, seaweed or fish emulsion are great places to start.

      Dr. Earth, Happy Frog, and Roots Organic are all potting mixes that are sterilized and chemical-free. I’d love to try them, but no one near me sells them and I’m trying to avoid shipping.

      I’d say look at other brands that your nursery / garden center sells and check out the ingredient list, just to make sure there are no chemical fertilizers. Scotts-Miracle Grow actually makes an ORGANIC potting soil mix, although I don’t know how that’s really possible, and purchasing it still sends money to Scotts.

      This is really such a great question – can anyone else weigh in here?

  3. I’ve been reading about this. I hadn’t read, however, that Scotts kept selling the birdseed over such a length of time despite warnings from their staff. Utterly shameful. I am still in disbelief over that as well as the fact that NWF wanted to partner with such an obviously non-wildlife friendly company.
    Great article.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Indie! What a coincidence that you just recently posted about feeding the birds in your yard! (good luck with those starlings!) Yes, this whole thing is shameful indeed. Inexcusable. Spread the word!

  4. God, I didn’t know this. I wonder how many birds are dead or sick from this toxic food. Thing is, many conventional foods are probably equally as toxic to humans as well as livestock, wild animals, our water supplies, and the air. Most people people don’t seem to care about the health effects from industrial agriculture, but when they hear about little birds dying, they get all up in arms. Why is there such a double standard?

    • Good point. A lot of people were really upset with NWF for even having considered partnering with Scotts (on top of being really upset with Scott’s latest move.)

      I agree that food safety issues are not on everyone’s radar, but I hope that’s starting to change as more and more people educate themselves and others.

      Maybe something like this NWF / Scotts thing is a way in for some people to make the connection between their own food supply and where it comes from, etc. I’d like to hope so, anyway.

      It’s unfortunate that more people don’t take their health / the health of our food seriously, but you’re also talking to a total animal lover here, so it does burn me up that Scotts (or any company) would knowingly poison them and that the NWF contemplated a union with them.

      But your point is well taken – huge industrial agriculture corporations knowingly poison us and the government partners up with them. Hopefully more people are starting to realize it.

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