Monsanto stung with highest ever civil penalty for GM misbranding
Agribusiness giant Monsanto is to pay a multi-million dollar penalty for misbranding violations relating to genetically engineered pesticides.
The Missouri-based company has agreed to pay a record $2.5 million (£1.7 million) for violations linked to the sale and distribution of cotton seed products.
The figure is the highest civil penalty ever under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said: "This agreement shows that when a company violates the law by distributing misbranded pesticides, EPA will take action."
"The regulated community should understand that we take these violations seriously, and the public will accept nothing less than compliance."
Monsanto cotton seed products Bollgard and Bollgard II are genetically engineered to contain pesticides known as plant incorporated protectants (PIPs), which are registered under FIFRA.
As a condition of the registrations, EPA included planting restrictions on Bollgard and Bollgard II to protect against pets becoming resistant to them.
These restrictions banned planting of the cotton seed in 10 Texas counties.
Monsanto was required to control the sale and distribution of the cotton seed by including information on the planting restrictions in its labelling and grower guides.
In 2007, Monsanto told the EPA that it had in fact distributed misbranded Bollgard and Bollgard II cotton seed to customers in the Texas counties where EPA had restricted its planting.
The EPA investigation showed between 2002 and 2007 the company distributed or sold the cotton products more than 1,700 times nationwide without the planting restrictions in its grower guides that came with the seeds and that the cotton was planted in the restricted counties.
Steve Owens, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said: "People who manufacture and distribute pesticide products must follow the federal registration requirements.
"These requirements are critical to preventing the development and spread of insect resistance."