Monsanto pleads guilty to using banned pesticide on research crop

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LOS ANGELES, Nov 22, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Biotech giant Monsanto on Thursday
agreed to plead guilty to illegally using a banned and highly toxic pesticide
on research crops at one of its facilities on the Hawaiian island of Maui and
to pay $10 million in fines.

The company admitted in court documents filed in US District Court in
Honolulu that it sprayed the pesticide known as Penncap-M on corn seed and
other crops at its Valley Farm facility in 2014, even though it knew the
chemical had been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency the year
before.

“The illegal conduct in this case posed a threat to the environment,
surrounding communities and Monsanto workers,” said Nick Hanna, the United
States Attorney for the Central District of California, whose office handled
the case. “Federal laws and regulations impose a clear duty on every user of
regulated and dangerous chemicals to ensure the products are safely stored,
transported and used.”

The case against Monsanto was brought as the agriculture giant faced a slew
of lawsuits arguing that its Roundup weed killer causes cancer.

Federal prosecutors had initially sought to file felony charges against the
company for illegally spraying Penncap-M, a nerve agent. But they reportedly
agreed to let the company plead to a lesser misdemeanor offense after
Monsanto’s lawyers intervened at the highest levels of the Department of
Justice.

In its guilty plea, Monsanto admitted that after the 2014 spraying, it told
employees to enter the sprayed fields a week later even though it knew the
workers should have been kept from entering the area for 31 days.

The plea calls for Monsanto to pay a $6 million criminal fine and $4
million in community service payments to Hawaiian government entities.

Hanna’s office said the government agreed to dismiss felony charges in two
years if Monsanto abides by the plea agreement.