Monsanto Pleads Guilty in Two Pesticide Cases, Could Face At Least $7M Fine

Agrochemical company Monsanto agreed to plead guilty in two cases for its “unlawful storage of an acute hazardous waste” and “knowingly using a pesticide inconsistent with its labeling.”

Specifically, Monsanto was accused of storing Penncap-M, a restricted-use pesticide, despite the Environmental Protection Agency cancelling all registrations for the pesticide in 2010 and banning all sales and distribution as well as the use of existing stocks in 2013. However, according to documentation, Monsanto stored 180 pounds of the Penncap-M hazardous waste, more than the allowed one kilogram (2.2 pounds), in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. In total, in October 2014, Monsanto disposed of approximately 2,250 pounds of hazardous and other waste, including Penncap-M.

Additionally, according to documents, Monsanto knowingly used the registered pesticide LPI Glufosinate 280 also known under the brand name Forfeit 280 in a way that is inconsistent with its labeling on corn fields and had workers enter the fields less than six days after the spray, which is “contrary to the restricted-entry interval.”

The guilty plea agreement between Monsanto Company and the United States Attorney’s Office was filed in the District of Hawaii last Thursday.

Pursuant to the agreement, Monsanto will plead guilty to felony counts 1 and 2 in United States v. Monsanto Company for its “unlawful storage of acute hazardous waste,” which violates  42 U.S.C. § 6928(d)(2)(A). Monsanto must also plead guilty to the 30-count information that charges Monsanto with “knowingly using a pesticide inconsistent with its label,” which violates 7 U.S.C. §§ 136j(a)(2)(G) and 136l (b)(1)(A).

The agreement is binding to Monsanto Company and related entities, such as Monsanto Technology LLC, Bayer Production Supply LLC, Monsanto Production Supply LLC and their subsidiaries. Monsanto is required to provide the government with any business changes, such as a business reorganization; sale, purchase, or divestiture of assets; or name change, among other things.

The filing noted that the 2019 charges for felony counts 1 and 2 for the unlawful hazardous waste storage means that Monsanto “knowingly stored more than one kilogram of an acute hazardous waste,” “knew that the material had the substantial potential to be harmful to others or to the environment” and that it did “not have a permit or interim status.” Furthermore, the charge that Monsanto is guilty of the 30-count misdemeanor offense of knowingly using a pesticide that is not consistent with its labeling means that Monsanto “was a registrant” and “knowingly used a registered pesticide inconsistent with its labeling.”

In sum, the maximum sentence Monsanto could face for all 32 counts (2 felony counts and 30-count misdemeanor) is 10 years’ probation; a $7 million fine or “twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greatest”; and a $4,550 mandatory special assessment.

As stated in the agreement, if Monsanto holds any regulatory licenses or permits, they could be suspended or revoked because of the offenses in this case.

The arraignment and guilty plea are set for January 6, 2022 to be held before Chief Judge J. Michael Seabright.

Monsanto is represented by Latham & Watkins LLP and Carlsmith Ball LLP.