Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why Squid have been committing mass suicide

From Thousands of squid beached themselves in California in the last week, essentially committing mass suicide. And it’s not an isolated incident. Scientists have been wondering for a long time what makes squid go through these occasional suicide events, and they think they might finally have an answer. The culprit is poisonous algae, which has been intoxicating the squid and causing them to become disoriented so that they come up on shore and die, instead of say, swimming and living, like you’d think they’d prefer. Well, “prefer” is perhaps a strong word given squid cognition, but at any rate most animals like to live. Each time the squid have all collectively bought the farm, there’s been a red tide, an algal bloom where the water gets so full of microorganisms that it turns red. So scientists though maybe there was a connection, and it looks like they’re probably right. It is possible that low levels of a chemical called domoic acid — the thing that makes human beings sick from eating shellfish when there’s a red tide — gets into the squid’s brains and essentially makes them drunk. Domoic acid makes humans develop a sort of amnesia, so this makes sense — since squid don’t really have enough going on in their lives to develop amnesia, they only thing they lose is the ability to distinguish between the depth of water that’s conducive to swimming, and the depth that’s conducive to dying.

Friday, November 30, 2012

"Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?"

From the New York Times By 

The "immortal jellyfish" can transform itself back into a polyp and begin life anew.

After more than 4,000 years — almost since the dawn of recorded time, when Utnapishtim told Gilgamesh that the secret to immortality lay in a coral found on the ocean floor — man finally discovered eternal life in 1988. He found it, in fact, on the ocean floor. The discovery was made unwittingly by Christian Sommer, a German marine-biology student in his early 20s. He was spending the summer in Rapallo, a small city on the Italian Riviera, where exactly one century earlier Friedrich Nietzsche conceived “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”: “Everything goes, everything comes back; eternally rolls the wheel of being. Everything dies, everything blossoms again. . . .”
Sommer was conducting research on hydrozoans, small invertebrates that, depending on their stage in the life cycle, resemble either a jellyfish or a soft coral. Every morning, Sommer went snorkeling in the turquoise water off the cliffs of Portofino. He scanned the ocean floor for hydrozoans, gathering them with plankton nets. Among the hundreds of organisms he collected was a tiny, relatively obscure species known to biologists as Turritopsis dohrnii. Today it is more commonly known as the immortal jellyfish.
Sommer kept his hydrozoans in petri dishes and observed their reproduction habits. After several days he noticed that his Turritopsis dohrnii was behaving in a very peculiar manner, for which he could hypothesize no earthly explanation. Plainly speaking, it refused to die. It appeared to age in reverse, growing younger and younger until it reached its earliest stage of development, at which point it began its life cycle anew.
Sommer was baffled by this development but didn’t immediately grasp its significance. (It was nearly a decade before the word “immortal” was first used to describe the species.) But several biologists in Genoa, fascinated by Sommer’s finding, continued to study the species, and in 1996 they published a paper called “Reversing the Life Cycle.” The scientists described how the species — at any stage of its development — could transform itself back to a polyp, the organism’s earliest stage of life, “thus escaping death and achieving potential immortality.” This finding appeared to debunk the most fundamental law of the natural world — you are born, and then you die.
One of the paper’s authors, Ferdinando Boero, likened the Turritopsis to a butterfly that, instead of dying, turns back into a caterpillar. Another metaphor is a chicken that transforms into an egg, which gives birth to another chicken. The anthropomorphic analogy is that of an old man who grows younger and younger until he is again a fetus. For this reason Turritopsis dohrnii is often referred to as the Benjamin Button jellyfish.
We now know, for instance, that the rejuvenation of Turritopsis dohrnii and some other members of the genus is caused by environmental stress or physical assault. We know that, during rejuvenation, it undergoes cellular transdifferentiation, an unusual process by which one type of cell is converted into another — a skin cell into a nerve cell, for instance. (The same process occurs in humanstem cells.) We also know that, in recent decades, the immortal jellyfish has rapidly spread throughout the world’s oceans in what Maria Pia Miglietta, a biology professor at Notre Dame, calls “a silent invasion.” The jellyfish has been “hitchhiking” on cargo ships that use seawater for ballast. Turritopsis has now been observed not only in the Mediterranean but also off the coasts of Panama, Spain, Florida and Japan. The jellyfish seems able to survive, and proliferate, in every ocean in the world. It is possible to imagine a distant future in which most other species of life are extinct but the ocean will consist overwhelmingly of immortal jellyfish, a great gelatin consciousness everlasting....

The genus, it turns out, is extraordinarily difficult to culture in a laboratory. It requires close attention and an enormous amount of repetitive, tedious labor; even then, it is under only certain favorable conditions, most of which are still unknown to biologists, that a Turritopsis will produce offspring.
In fact there is just one scientist who has been culturing Turritopsis polyps in his lab consistently. He works alone, without major financing or a staff, in a cramped office in Shirahama, a sleepy beach town in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, four hours south of Kyoto. The scientist’s name is Shin Kubota, and he is, for the time being, our best chance for understanding this unique strand of biological immortality....
The world’s only captive population of immortal jellyfish lives in petri dishes arrayed haphazardly on several shelves of a small refrigerator in Kubota’s office. Like most hydrozoans, Turritopsis passes through two main stages of life, polyp and medusa. A polyp resembles a sprig of dill, with spindly stalks that branch and fork and terminate in buds. When these buds swell, they sprout not flowers but medusas. A medusa has a bell-shaped dome and dangling tentacles. Any layperson would identify it as a jellyfish, though it is not the kind you see at the beach. Those belong to a different taxonomic group, Scyphozoa, and tend to spend most of their lives as jellyfish; hydrozoans have briefer medusa phases. An adult medusa produces eggs or sperm, which combine to create larvae that form new polyps. In other hydroid species, the medusa dies after it spawns. A Turritopsis medusa, however, sinks to the bottom of the ocean floor, where its body folds in on itself — assuming the jellyfish equivalent of the fetal position. The bell reabsorbs the tentacles, and then it degenerates further until it becomes a gelatinous blob. Over the course of several days, this blob forms an outer shell. Next it shoots out stolons, which resemble roots. The stolons lengthen and become a polyp. The new polyp produces new medusas, and the process begins again.
Kubota estimates that his menagerie contains at least 100 specimens, about 3 to a petri dish. “They are very tiny,” Kubota, the proud papa, said. “Very cute.” It is cute, the immortal jellyfish. An adult medusa is about the size of a trimmed pinkie fingernail. It trails scores of hairlike tentacles. Medusas found in cooler waters have a bright scarlet bell, but more commonly the medusa is translucent white, its contours so fine that under a microscope it looks like a line drawing. It spends most of its time floating languidly in the water. It’s in no rush...
“The mystery of life is not concealed in the higher animals,” Kubota told me. “It is concealed in the root. And at the root of the Tree of Life is the jellyfish.”  (more)

Red algae closes beaches in Sydney

Dinoflagellates in at Clovelly beach in Sydney Australia

From the Herald Sun:

Red tide of algae strikes 10 more Sydney beaches

The Metropolitan Sydney, South Coast and Hunter Regional Algal Co-ordinating Committees yesterday said they had warned "communities along coastal beaches between Sydney and the Central Coast about algal blooms.
"This bloom has likely occurred as a result of the upwelling of nutrient-rich deep ocean water on to the continental shelf," they said.
"Testing of samples taken from Bondi beach have been identified as noctiluca scintillans, which appears as a pinkish to reddish discolouration in water."
"Upwellings create food sources for the predatory noctiluca scintillans - there's more bacteria and phytoplankton for them to eat," Dr Murray said.
"They live on the surface off the coast and are very buoyant, so they are at the mercy of wind and ocean currents. If you have the right mix they can be concentrated in dense groups and pushed on to the beaches.
"These two algal concentrations - on the northern and eastern beaches - would have come from the same offshore source.
"They aren't toxic but accumulate ammonia because of what they eat, which can be irritating to some people."

"Study Gives New Benchmark for How Much Ice is Melting"

From Climate Central by Michael Lemonick

The vast ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica have begun melting and sliding into the ocean as heat-trapping greenhouse gases continue to build in the atmosphere. How much and how fast the ice is disappearing, however, has been poorly understood, because the satellites that measure it haven’t always agreed. But a report published Thursday in Science has cleared up much of the uncertainty.
A team of no fewer than 47 scientists from 36 laboratories, looking at data from 10 different satellites, has come up with numbers everyone is on board with: between 1992 and 2011, Greenland has lost 152 billion metric tons of ice, while Antarctica has shed 71 billion, contributing 11 millimeters to the rise in sea level over that period — about a fifth of the total (the rest has come from seawater expanding as it warms).

“The new estimates,” lead author Andrew Shepherd, of the University of Leeds, said in a press conference, “are the most reliable to date. They end 20 years of uncertainty.”

The estimates don't change projections about what’s likely to happen for the rest of this century. Scientists’ best estimate is that that the ocean, which has risen an average of 8 inches since 1900, should rise another 3 feet or so by 2100. But without a truly accurate record of how much melting has already occurred, it’s hard to know how good that projection is. It will also be hard to be certain if the melting starts to speed, or slow.
“This [study] provides a nice baseline. It’s really the start of the reliable record,” said co-author Ben Smith, of the University of Washington, at the press conference...
Scientists working on data from all 10 came together, and compared results from exactly the same time periods for exactly the same regions within Antarctica and Greenland. It was somewhat analogous to photographing a scene not with a single camera, but with 10 different cameras looking from 10 different perspectives: you get a much richer picture of what’s going on. 
In particular, Shepherd said, scientists can now start to pinpoint changes in ice region by region, and figure out what’s happening in each place.
For example, the ice sheet in East Antarctica, which holds by far the most ice, is actually growing slightly, because of an increase in snowfall. “That’s consistent with climate warming because you expect more evaporation and therefore more rain and snow,” Shepherd said.
By contrast, the smaller ice sheets in West Antarctic and the Antarctic Peninsula are losing ice more quickly. “In general,” said co-author Ian Joughin of the University of Washington in an interview, “this is due to heat from the ocean. We’re doing lots of work trying to understand the melting going on beneath ice shelves.”

Friday, November 02, 2012

Robert Redford's message

American Determination and Climate Change

I'm so struck with America's human spirit as Hurricane Sandy has left a trail of destruction in its wake, destroying homes and businesses and turning the lives of so many upside down. And yet people remain unbowed -- New Yorkers and New Jerseyans, first responders, hospital workers, National Guard and countless others -- are pulling together, as they always do, in the face of tragedy. And this would be the case whether or not a Presidential election were running in the background.
But elections are, indeed, running in the background of this human consequence and the inspiration we are seeing from countless citizens is exactly the kind of determination and collective responsibility we're going to need to fight climate change -- the force that super-charged this "superstorm." It will take resourcefulness and grit to reduce the carbon pollution that's fueling these storms, but Hurricane Sandy proves once again we have it.
The question is: Will we use it?
Many lawmakers and fossil fuel companies don't want us to unleash America's ingenuity on the problem of climate change. Oil, gas, and coal companies have spent more than $150 million on campaign ads in this election, and their talking points are echoed on the campaign trail.
Nearly every contender for the GOP's presidential nomination denied climate change and called for more dirty fuels. Mitt Romney -- who supported climate action when he was governor of Massachusetts -- has joined the crowd. At the Republican National Convention, he mocked President Obama's promise to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.
Romney's comment drew laughs in the conventional hall. But there was nothing funny about being in New York or New Jersey when Hurricane Sandy's storm surge breeched seawalls and swamped entire neighborhoods. This is what I find so troubling about climate deniers. By ignoring the scientific facts, they dishonor the human suffering brought on by climate change....
 We know how to power our economy with clean, renewable energy that doesn't run out and doesn't pollute. President Obama has presided over the largest increase in renewable energy in our nation's history. He has also issued new fuel economy standards that will cut carbon emissions from new cars in half and save drivers $1.7 trillion at the pump.

On Thursday, New York Mayor Bloomberg endorsed Obama, citing Hurricane Sandy, climate change, and the need for presidential leadership. Governor Romney, meanwhile, opposes those standards and wants to end wind incentives. If he becomes president, no doubt we can expect a surge in fossil fuels pollution and more climate paralysis....
I put my faith in young people to be a driving force in answering this challenge and maybe demanding that the childishness around climate change in Washington stop, immediately. They know their generation will pay the price if America doesn't start confronting climate change now.

Superstorm Sandy Crashes Ashore

The disaster was also made worse because of the full moon high tide.

Essentially the NYC area got to see what rising sea levels will look like for the area. It is likely Sandy will be what it takes to get people moving on at least protecting the city. Perhaps we will see more movement on reducing emissions & alternative energy. Let's hope so. We are long past due.

ABC Synopsis :
Ferocious superstorm Sandy barrelled into the East Coast this evening, driving a record storm surge that flooded coastal areas from Delaware to Connecticut, and knocking out power to millions of people from New York City to Ohio. 
The center of the storm made landfall just south of Atlantic City, N.J., around 8 p.m., shortly after it had been downgraded from a hurricane to a post-tropical storm. But the lowering in status was no reflection of the power the storm still packed. 
It brought with it a record 13.88-foot storm surge at the southern tip of Manhattan, breaking the mark of 10.02 feet set in 1960's Hurricane Donna. 
Shortly after the storm surge began flooding into lower Manhattan, the lights started going off throughout that part of the city. By 11 p.m., some 250,000 customers were without power, as nearly a quarter of the borough was in the dark. 
With the high winds and pounding rains that lashed much of the eastern United States, there were blackouts from downed trees and flooding throughout the region.
There were an estimated 2.5 million customers without power in the New York metropolitan area alone. 
Hours before Sandy's arrival on land, power was being cut to New York City's financial district amd most of Atlantic City was already under several feet of water as waves crashed over the sea wall, spitting up chunks of the famed boardwalk. 
Power went out in much of lower Manhattan as water poured over the seawalls. Storm surge combined with the high tide, caused a breach the led to flooding on both the east and west sides of the island. 
High winds crippled a crane atop a skyscraper, leaving it dangling ominously above the city, tore branches from trees and ripped fixtures from skyscrapers, making walking the city's darkened streets like a scene from a video game... 
Sandy was packing top winds of 80 mph and waves are approaching 20 feet off the coast of Long Island and have exceeded 30 feet off the coast of the Carolinas, according to the National Hurricane Center. 
The turbulent weather has brought much of the region's transportation to a halt. Paralyzed airports have stranded people all over the country. Over 10,000 flights have been cancelled so far, according to Flight Aware. It is grounding planes throughout Europe since they can't land at their U.S. destinations.

Hurricane Sandy and Global Warming

bloomberg businessweek sandy

It's nice that there are some business people who can acknowledge the truth.

From the Bloomberg article
The broadening consensus: “Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms. For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us.” Even those of us who are science-phobic can get the gist of that.
Sandy featured a scary extra twist implicating climate change. An Atlantic hurricane moving up the East Coast crashed into cold air dipping south from Canada. The collision supercharged the storm’s energy level and extended its geographical reach. Pushing that cold air south was an atmospheric pattern, known as a blocking high, above the Arctic Ocean. Climate scientists Charles Greene and Bruce Monger of Cornell University, writing earlier this year in Oceanography, provided evidence that Arctic icemelts linked to global warming contribute to the very atmospheric pattern that sent the frigid burst down across Canada and the eastern U.S.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (founder of the Bloomberg Businessweek) endorsed Obama, following the Hurricane, because (among other things) Obama at least does not go around denying and mocking Global Warming. Some of us have been disappointed that he has not made it more of an issue. I assume he must be under threat of retaliation from Big OIl or something. Why else not speak out? It's the major issue of our time.

The Economist also endorses Obama - at least partly because Romney flip-flops too much.

(Steve) Forbes magazine and the Wall Street Journal continue to deny, deny, deny global warming. Forbes article following Sandy was, 

"Leave It To The Global Warming Alarmists To "Make Fake Lemonade" Out Of Hurricane Sandy"
AT SEA - OCTOBER 28: In this handout satellite...
(NOAA), Hurricane Sandy, October 28, 2012 

The Denialists say, 

"Sorry Global Warming Alarmists, The Earth Is Cooling"
"That is one of the most interesting conclusions to come out of the seventh International Climate Change Conference sponsored by the Heartland Institute..."  Conference held in May 2012 - Chicago
Not that they have any evidence - they just say that - to confuse people, to create the appearance of a debate. The Heartland Institute promotes something it calls, "Free Market Environmentalism."

"The Heartland Institute and its ilk are not trying to build a theory of anything. They have set the bar much lower, and are happy muddying the waters." Nature 7/2011

Hurricane Sandy hit home for a lot of people - what with putting lower Manhattan out of commission. Flooding, subways shut down, power out - on Wall Street, no less.

PHOTO: Lower Manhattan dark

(Bebeto Matthews/AP Photo)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Bhutan Pledges to be First 100% Organic Nation

Good for them! :)

From CommonDreams:

The small nation of Bhutan, nestled in the Himalayas between China and India, is committed to becoming the first "hundred percent organic" nation.

Farmers in Bhutan hope to be 100 percent organic in ten years. Photo by *christopher* via flickrAt the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June, Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley announced that his government is developing a National Organic Policy and a plan to convert 100% of his nation's agricultural land to organic farms. The policy's goal is to phase out artificial chemicals in farming over the next 10 years.
"Bhutan has decided to go for a green economy in light of the tremendous pressure we are exerting on the planet," Agriculture Minister Pema Gyamtsho toldthe Agence France-Presse. "If you go for very intensive agriculture it would imply the use of so many chemicals, which is not in keeping with our belief in Buddhism, which calls for us to live in harmony with nature."
The Himilayan kingdom of 700,000 became a pioneer in 1972 when Bhutan's fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck coined the term "Gross National Happiness" and announced that the nation would measure their success based on well-being and other Buddhist spiritual values rather than economic measures. This value rating has been publicly embraced by the United Nations and other countries worldwide. Other measures Bhutan has taken to ensure their quality of life include banning television until 1999 and deterring mass tourism to protect its culture from foreign influence.
According to Gyamtsho, Bhutan's chemical use is already "very low" by international standards. He explained, "only farmers in areas that are accessible by roads or have easy transport have access to chemicals." The majority of farmers are already organic and rely on rotting leaves or compost as a natural fertilizer. Two-thirds of the country depend on farming the nation's 7.8 percent arable which is peppered among the plains in the south and the Himalayan peaks to the north.
The Prime Minister is employing a step-by-step strategy to going organic: "We have identified crops for which we can go organic immediately and certain crops for which we will have to phase out the use of chemicals, for rice in certain valleys for example." Staple food exports include of wheat, exotic mushrooms, red rice, potatoes and fruits.

Gyamtsho released a report (pdf) explaining that the organic program is not just about protecting the environment. It will also train farmers in new methods that will help them grow more food and, consequently, move the country closer to self-sufficiency. Bhutan has sent a number of farmers to India to study at Vanadana Shiva's organic training farm and has invited consultants from the farm to help educate locals so they can help other Bhutanese farmers transition to organic.
The Prime Minister had said in his speech that his goal is for the 'Raised in Bhutan' label to be "synonymous with 'organically grown.'" In addition to the obvious ecological benefits, the Bhutan Observer notes that the hope is for the program is to "pursue organic farming as the finest recourse to alleviate rural poverty in the country."
There is a growing market for organic goods in neighboring countries, like India, with a growing middle class. Nadia Scialabba, global specialist on organic farming at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, told the AFP that this trend is "happening in very small countries who are not competitive on quantity, but they would like to be competitive in quality."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"‘Astonishing’ Ice Melt May Lead to More Extreme Winters"

From Climate Central:

The record loss of Arctic sea ice this summer will echo throughout the weather patterns affecting the U.S. and Europe this winter, climate scientists said on Wednesday, since added heat in the Arctic influences the jet stream and may make extreme weather and climate events more likely.

The “astounding” loss of sea ice this year is adding a huge amount of heat to the Arctic Ocean and the atmosphere, said Jennifer Francis, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “It’s like having a new energy source for the atmosphere.” Francis was one of three scientists on a conference call Wednesday to discuss the ramifications of sea ice loss for areas outside the Arctic. The call was hosted by Climate Nexus.

The extent of Arctic sea ice on Aug. 26, 2012, the day the sea ice dipped to its smallest extent ever recorded in more than three decades of satellite measurements. The line on the image shows the average minimum extent from the period covering 1979-2010. Click on the image for a larger version. Credit: NASA/JPL.On August 26, Arctic sea ice extent broke the record low set in 2007, and it has continued to decline since, dropping below 1.5 million square miles. That represents a 45 percent reduction in the area covered by sea ice compared to the 1980s and 1990s, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), and may be unprecedented in human history. The extent of sea ice that melted so far this year is equivalent to the size of Canada and Alaska combined.
The loss of sea ice initiates a feedback loop known as Arctic amplification. As sea ice melts, it exposes darker ocean waters to incoming solar radiation. The ocean then absorbs far more energy than had been the case when the brightly colored sea ice was present, and this increases water and air temperatures, thereby melting even more sea ice.
Peter Wadhams, the head of the polar ocean physics group at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., told BBC News on September 6 that the added heat from sea ice loss is equivalent to the warming from 20 years of carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas that is causing manmade global warming.
During the fall, when the sun sets once again and the Arctic Ocean begins to refreeze, the heat in the ocean gets released back into the atmosphere. Since the jet stream, which is a corridor of strong winds at upper levels of the atmosphere that generally blows from west to east across the northern mid-latitudes, is powered by the temperature difference between the Arctic and areas farther south, any alteration of that temperature difference is bound to alter the jet stream — with potentially profound implications. It just so happens that the jet stream steers day-to-day weather systems.
Francis published a study last year in which she showed that Arctic warming might already be causing the jet stream to become more amplified in a north-south direction. In other words, the fall and winter jet stream may be getting wavier. A more topsy-turvy jet stream can yield more extreme weather events, Francis said, because weather and climate extremes are often associated with large undulations in the jet stream that can take a long time to dissipate.
While there are indications that the jet stream is slowing and may be more prone to making huge dips, or “troughs,” scientists have a limited ability to pinpoint how this will play out in the coming winter season.
“The locations of those waves really depends on other factors,” Francis said, such as El NiƱo and a natural climate pattern known as the Arctic Oscillation. “I can only say that it’s probably going to be a very interesting winter,” she said.
Francis’ work has linked Arctic warming to the unusually cold and snowy winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11, during which the U.S. East Coast and parts of Europe were pummeled by fierce winter storms and experienced cooler-than-average conditions. The winter of 2011-12 was much milder, by comparison, but Francis said it, too, was consistent with her research. Not all meteorologists agree on the Arctic connection theory, but that may change with time.
Jim Overland, an oceanographer at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, said the inconsistency of the past three winters doesn’t mean the Arctic connection hypothesis is invalid.
“People like direct causality, [the notion that] if you lose the ice every year it will cause the same effect,” Overland said. But the chaotic nature of the atmosphere means that all that scientists can say with a high degree of confidence is that “the number of [extreme] events somewhere are destined to increase” as a result of rapid Arctic climate change, Overland said.

"Scotts Miracle-Gro to Pay Record Fines for Poisoning Birds and Selling Illegal Pesticides"

By Mike LudwigTruthout | Report

Tainted, mislabeled pesticides added to the company's wild bird seed resulted in countless wildlife deaths, massive product recalls and unprecedented civil and criminal penalties.  

America's leading lawn care company is in big trouble for potentially poisoning wild birds across the country, and lying to the government and consumers about pesticide products.

Before a voluntary recall in 2008, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company sold 70 million units of wild bird feed that was illegally treated with an insecticide that is dangerously toxic to wild birds, fish and other wildlife. The Marysville, Ohio-based company must now pay $12.5 million in criminal and civil penalties that regulators say are the heftiest ever issued under federal pesticide law.

It's practically impossible to quantify how many wild birds and other wildlife were impacted by Scotts' crimes against nature, but a federal court in Ohio fined the company $4 million, plus $500,000 worth of environmental community service, after Scotts pleaded guilty to distributing the poisonous bird feed and other crimes involving mislabeled and unregistered pesticides.

In a separate civil agreement with the EPA, which launched a civil investigation after the criminal violations were discovered, Scotts agreed to pay $6 million in fines and donate $2 million to environmental projects. Regulators also are touting this settlement as the largest in the history of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which has regulated pesticides since 1947.

Scotts plead guilty to selling consumers wild bird feed that was poisonous to birds, along with deceiving regulators by falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distributing unregistered pesticides. Misuse and mislabeling of pesticides can cause illness in humans and kill wildlife, and as a result of the settlement, a "significant number" of potentially harmful pesticides will be removed from the market, according to the EPA...

Scotts added the pesticides Storcide II and Actellic 5E to the wild bird feed to prevent insect infestations while the product was in storage, but the company apparently ignored the warning label on Storcide II that specifically states the pesticide is toxic to birds, fish and other wildlife. Scotts sold the tainted bird feed for two years after it began marketing the product, and for six months after company employees alerted management to the danger posed by the pesticides, according to the EPA.
Scotts also pleaded guilty to submitting falsified documents to the EPA and state regulatory agencies in an effort to deceive regulators into believing that the chemical formulas were registered with the EPA, when they were not...

As the criminal violations came to light, the EPA launched a review of Scotts' pesticide registrations that uncovered a list of civil violations. For at least five years, Scotts had made nationwide sales of canceled, unregistered and misbranded pesticide products, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions on their labels...

EPA regional spokesperson Josh Singer told Truthout that, during the civil investigation, Scotts complied with 40 orders to stop the sale of more than 100 Scotts products that were in violation of federal law. Scotts also paid a third-party reviewer to check the compliance status of the company's products, and shared that information with the government.

Here's a list of Scotts products involved in the EPA settlement:
• Banrot Broad Spectrum Fungicide 40 percent Wettable Powder),
• Basics Solutions Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate
• Brush-B-Gon Poison Ivy & Poison Oak Killer
• Contrast 70 WSP
• Duosan WSB Wettable Powder Turf and Ornamental Fungicide
• ORTHO Bug-B-Gon MAX Lawn & Garden Insect Killer Ready-To-Spray ORTHO Bug B Gon MAX Lawn & Garden Insect Killer Concentrate ORTHO Bug-B-Gon Multi-Purpose Insect Killer Ready-To-Use Granules (aka Ortho Bug B Gon Lawn & Soil Insect Killer with Grub Control
• ORTHO Home Defense Max (aka Ortho Home Defense Indoor and Outdoor Insect Killer)
• ORTHO Malathion 50 Insect Spray
• ORTHO Orthonex Insect & Disease Control Formula III Concentrate
• ORTHO ProSelect Roach, Ant & Spider Killer
• ORTHO Weed B Gon Weed Killer for Lawns Concentrate Total Kill Lawn Weed Killer (aka Weed-Be-Gon Spot Weed Killer and Basic Solutions Lawn Weed Killer)