Former EPA head joins Scotts Miracle-Gro board | Pesticide Action Network
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Former EPA head joins Scotts Miracle-Gro board

Karl Tupper's picture

The New York Times is reporting that Stephen Johnson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Bush, has joined the board of directors of Scotts Miracle-Gro. The company is the world's largest producer of chemicals for the lawn care and garden sectors.

Not that this should come as a shock — we've long noted the cozy relationships between agencies like EPA and the companies they're supposed to regulate. And the EPA under Johnson was particularly friendly to the pesticide industry. Some examples:

  • Johnson allowed the continued use of neurotoxic organophosphate insecticides, despite objections from the Agency's own scientists. A letter from the scientists' unions to Johnson complained that, "Our colleagues in the Pesticide Program feel besieged by political pressure exerted by Agency officials perceived to be too closely aligned with the pesticide industry and former EPA officials now representing the pesticide and agricultural community...."
  • In 2007, he gave the green light to methyl iodide, a highly toxic, carcinogenic new soil fumigant promoted by Arysta Lifesciences. Prior to his decision, more than 50 prominent scientists including five Nobel Laureates sent Johnson a letter urging him to reject Arysta's proposal. He ignored them and signed off on methyl iodide. Just a year before, the head of Arysta's North American division had been installed as EPA Region 10 Administrator.

Johnson's tenure at EPA was so ruinous that an editorial in Nature titled "The EPA's tailspin" warned that "The director of the ... Agency is sabotaging both himself and his agency," and several Democrats called for his resignation.

A few years later and it seems that Scotts has rewarded Johnson for a job well done defending the pesticide industry — and that the warnings sounded by scientists about pressures exerted by "former EPA officials now representing the pesticide and agricultural community..." remain just as relevant today.

Well played, Scotts.

Karl Tupper
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donlouis's picture
donlouis /
Right on! It's enough to make one lose confidence in government agencies, if one ever had that confidence. The multiple relationships between government regulatory agencies and private industry, via executives who move between them, is elaborated in a figure in Andrew Kimbrelll's book, "Your Right to Know." Thanks for you work to inform the public. I am trying to do the same via my blog ( Don Hoernschemeyer
Karl Tupper's picture
Karl Tupper /
Thanks Don! And thanks for the book recommendation; I'll have to check it out. I recently read "Merchants of Doubt" by Noami Oreskes and Eric Conway which details these relationships as well.