can scotts really be a partner to the environment?

ITRY TO KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT about specific companies and their products, except to recommend ones that I find useful or exemplary. Nothing good to say? I usually stay silent. But not today. Reading news of Scotts Miracle-Gro’s new partnership with the National Wildlife Federation—talk about strange, or shall we say deadly, bedfellows?—has gotten the better side of my good manners. How the partners in this greenwashing of an environmental villain plan to spin the reality that the manufacture and use of toxic chemicals can in any way be seen as a boon to wildlife, I do not know. [UPDATES: On Sunday, NWF came to its senses and canceled the deal. All links for coverage on the jump. Hooray!]

It’s not any more spinnable to my eye than the longtime association by Scotts—whose brands include Roundup, Miracle-Gro, Osmocote, and Ortho—with Monsanto has ever been.

The Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens blog has a good post on the subject of this latest Scotts partnership, which is rightly drawing much criticism for the NWF, as does Paul Tukey at SafeLawns dot org. The NPandWG post also explains the Monsanto-Scotts connection, for those unfamiliar; both stories talk about the pros and cons of the tactic of “working with the devil” as a catalyst to change as a possible explanation of when nonprofits take money from those who appear to be at odds with their missions. An important point, but I have to say: I’m not buying it in this case.

[UPDATE January 27, 2012: Scotts was fined in federal court for knowingly selling tainted bird seed. Paul Tukey has the story.]

[UPDATE: NWF came to its senses Sunday and canceled the deal, after Scotts pleaded guilty to knowingly selling the tainted seed. Hallelujah. Paul Tukey had the details. NWF posted this on their site.]

  1. Bert Rottkamp says:

    My National Wildlife Federation backyard habitat sign is coming down. I will no longer buy Scott’s topsoil. Neither company can be trusted as far as I’m concerned. I guess some people really will sell their soul for MONEY! NWF you are a huge disappointment because I had so much faith in your cause!

  2. Lisa says:

    This is such an interesting and telling excursion into what’s challenging about American gardening and garden communication. As a relatively new member of Garden Writers Association (~ 4 yrs), I have been amazed at the underwriting provided by Scotts and similar companies to both the association, their annual conference, and their initiatives, although I continue to be a fan of GWA.

    I’ve been a public garden educator/garden professional/academic for close to 30 years, so am buffered by that..

    It’s definitely an influence to be mindful of, as you note, for both gardening advice and what the public might read about. And even though some of the partnerships do ‘good’ — it’s still greenwashing. Glad to hear that NWF pulled the association — that was a very strange development, indeed. I can understand community gardening initiatives and supporting youth gardening (a current Scotts partnership with GWA and others), but it’s hard to imagine how a wildlife-supporting non-profit has much in common with a very mainstream ‘garden product’ maker and marketer.

    We actually don’t need much, if any, of most of these ‘garden products’ — even fertilizers – (I like Espoma, myself). Organic Gardening magazine is a great source of good information for home gardeners, in any case, and is a quality publication (but, as you pointed out, they have a different business model, too).

  3. Claudia says:

    Thank you, Margaret, and everyone, for all the valuable information. I have a NWF Visa card, which I am going get rid of…..ASAP!

  4. Christine S says:

    Thanks Margaret for the informative article with links. I have been doing my best to remain organic in my garden. It has been very difficult to locate good soil for the garden beds, greenhouse (small), and potted plants, so have been composting very successfully the past three years. A boon to the compost pile is my husband speeding things up by putting the dry stuff through his chipper and shredding everything quite small. This seems to speed up the process with regular turning. I used the composted, wonderfully aromatic soil (from our tree trimmings, garden cuttings, and kitchen waste (we are vegetarian so no animal products get into the compost), in the beds and you wouldn’t believe the difference. Especially the two greenhouse beds. Wow did things grow! The lettuce was so large and beautiful that it attracted a rat who sneaked in when one of us didn’t close the door. Again, thank you for your wonderful blog and let us all keep speaking up, writing and e-mailing, and sharing with each other!

  5. Gayla Templeton says:

    A few years back the Extention Service in our county and I believe state did a program of testing well water for pesticides or other cancer causeing agents. A farmer I know had lost two daughters to cancer while they were in their 30’s. At the time he was also fighting cancer. His well water was so poluted it was off their charts. He had always pulled the tractor with the sprayer behind it up to the pump above the well to wash out the residue. What ran over saturated the ground and went right down into the well. When he told me about it he told me he had found out that he killed his daughters. These chemicals were the same one the salesmen drank to show how safe they were when they were doing their presentations to the farmers organizatons. Wonder who encouraged that sales technique? Knowing what we know now, none of them could have survived. What’s a few birds when humans are expendable?

  6. Jack Bosch says:

    I don’t believe Scotts is interested in anything but their bottom line and if that means trying to hoodwink the public, then that’s what they will do. They have helped to spread heavy metals and toxic waste by adding it to their fertilizers for years a fact the CALPIRG and Organic Gardening For Life have documented many times. As for the NWF, I have little respect for their not so well hidden agenda.

  7. erin bailey says:

    I’ve read that Scotts has a genetically modified bluegrass seed that may hit the market this or next year. They are not required to label it as such, and there is absolutely no research about effects or oversight cuz FDA cannot take interest in non-edible crops. Even if there is no other harm from the GMO, it is a call for homeowners to increase their use of Round-Up! This was the final straw for me and I have notified Scotts that I will no longer purchase any of their products.

    1. margaret says:

      You know I agree, Erin…nice to hear from you (ecven though on such a tricky and disturbing topic). See you again soon, I hope.

  8. John Fro says:

    I always use the look-feel-smell rule for soils. Black-Fluffy-Earthy is a good combo. Good topsoil always smells good. Loamy locally produced compost from grass/leaves works very well in most situations.

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