Bribe costs Monsanto $1.5 million
Monsanto has been charged by the Department of Justice and the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and the company has agreed to pay $1.5 million in fines. Justice charged that Monsanto made an illegal $50,000 cash payment to a senior Indonesian Ministry of Environment official in 2002 in an attempt to get that official to waive environmental regulations for approval of genetically modified crops in Indonesia. Monsanto has agreed to a $1 million penalty for this charge. The SEC complaint included charges for the $50,000 bribe and for related books and records and internal control violations involving illegal or questionable payments totaling at least $700,000 to various Indonesian officials since 1997. Monsanto will pay $500,000 to settle these charges. "Monsanto accepts full responsibility for these improper activities, and we sincerely regret that people working on behalf of Monsanto engaged in such behavior," said Monsanto's general counsel, Charles W. Burson, in a statement. Monsanto states also that it voluntarily disclosed the problems and has fully cooperated during the investigation. The company has terminated those employees involved with the improper activities. Based on Monsanto's acceptance of the conditions of the settlement, Justice indicates that it will defer prosecution on the criminal information for three years. If Monsanto fully complies with the conditions of the deferred agreement during that time, Justice will dismiss the complaint.
For the 12th consecutive year, IBM led all other private-sector entities last year in the number of U.S. patents received--more than 3,200--according to the Patent & Trademark Office's list of top 10 patent recipients for 2004. Matsushita Electric International Co. moved up from fourth place last year to second place in 2004 with 1,934 patents, while Canon Kabushiki Kaisha dropped down a spot to third with just over 1,800 patents. In fourth place was Hewlett-Packard Development Co. with 1,775 patents, followed by Micron Technology (1,760), Samsung Electronics (1,604), and Intel Corp. (1,601). Hitachi dropped from number three last year to number eight this year, receiving slightly more than 1,500 patents. Rounding out the top 10 are Toshiba Corp. and Sony Corp.--both receiving nearly identical numbers of patents at just over 1,300. The rankings are based on a preliminary count of patents received in 2004 and are subject to correction; a final list is expected in April.
EPA last week released its draft risk assessment on perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical used in the manufacture of Dupont's Teflon polymer. The draft document uses data from laboratory animal tests to calculate the risks of noncancer health effects in humans from PFOA exposure, including developmental problems. According to the draft, those risks are relatively low but vary depending on the particular health effect. PFOA has been detected at low levels in the U.S. population, at an average of 5 parts per billion in blood, though the source of the chemical remains unclear (C&EN, Aug. 30, 2004, page 17). In the draft document, EPA did not use data from studies on PFOA-exposed workers, saying this information is inadequate for risk assessment. The Environmental Working Group criticized the draft assessment for not using data linking high levels of occupational PFOA exposure to increased cholesterol levels and related cardiovascular effects such as heart attack and stroke. EPA's Science Advisory Board is peer-reviewing the draft risk assessment and has scheduled meetings to discuss the document on Jan. 25 and Feb. 22–23. DuPont said in a statement that it "welcomes" the draft document but did not comment on specifics. The draft risk assessment is available at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/pfoa/pfoarisk.htm.
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has released a comparability study of emissions data from fossil fuel power plants in Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. The study finds that much of the releases of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and carbon dioxide come from a small percentage of facilities. Most of these are clustered in the midwestern and southeastern U.S., along with some large oil and coal plants in Mexico. This is partly because, of the three nations, the U.S. relies the most on coal to generate electricity, about 50% of its total. Canada uses coal for 19% of its power, and Mexico only generates 8% of its electricity with coal. Because of this reliance on coal, the U.S. also leads North America in air emissions per capita for all pollutants. The study uses 2002 data because it is the first year for which comparable data were available for all nations. "The report is a snapshot of the air pollution and power generation relationship in North America, but we should recognize that many companies have already acted to reduce their environmental footprint," says William V. Kennedy, executive director of CEC, an agency created by the North American Free Trade Agreement. The full report is available online at http://www.cec.org.