In the Midst of the Hype, EPA Announces Four New Atrazine SAPs

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 1 comments
Activists and trial attorneys ramped up their attacks on atrazine over the summer. In late August, we saw a coordinated media push that coincided with a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and new filings from Korein Tillery, the trial attorneys who have filed a class action against atrazine in Madison County, Illinois.

But, the most concerning activity is the Environmental Protection Agency’s lightning quick response to the actions of the media and activists groups. We learned today that EPA will have what the agency termed as a “kickoff meeting” on November 3 to discuss the re-evaluation of Atrazine by the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel. This sudden change to the timeline is alarming. In a conference call this morning, EPA confirmed that both old and new studies, on virtually all issues, will be reevaluated by the SAP. In addition, there will at least one more SAP convened to look at amphibians and ecosystems. Apparently, 15 years is simply not enough time...

According to the EPA notice:
Based on these extensive evaluations, most recently in 2003, EPA had determined that atrazine can be used with a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health if the product is used according to the label. Nonetheless, concerns have been raised recently about the health impacts of atrazine. Since 2003, there have been many studies of its ability to cause health effects. In order to evaluate this new science, EPA is launching a year long, comprehensive scientific re-evaluation of the potential human health impacts of atrazine by using information about atrazine’s mode of action and by carefully considering the potential for cancer and noncancer effects based on the available data
from laboratory animal and human epidemiology studies.

In the kick-off meeting to be held on November 3, 2009, the Panel members and public will be informed about EPA’s plans for three subsequent SAP meetings to be held in
February, April and September, 2010.

Grower Leaders Voice Atrazine Support

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Oct. 1, 2009--Growers from five states left their combines this week to talk to leadership from Syngenta Crop Protection about the importance of atrazine to their farming operations. A roundtable meeting was held at the National Corn Growers Association office in Chesterfield, MO, followed by an informal meeting at the Keith Witt farm in Warrenton, MO.

While atrazine was successfully re-registered by EPA in 2006, recent attacks by environmental activists including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have brought the issue to the forefront. Trial attorneys also continue their efforts for legal action against the makers of atrazine.

Growers represented at the meeting included four past NCGA Presidents: Ron Litterer, Iowa; Ken McCauley, Kansas; Dee Vaughan, Texas and Fred Yoder, Ohio. Three past presidents of the National Sorghum Producers were present: Greg Shelor, Kansas; James Vorderstrasse, Nebraska, and Bill Kubecka, Texas.

Atrazine is used to help farmers grow crops in a way that protects the environment, especially with no-till practices, McCauley said. “Environmental activists would like you to believe that farmers don’t need atrazine, so we might as well get rid of it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is it important to our growers’ bottom lines, it is vital to the practices we use to protect the environment,” McCauley said. “The NRDC says we can use another chemical, but ask NRDC what chemicals they do approve of.”

Southwest Kansas sorghum producer Greg Shelor told the group that his no-till practices would not be possible without atrazine. “I can’t no-till without atrazine,” he said. “With no-till there is not near the runoff and without no-till I will have 50 or 60 bushel sorghum instead of the 100 to 120 bushels I have now.”

Iowa grower Ron Litterer said many people don’t understand atrazine’s role in reducing rates of herbicides. “For me atrazine is an enhancer for weed control. Years ago, my dad used it as his sole product. Now we use much lower rates and have better weed control. As an enhancer, atrazine has allowed us to reduce the rates of other chemicals and has made them more effective.”

Atrazine allows Nebraska sorghum farmer James Vorderstrasse to use moisture conserving no-till practices on his farm. “There is no alternative to atrazine,” he said. “Every time you till the soil you lose an inch of moisture. Without atrazine, you’d have to till two or three times pre-plant plus cultivate a couple of times and that amounts to a loss of 5 inches of moisture.”

Ohio Grower Fred Yoder said atrazine has been important to his family farm for years. “I’m trying to remember if we have ever grown corn without atrazine. It’s been around such a long time. But does that mean we need to look at something else? I don’t think so,” he said.

Syngenta CEO Mike Mack and President of Crop Protection Valdemar Fischer participated in the roundtable discussion by phone. Travis Dickinson, Vice President of Marketing; Tim Pastoor, Principal Scientist; Steven Goldsmith Senior Communications Manager and Todd Barlow, State Government Relations Manager participated in a meeting with growers at the National Corn Growers Association offices in Chesterfield, MO. The Syngenta executives reaffirmed their commitment to defending the use of atrazine.

Don’t take Atrazine for granted

Thursday, September 3, 2009 0 comments
September 3, 2009 by Dave Russell, Brownfield
Without crop protection products, 40 percent of the food supply we enjoy today wouldn’t be available. And for 50 years Atrazine is one of those products used by farmers. Sherry Duvall Ford, Head, External Communications for Syngenta says Atrazine has been studied more than any other herbicide used in agriculture.
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Report Questions Atrazine Levels in Water--Levels fall within current safety limit regulations.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 0 comments
By: Jason Vance, FarmFutures.com
Published: Aug 25, 2009

The Natural Resources Defense Council has issued a report that drinking water containing the herbicide atrazine could pose a greater public health risk than previously thought because regular municipal monitoring doesn't detect frequent spikes in the chemical's levels. Scientists with Syngenta, the main manufacturer of atrazine, called the NRDC report alarmist and said the spikes fall within limits that the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe.

University of Missouri Extension Water Quality Specialist Bob Broz says because atrazine has been one of the longest used and effective herbicides, it has been under close scrutiny by the EPA for years.

"After years and years of tests and looking at it and saying, 'Why is this product being used? What can we do with it? Are there other alternatives out here that are economically viable and still as effective a job?'," Broz said. "Most of the research that has come back based on what we normally look at has shown that atrazine is a very safe product."

Broz says EPA, regardless of what they see as the level that they think is dangerous, goes beyond that on the off chance that someone could have an adverse reaction and builds in a safety factor. In the case of atrazine, EPA adopted a federal lifetime drinking water standard at three parts-per-billion, a level containing a 1,000-fold safety factor.

"In most cases atrazine if used under label conditions works very effectively," Broz said. "Now what we have learned is that different soil conditions or different rain conditions can play a role in how much atrazine we're actually going to see runoff the field. The farmers don't want this coming off the field either. It it's not on the field and where we put it, it's not going to be good for weed control and in that case it's costing the farmer a lot more money."

Broz says most farmers are trying to figure out ways to keep atrazine where they put it and to make sure that the levels they use are under the label recommendations, which is the law.

"In many of the watersheds where we are actually monitoring for atrazine and atrazine use we have not seen any problem whatsoever," Broz said. "Syngenta is working very, very closely with EPA in doing monitoring in a series of watersheds where they are taking water samples every four days throughout the growing season."

Broz says this will allow them to see what level of atrazine is in the water through that whole entire period, so that what kind of runoff and its impact to people and the environment can be determined.

In 2008, none of the 122 community water systems monitored in 10 states where atrazine is used most exceeded the federal standards set for atrazine in drinking water or raw water.

"These low levels pose no threat to human health," said Tim Pastoor, principal scientist for Syngenta. "A person could drink thousands of gallons of water containing three parts per billion atrazine every day for a lifetime, and still not be affected."

Despite all of this, 43 water systems in six states recently filed a lawsuit suing atrazine's manufacturers to force them to pay for removing the chemical from drinking water.

"A lot of this I believe has to do with lawyers who are looking for a mark if life, for something they can hang their hat on and say this is an issue we need to face or look at it more closely," Broz said. "I agree, we do need to look at this more closely, but if the data we have collected over this long period of time does not demonstrate that there is a real issue I can't see where there's really a leg to stand on as far as a lawsuit would go."

Broz says that the new re-registration of different herbicides and pesticides is going to become much stricter. Even now EPA is trying to determine should be looked at. For example, is a carcinogenic situation the main issue or is there something else that needs to be looked at.

‘No problem with Piqua’s drinking water,’ official says

Monday, August 31, 2009 0 comments
Dayton Daily News, August 25, 2009

PIQUA — City officials are assuring residents that the city’s drinking water is safe — after the city and data on its water appeared in a New York Times article. The article, published Sunday, Aug. 23, on the widely used weed killer atrazine making its way into water sources across the country claimed the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t sufficiently regulated the chemical’s use. Piqua was used as an example of a city where spikes in measurements of atrazine in 2004, 2005 and 2007 were detected, but not reported by local water officials to residents.

“There is no problem with Piqua’s drinking water. I think it is some of the best around,” City Manager Fred Enderle said Monday, Aug. 24.

By late afternoon Monday, he’d fielded one call about the article, from a city commissioner who had heard from a constituent. He also said a couple of people paying bills at the utility billing department asked about the water quality.

Enderle said he was surprised, and upset, by the article. “He was sending a message that we have a problem. Piqua’s water is perfectly safe to drink,” Enderle said.
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Kansas Growers Say Activist Groups Twist EPA Atrazine Data to Alarm Consumers

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Three media events on August 23-24 highlighted activists’ efforts to raise public concern about the herbicide atrazine. The New York Times, Huffington Post and National Resources Defense Council all release reports about atrazine on Sunday and Monday. The stories were based on data from a monitoring program that Syngenta, the maker of atrazine, entered into with EPA in 2003. The Atrazine Monitoring Program (AMP) is an intensive monitoring program currently focusing on about 100 community water systems located primarily in the Midwest.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level (MCL) for atrazine at 3 parts per billion (ppb) based on an annual average in public drinking water. Atrazine is among a list of 87 drinking water contaminants routinely monitored by the EPA. Jere White, executive director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association said results of the two testing programs should not be used to confuse consumers.

“The focus of the AMP program is different than the normal water sampling that is done to determine the annual MCL for drinking water systems,” White said. “This study is focused on areas with higher atrazine usage—basically a closer look. The EPA set a guideline under this program of 37.5 ppb atrazine plus three metabolites (breakdown products) over a 90-day period as a benchmark for a level of concern.”

The activist groups used two sets of data to cause concern among consumers, White said. “You can do anything with numbers. There are spikes, but those spikes were taken into consideration by EPA when the 3 parts per billion annual drinking water level for atrazine was set. That’s why it is an annual average and not a daily or weekly number. But to then take data from an entirely different program, and suggest that the levels were above the EPA’s MCL for atrazine is simply misleading.”

In its July 2009 update, EPA stated, “Through its review of this data, the Agency has confirmed that none of the systems have exceeded OPP's level of concern, a 90-day average of 37.5 parts per billion (ppb) of atrazine and its degradates. Concentrations below this 90-day average are considered to be safe.”

“If you look at the data, you see that atrazine levels in raw (untreated) water have decreased. Farmers are using practices that reduce the amount of runoff from fields, and that keeps chemicals out of surface water,” White said. “This is actually very good news, which has gone unreported.”

Atrazine is crucial to the success of no-till farming operations that have a wide range of environmental benefits. No-till is a practice that leaves crop residue, like corn stalks, in the field to cut down on soil erosion and runoff of fertilizers and farm chemicals. “When you talk about soil conservation and reducing runoff, you have to talk about no-till farming practices,” White said. “This practice is making a real difference when it comes to conservation. But many growers say without residual weed control that atrazine offers, they would not be able to continue their no-till practices. Farmers have a good story to tell, producing more with less. For example, look at what corn producers have done in the last 10 years. For the same bushel of corn produced in 1987, today our land use is down 37 percent, soil loss is down 69 percent.”

For more information on KCGA and KGSPA, visit ksgrains.com

Atrazine Celebrates 50 Years

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For 50 years, farmers around the world have relied on atrazine — one of the triazine family of herbicides — to fight weeds in corn, grain sorghum, sugar cane and other crops. And for good reason: it's still one of the most effective, affordable and trusted products in agriculture today.