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

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.