Daily Californian Article on Tyrone Hayes Raises Questions on Frogs, Fibs and Scientific Method

Monday, November 15, 2010 20 comments
By Sue Schulte , Director of Communications
Kansas Corn Growers Association and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association

Nov. 15, 2010--Berkeley anti-atrazine research Tyrone Hayes was featured in today’s issue of The Daily Californian, the independent newspaper of the University of California-Berkeley. The article outlines Hayes’ research that claims atrazine in extremely small amounts, sterilizes and feminizes male frogs. It also documents Hayes’ ongoing fights with Syngenta Crop Protection, the main manufacturer of atrazine. Atrazine is a herbicide used on corn, sorghum, sugar cane and other crops.

In the article, Hayes “strongly refuted” claims that he has not shared data on his atrazine research with the Environmental Protection Agency. The article quotes one researcher who says Hayes' research hasn't been replicated, and another researcher who says that is irrelevant.

Yale University professor David Skelly, a researcher who participated in two EPA panels that reviewed the results of atrazine studies, told the newspaper that his is not aware of anyone who has been able to replicate Hayes’ results. The concept of being able to replicate the results of research is called “reproducibility”.

But that’s not relevant, according to Gail Prins, physiology professor at University of Illinois at Chicago. She told the Daily Californian that it is not important that others have not been able to replicate Hayes’ study results. She said she trusts his methods. However, reproducibility is widely recognized as one of the main principles of the scientific method (unless Gail Prins trusts you).

Missing Data?
Syngenta toxicologist Tim Pastoor told the newspaper that Hayes’ results will not be considered reliable until he gives his raw data to EPA to evaluate. Hayes hasn’t done that. Hayes’ responded by saying that allegation is “blatantly false” and told the newspaper that he had allowed EPA into his laboratory in 2002.

In a June 18, 2010 article written by Alex Avery of the Center for Global Food Issues, titled “EPA Exposes Hayes--Again!” documents Hayes’ failure to provide proper data to EPA (information excerpted below).

2005: Anne E. Lindsay, then-deputy director of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, gave Hayes a hard review in testimony before the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2005. Lindsay said EPA had never seen the results from any independent investigator published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, or the raw data from Hayes’ additional experiments. Hayes’ responded to Lindsay’s remarks in a paper recently put out by anti-pesticide activist organization, PANNA, refuting Lindsay’s 2005 testimony by pointing to a 2002 letter from EPA’s Tom Steeger praising him for sharing raw data.

2010: Illinois State Representative Dave Winters asked EPA recently if the agency had received “a complete, transparent set of raw data which could be interpreted and analyzed by the EPA and used in generating a full evaluation of his work.” Donald Brady, Director of the Environmental Fate and Effects Division replied: “I regret that the EPA science staff in the Office of Pesticide Programs’ EFED could not properly account for the sample sizes and study design reportedly used by the Berkeley researchers. As a result, we were unable to complete any independent analysis to support the study’s conclusions.”

Bottom Line
Dr. Hayes’ research can’t be replicated. He won’t share his data, even with EPA. He is a self-described anti-atrazine activist, bringing his objectivity into question. It is hard to ignore these facts when considering his claims against atrazine. Let’s hope EPA still believes in the scientific process.

World Health Organization Shows Safety of Atrazine with New Standard

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 5 comments
World Health Organization Shows Safety of Atrazine with New Standard--
Growers support the WHO’s science based approach and sensible outcome

October 5, 2010--A recently released World Health Organization (WHO) document has recommended a drinking water standard of 100 parts per billion, up from the previous WHO standard of two parts per billion. The atrazine drinking water standard enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is three parts per billion. Jere White, Triazine Network chairman and executive director of the Kansas grain sorghum and corn growers associations said the recent World Health Organization’s recommendation reaffirms the safety of atrazine.

“While our EPA is in the middle of an unscheduled re-review of atrazine because of activist campaigns, the World Health Organization quietly relied on scientific evidence and found that atrazine is safe at levels up to 100 parts per billion,” White said. “Here in the U.S., activists, insisting that atrazine levels at or even below 3 parts per billion are dangerous, have led EPA and the American taxpayer on an expensive wild goose chase.”

Atrazine, a herbicide trusted by growers across America, was reregistered by EPA in 2006. The reregistration came 12 years after the beginning of EPA’s Special Review of atrazine and other triazine herbicides. In its reregistration of atrazine, EPA stated that “levels of atrazine that Americans are exposed to are below the levels that would potentially cause health effects.” EPA announced a new set of Science Advisory Panels on atrazine October 2009 after a coordinated publicity and media campaign surrounding the release of a study by the activist group Natural Resources Defense Council. An EPA official stated Science Advisory Panels were being held in response to the activist campaign.

Some argue that EPA should follow the World Health Organization’s lead in setting less restrictive atrazine drinking water standards.

“EPA’s current drinking water standards for atrazine appear to be set at too severe a level,” said James Lamb, Ph.D., center director and principal scientist at Exponent, a scientific consulting firm. “These new findings from WHO suggest that the EPA should re-evaluate the current three parts per billion standard in order to bring it into line with the latest scientific data.”

The WHO summary and background document are available at the organization’s website, and will be included in the WHO 4th Edition of the Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality. Atrazine drinking water standards in other countries are higher than that of the United States. Canada’s standard is 5 ppb, Australia is 40 ppb and the United Kingdom is 15 ppb.

“The U.S. EPA should follow the lead of the World Health Organization and continue to rely on sound science to evaluate atrazine,” White said. “Since the Special Review began in 1995, all that our growers have asked is for EPA to follow their own guidelines and base decisions on sound scientific evidence and not activist-generated politics.”

Losing atrazine would have economic, agronomic and environmental implications. Atrazine is mainly used as an additive with many of today’s newest weed control products. Not only does it provide economical weed control to growers, it also offers a different mode of action and is longer lasting. This helps in season-long weed control, and also helps growers fight herbicide resistance in weeds. Atrazine is also vital to growers who use conservation tillage practices. By reducing or eliminating the need for tilling the ground, farmers are able to dramatically reduce energy consumption and erosion and runoff, conserve soil moisture and enrich the soil. The loss of atrazine would force many growers to return to tillage to control weeds in their fields and reverse a trend that benefits all of us.

The Kansas Corn Growers Association and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association represent their members in legislative and regulatory issues. For more information, visit ksgrains.com. The Triazine Network, formed in 1995 at the beginning of EPA’s Special Review of the triazine herbicides, is a nationwide coalition of growers and grower groups concerned with regulatory actions surrounding the triazine herbicides including atrazine. For more information, visit agsense.org.

We’ve been served . . .Kansas Growers Served with Subpoenas Over Atrazine

Friday, September 24, 2010 0 comments
By Jere White, Executive Director
Kansas Corn Growers Association; Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association

Warning, consider this as a read-only document. Downloading may implicate you as a key player in a Madison County, Illinois lawsuit…lol.

We must have spoken too loudly last week. On September 15, I gave comments supporting atrazine at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Atrazine Science Advisory Panel in Washington DC. Also on September 15, we posted a column critical of trial attorneys who are pursuing big payoffs in an atrazine lawsuit and the subpoenas they had served to corn growers and their organizations who have publicly supported atrazine. The column, titled “Lawyers Aim to Harass, Intimidate Growers in Atrazine Issue” can be found on our KSGrains blog (link) as well as on the AGSense website (link). The Madison (IL) Record also published the column. The next day, September 16, the trial attorneys requested that subpoenas be issued for the Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association as well as a subpoena to me as an individual. The trial attorneys are involved in a case attempting to collect large payouts for communities who jumped on the lawsuit bandwagon even though their atrazine levels are well below the drinking water standards set and enforced by EPA.

The subpoenas ask for any and all records and communications relating to atrazine, Syngenta and its legacy companies, and more. There is no limit to the number of years from which we are required to gather these records. And there is no limit to what records are to be included. For example, I served on the Biotechnology Working Group with the National Corn Growers Association. We certainly had discussions about biotechnology products developed by Syngenta. In order to participate in those discussions, I signed a confidentiality agreement. Without such confidentiality, candid discussions about what traits are in the pipeline and how they can have an impact on growers would not take place. Yet any records I have regarding these discussions would be covered by the subpoena, even though this information has nothing to do with atrazine. What kind of information do the trial attorneys hope to get from our office? How would that information help determining the merits of its lawsuit?

Perhaps the trial attorneys believe they can distract us by giving us the task of going through all the files we have accumulated over the years. Or maybe this is simply a tactic to harass those of us who have chosen to stand up for atrazine and the farmers who rely on it to control weeds and grow their crops using more environmentally sustainable methods.
It appears that the trial attorneys are trying to prove a relationship between farmers and Syngenta, the primary maker of atrazine. Sure, there is a relationship. After all, we have an interest in the products they sell to growers, and they have an interest in selling products to growers. But is anyone questioning the alliance formed by the other side of this fight? The well heeled, well funded Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), trial attorney firms Korein-Tillery and Barron and Budd, big media outlets like the New York Times and the Huffington Post have all worked in concert to put atrazine on the front burner at EPA.
As a private, member funded association, we believe we have a constitutional right to have informal, off the record discussions between stakeholders, farmers, staff and others to help us arrive at decisions and policies formulated by our grower associations. Our group’s decisions on issues facing agriculture are certainly not secret. But to ask for records of every thought that went into those decisions is wrong. It would inhibit future discussions by instilling the fear that ideas shared informally could become public record even if those ideas didn’t make the final cut.

Be assured we won’t be intimidated by fat cat trial attorneys and their harassing subpoenas. We will continue to represent our growers’ interests in the atrazine issue.

Triazine Network Presents at September EPA Atrazine SAP

Thursday, September 16, 2010 0 comments
Follow the link below to view presentations and comments made by the Triazine Network at the EPA Atrazine Science Advisory Panel on September 15, 2010.

Lawyers Aim to Harass, Intimidate Growers in Atrazine Issue

By Jere White, Executive Director, Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association

Sometimes, individuals and groups decide to stand up for something. In the case of many crop producers and the associations that represent them, they have decided to stand up for atrazine. Atrazine is a vital herbicide that is under attack by environmentalists, activist researchers, activist media and slick trial attorneys. These well-financed groups worked together last summer to garner enough attention to spur an unscheduled re-review of atrazine by the Environmental Protection Agency.

While farmers use atrazine in smaller and smaller concentrations, it is still an important tool to control weeds, especially in environmentally friendly “conservation” farming practices. For example, using no-till, an increasingly popular conservation farming practice, farmers leave the previous crop stubble on field and plant the next crop in that stubble. This practice reduces runoff and holds on to nutrients and other stuff that helps crop grow in the field. Atrazine’s ability to provide residual weed control makes no-till an option for many farmers. Without it, they’d better grease up the old plow. I read an apt quote on Twitter recently—“If EPA says bye-bye to atrazine, can we get cultivators rolling fast enough?”

Looking at the information above, it’s no wonder farmers and farm organizations are standing up for atrazine in a big way. It’s no wonder that they work with atrazine’s major manufacturer, Syngenta, to support this product.
But recently, many of those organizations have been served with subpoenas from big time trial attorney firms who are hoping to net millions of dollars in judgments from the state and federal court systems. These subpoenas require grower associations to turn over volumes of information to the courts regarding their growers, including all correspondence related to atrazine, Syngenta and even the Kansas Corn Growers Association.

The subpoenas come down to one thing, clear and simple: bullying. We can’t imagine what kind of useful information they hope to find by looking through membership records, leadership programs or who paid for the ice cream at a farmer’s meeting. But the threat of legal harassment might make an organization or an individual think twice about standing up for a product like atrazine.

Since the beginning of the Special Review of the triazine herbicides including atrazine in 1994, our growers have wanted one thing: a science-based outcome through EPA. Is throwing trial attorneys and frivolous subpoenas into the mix a game changer? Will farmers be intimidated and lose their will to support atrazine? The trial attorneys forgot one thing—farmers are uniquely independent. They stand up to wind, hail, drought, floods, pests and roller coaster markets on a regular basis. Slick attorneys are scary for sure, but we don’t scare that easily.

(Note: Jere White is Executive Director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association and is the Chairman of the Triazine Network, a nationwide coalition of growers and grower groups concerned with regulatory actions surrounding the triazine herbicides including atrazine.)

EPA to Convene Scientific Advisory Panel on Atrazine

Monday, September 13, 2010 0 comments
NCGA opposes EPA's complicity in this continued attack on atrazine.

In light of the upcoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Scientific Advisory Panel's reevaluation of atrazine, The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) reemphasizes the safety and importance of the herbicide in a new commentary:

"For four days, academic, industry and government experts, along with representatives of stakeholder groups, will again address the EPA committee with information on the safe and important herbicide atrazine."

The most studied herbicide in the world, with more than 6,000 studies on record, atrazine is already supported as a safe crop protectant by years of credible, scientific research. Despite the copious data on this proven tool, the EPA is carrying out this reevaluation outside of normal procedures due to unsubstantiated activist claims based upon incendiary rhetoric. The National Corn Growers Association strongly opposes the EPA's complicity in this continued attack and urges the agency to base policy decisions in sound science.

During the public comment portion of the hearings, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 15, Triazine Network Chairman and Kansas Corn Executive Director Jere White will speak on behalf of the growers who depend upon atrazine to help fight herbicide-resistant weeds. Gary Marshall, MO Corn CEO will also be part of the Triazine Networks panel. Representatives from other stakeholder groups will also speak out during this period to stress the importance of this chemical to U.S. agriculture as a whole.

"Currently, atrazine is applied on more than half of all U.S. corn acres, two-thirds of sorghum acres and nearly 90 percent of all U.S. sugar cane acres," White said. "Mixed with another herbicide, atrazine enhances the performance of the original product and helps to control a variety of herbicide-resistant weeds. With positive safety reviews on record by the EPA, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the World Health Organization, this important chemical has a proven safety record."

Not only is atrazine safe, it helps to protect the environment by saving soil. When using this product, farmers are more likely to turn to conservation and no-tillage systems that protect valuable top-soil. In 2008, 64 percent of the atrazine used in corn farming allowed for no-till or conservation practices. This impacts agriculture's sustainability directly, as conservation tillage can reduce soil erosion by as much as 90 percent.

The Triazine Network, of which NCGA is a member, recently wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, expressing its concern on the agency's reevaluation. As an organization or individual citizen interested in a science-based outcome to the atrazine issue at the EPA, your support of this letter is vital. In doing so, you can help assure that the EPA follows agency protocol and uses science-based evidence when reviewing atrazine, not the false accusations of activists. Please click on this link to read the Triazine Network's letter to EPA Administrator Jackson listing our concerns about the agency's handling of the re-review of atrazine, and join us in this effort.

Website: http://www.ncga.com

Triazine Network Seeking Support for EPA Letter

Monday, August 23, 2010 3 comments
The Triazine Network has written a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, expressing its concern on the agency’s re-review of atrazine. As an organization or individual citizen interested in a science-based outcome to the atrazine issue at the EPA, your support of this letter is vital. In doing so, you can help assure that the EPA follows agency protocol and uses science-based evidence when reviewing atrazine, not the false accusations of activists.

Take Action at AGsense.org

READ: Please read the Triazine Network’s letter below to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson listing the Network’s concerns about the agency’s handling of the re-review of atrazine.

Individuals are invited to sign a petition in support of the letter. Organizations are invited to cosign the letter.
FOLLOW THIS LINK to Sign This Petition Supporting the Triazine Network’s letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson

Dear Administrator Jackson,

No one cares more about the safety of the herbicide atrazine than those of us who use it in the fields where we raise our families. We drink the local water. We swim and fish in local lakes, rivers, and ponds. We look forward to passing our way of life onto our children and grandchildren. Simply stated, we care about keeping our environment healthy and our foods safe and abundant.

But we are becoming increasingly concerned by the serious irregularities in the EPA’s current re-review of the herbicide atrazine. Atrazine and its companion triazine herbicides have a 50-year history as safe and effective weed-control products used on more than 30 commodities in over 40 states and 60 countries. Atrazine is a staple product for producers, who use it as a critical tool for weed control in growing the vast majority of corn, sorghum and sugarcane in the United States. Use of atrazine fights weed resistance, reduces soil erosion and increases crop yield.

Five decades of continued and rigorous EPA testing has shown time and again that atrazine poses no danger to public health. Over the last half century, more than 6,000 atrazine studies have been submitted to EPA. These studies confirmed, and EPA agreed, that atrazine does not affect human health. EPA’s current 3 parts per billion limit for lifetime exposure or the 298 ppb limit for short-term exposure, are standards that are more than 1,000 times safer than a level shown to have no effect. We would also note, atrazine’s status as one of the most widely tested herbicides adds a high level of confidence in its safety profile.

EPA’s unscheduled and rushed re-review departs from the normal regulatory process. Pesticides like atrazine are subject to regular review. In fact, atrazine was re-registered in 2006 and not scheduled for re-review until 2013. In October 2009, EPA scheduled an unprecedented four Scientific Advisory Panels (SAPs) within 11 months. Since 2000, EPA reviews have included more than 16 opportunities for public comment, including six SAP meetings convened under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

The current SAP proceedings are: taking on an unprecedented range of topics over the course of four SAP meetings in a single year, each of which is focused on a range of considerations; being conducted on an abbreviated timeline, resulting in rushed science; and focused on studies and data that are not made available until shortly before the scheduled meeting.

Assistant Administrator Owens said that the Agency was initiating the review to evaluate new science. Upon considering these studies that EPA used to initiate the new review of atrazine, the February SAP concluded that “the overall quality of these studies was relatively low, thus limiting their applicability…” Had the Agency followed its own process of internal data evaluation it would have known that the new studies were not useful in a regulatory decision making process.

Agency scientist Anna Lowitt, Ph.D., said at the April SAP that the Agency has assembled a “small army” with a “very large task in a very short time frame.” However, the Agency has also testified before Congress that the new review is being used in its preparation for the scheduled 2013 re-registration of atrazine. The actions of a rushed re-review process do not align with the Agency’s position on a reregistration process that’s still three years away.

The rushed re-review process departs dramatically from the Obama Administration’s commitment to sound science-based policy. EPA has an established, scientific process for reviewing the human health and environmental effects of atrazine. In the past 15 years alone:

• A June 27, 2000, SAP overseen by Clinton EPA Administrator Carol Browner found that atrazine is not likely to cause cancer in humans;

• A re-review concluded on October 31, 2003, conducted principally under Bush EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, found a reasonable certainty of no harm;

• A cumulative risk assessment on June 22, 2006, found a reasonable certainty of no harm associated with the use of atrazine in accordance with EPA guidelines with regard to both human health and environmental effects;

• A 2003 SAP proceeding focused on reports of atrazine’s effect on amphibian reproductive development found that the evidence submitted provided insufficient basis for any definitive judgment; and

• In 2007, EPA concluded that it was reasonable to reject the 2003 hypothesis that atrazine exposure can affect amphibian gonadal development. EPA also determined that there was no compelling reason to pursue additional testing.

• A July 21, 2010 memorandum from Tina Levine, Ph.D., said that “the Agency plans to propose updated points of departure for use in risk assessment…” in the September SAP. We are very concerned about how the EPA could suggest a new regulatory position without evaluating all the science proposed by the Agency.

Decision-making should be arrived at through a transparent, data-driven process. Data must be made available to the public, including stakeholders such as farmers. There must be a regularity of process. Deviations from well-established, science driven practices impair the integrity of resulting decisions.

Large sectors of American agriculture today rely on atrazine to support their businesses and workers. Its loss would result in the elimination of tens of thousands of jobs during one of the longest employment recessions in our history. Rural communities would feel the most economic pain. In rural America, loss of farm-gate dollars mean reduced resources essential to community services such as emergency medical care, and that is far from a theoretical risk.

The integrity of the process is critical if the American people are to accept the regulatory decisions made by EPA, which so dramatically affect the livelihoods of millions across the nation. That’s why we believe it is essential that you address the concerns that we have stated here and guarantee that the process from now forward will be fair, transparent, and given enough time for sound science to prevail.

Ms Jackson, we are very concerned. Specifically, why after the extensive review and reregistration completed in 2006 and with a scheduled reregistration up in 2013, were Agency staffers directed to assemble an “army,” as reported earlier, with a “very large task in a very short time frame” ? When this statement was made, much of the hyped-up activists/media claims against atrazine last Fall had already been debunked by the Agency as low quality and not very useful.

We will be sharing our concerns and your response with our Congressional contacts and look forward to understanding current internal EPA directives as we prepare for the September SAP process.

Yours sincerely,

Jere White

Chairman, Triazine Network

Frogs, Atrazine and the Nutty Professor

Friday, August 13, 2010 1 comments
Courtesy of Nebraska Corn Kernels Blog

If you've followed any of the reports on atrazine, especially those dealing with frogs, you've likely come across the name Tyrone Hayes, a research scientist at the University of California at Berkeley. Of course I'm using the words "research scientist" loosely because it seems his personal agenda may have squewed his work. It's also put a big hole in his credibility. (See below for info on atrazine and frogs.)

Much of this is captured in a report by The Washington Times this week where, appropriately perhaps, the paper included an illustration of the Nutty Professor with the article. The nuttiness comes from a long series of emails sent to Syngenta - one of the makers of atrazine. After several years, Syngenta appealed to the university to get the sometimes threatening emails to stop.

Here's what The Washington Times said about the emails:

After many years of trying to resolve the issue privately, the agri-chemical company Syngenta - the maker of atrazine - recently released the text of some of the e-mails it has been receiving from Mr. Hayes, going back to 2002. The professor's studies and findings are barely mentioned in his e-mails. Instead, the e-mails are obscene, threatening and sexually explicit. They show a megalomaniacal streak in which Mr. Hayes consistently speaks not of his research, but of his personal power and prowess.

Perhaps Mr. Hayes feels that in his efforts to promote a ban on atrazine, any kind of activity is justified. However, harassment, threats and obscenities are never appropriate. It is especially troubling from a member of the active scientific community, upon whose judgment others - including the public - rely in reading and acting on research results.

Well, that's enough on that - just click through to read the full analysis.

But what about atrazine and frogs?

In 2007 the Environmental Protection Agency said there was “no available proof” that atrazine turns male frogs into female frogs. The EPA also said that no additional studies were needed into this because the science was clear. In fact, this was backed by work in Australia and a review by the state of Minnesota.

The biology behind the issue
If you expose very young male frogs to estrogen there's a chance they'll become female or have both male/female traits – and Hayes theorized that atrazine would do the same thing and did a "study" in 2002 in an attempt to "prove" his hypothesis.

In 2003, EPA responded to this theory – there were no guidelines at the time since Hayes didn't follow standard lab procedures nor share all his methods. Inconsistent procedures and a lack of protocols meant work needed to be done just to do a study.

EPA charged Syngenta to get the data – and stood over the shoulder in the lab watching. Following standardized Good Laboratory Practices, which includes being transparent, the company completed a wide range of doses with eight replicates involving more than 3,000 frogs. Two studies were completed (EPA had asked only for one) and then everything was handed over so EPA could do its own assessment.

The result? Atrazine did not turn male frogs into female frogs. Nor did it impact growth, development or survival.

Importantly, since the lab procedures and data were open, others could verify this work – and several did. (Links to all the research are here.)

This is not true for the "research" by Hayes that started EPA down the path to examine the potential impact of atrazine on frogs in the first place. Hayes work could not be duplicated (researchers tried and had different results), his lab did not follow Good Laboratory Practices and he wouldn't share all the data and procedures with EPA. (RED FLAGS!)

Having examined all the data available – and lack of reliable research from Hayes – EPA dismissed his claims. More than once.

Yet allegations continue – by Hayes and organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council who hold him up as a credible scientist. (Even though NRDC apparently doesn't understand that Risk = Exposure x Toxicity. Or maybe that explains why they put an agenda ahead of real science.)

For more on atrazine, be sure to read Atrazine: What is the safety limit, or a blog post by Dr. Elizabeth Whelan at the American Council on Science and Health.

Self-proclaimed anti-atrazine activist researcher damages his already shaky cred with e-mails

Friday, July 30, 2010 0 comments
(Courtesy of ksgrains blog)
Tyrone Hayes is an icon, at least according to Tyrone Hayes. He is a University of California at Berkeley researcher whose research generated to ban atrazine is certainly prolific. In addition to several amphibian studies that he says prove atrazine turns male frogs into not-so-male frogs, Hayes also hosts an anti-atrazine website and has a busy anti-atrazinespeaking schedule. But Hayes has spent a lot of time on something else—writing bizarre and harassing emails to those on the other side of the atrazine argument.

Employees of Syngenta and others, including EPA staffers, have been receiving strange e-mails from Hayes for several years. Syngenta is the primary manufacturer of atrazine. The company recently filed an ethics complaint with UC Berkeley about Hayes’ communications. Syngenta says that Hayes has sent their employees emails that are “aggressive, unprofessional and insulting, but also salacious and lewd.” The emails are taunting, harassing and sexually explicit in nature,” according to the complaint.

Hayes certainly has sent a lot of emails to Syngenta employees. The company posted a collection of Hayes e-mails, and it is 102 pages in length. In fact, in one e-mail, Hayes says he hopes his emails and poems will be published.

After a toxicology meeting in early 2008 (SETAC), Hayes sent a Syngenta employee a rambling six-page “manifesto”. Hayes says he doesn’t care about professionalism, but says he sure puts on a good show. Here is an excerpt. A couple of notes: The ellipses in the text were placed by Hayes. And IDGAF means, I don’t’ give a f***.

“IDGAF! Come on?????...do you think I care about propriety and professionalism? I do what I do, because it’s what I do…IDGAF!!! Look, my first SETAC, I rolled up 15 and 15!... autograph- signing, room-packing, rhyme-busting, *ss-whoopin… and toldem’ “please don’t ever invite me back” …I have used the “F-word” in my talks, have quoted DMX, Busta Rhymes, Tyra Banks, Marvin Gaye…I have jumped off stage, brandished emails…entitled my talks everything from “Opening up shop” (from DMX’s “Stop, drop, shuttem’ down, open up shop”) and “America’s Next Top Model” ….I pack the room, havem’ call out security, was the stimulus for the “Hayes clause” at registration, and have been invited back every year. That’s my house, Trick! Do I care what you, (deleted) and your *ss kissin’ H*’s think?

I’ve already been invited to the next one…guess people like being entertained.”

Alex Avery, center for Global Food Issues, posted a good column on this, which we have posted on our website, http://agsense.org or visit the CGFI website at http://www.cgfi.org/

If you want to read Syngenta’s complaint to Berkeley, follow this link: http://www.atrazine.com/Amphibians/Univ_of_CA-7-19-10.pdf

If you want to read all of Dr. Hayes’s emails, go to http://www.atrazine.com/Amphibians/Combined_Large_pdf-r-opt.pdf

For full coverage of the atrazine issue, visit http://agsense.org/

The Strange Case of Dr. Tyrone Hayes

Thursday, July 29, 2010 0 comments
Frog Researcher Attacks Atrazine Maker Through Obscene E-mails

by Alex Avery, Center for Global Food Issues

Warning to reader: Some of the emails quoted below from Dr. Tyrone Hayes are obscene.

For years, the Natural Resources Defense Council and their trial lawyer allies have worked to persuade EPA to ignore 6,000 studies, as well as the agency’s recent determinations, to re-investigate atrazine, the herbicide that corn growers and other farmers have safely used for more than fifty years.

Exhibit A in their case is Dr. Tyrone Hayes, a University of California at Berkeley biologist, who links atrazine to endocrine disruption in amphibians. Hayes specifically asserts that atrazine interferes with the sexual development of frogs and is, therefore, a likely cause of abnormalities in humans.

The EPA, alarmed by these claims, designed and oversaw the execution of two multi-million dollars frog studies, one in Germany and one in Maryland. Neither test could replicate the results Hayes claimed to have found. U.S. EPA officials have also informed state legislators in Minnesota and Illinois that Dr. Hayes refuses to make his data available to them—although a willingness to share data is the sine qua non of any reputable scientist. A careful analysis of Dr. Hayes’s recent publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found numerous weaknesses in his methodology and misrepresentations in his cites of other studies.

Now we have evidence that Dr. Hayes is not only biased but seriously unbalanced in his attitude toward atrazine and its manufacturer, Syngenta.

In an ethics complaint posted to the president, regents and chancellor of UC Berkeley, Syngenta claims that for years Hayes has subjected its employees to emails that are “aggressive, unprofessional and insulting, but also salacious and lewd.” These emails, writes Syngenta litigation counsel Alan Nadel, are “taunting, harassing and sexually explicit in nature.”

One such email, sent from Hayes’s email address on Feb. 13, 2009, says:

aww shucks … I’m bouta’ handle my biz right now
see you bucked…wondering…”what it is right now?”
ya outa’ luck…bouta show you how it is right now

see you’re ****ed (i didn’t pull out) and ya fulla my j*z right now!

In another from 2008, Hayes writes (apparently in response to a public statement from a Syngenta spokesman):

tell your little lap dog to wear knee pads next time and wipe the *** from
his mouth before he steps up to the mic.

Sexually explicit imagery and obscene words sprinkle Dr. Hayes’s communications to Syngenta, which he sends out under his name from his UC email address. His communications are also grandiose, if not paranoiac.

you talkin’ ‘bout my wealth
say you worried ‘bout yo health
cuz your bp goes up with your loathing
maybe you should settle down
…stop following me around
and bow down to the wolf in black clothing

The wolf, of course, is Dr. Hayes (he frequently wears all black). In one email he writes:

i am more than just a scientist, a rock star, a preacher…
i am an icon.

In another, Hayes speculates who will play himself in a Hollywood movie.

In a March, 2008, email, Hayes goes on at length about a dream he had in which he describes Syngenta executives as “defiled souls” stranded on a small island, in frozen air that causes their tears to turn painfully into icicles. They are subsequently judged and punished by seven thunderbolts, seven infernos, seven tsunamis and seven serpents . . .

with your nakedness facing the tundra wished for only one thing…
that you never met the ONE…
nobody from no where…
that your paths would have never crossed…
a man named…tyrone

everywhere i go
i cause a raucus
act like you know
that’s how i do it m*th*f*ck*s

In other emails, Hayes brags about his personal wealth, the value of his house, his $150K remodeled kitchen, and his prestigious education. In what appears to be his only communication that contains self-awareness, he writes:

But consider that crazy people think that they are normal and that everyone else is crazy. Again, I figure to maintain my sanity, it is best to acknowledge my insanity . . .

Then this moment of self-awareness soon melts away, devolving back to Hayes’s private demons:

but what kind of insane man is sane enough to recognize his own insanity?

This missive ends up:

would you rather get your *ss whopped (and you ARE getting your *ss whopped) by a fool or a genius?

Perplexed and alarmed, Syngenta tried more than once to resolve this matter privately. In 2009, University Counsel Michael Smith forwarded Syngenta’s appeal for an end to the harassing emails to Nancy Chu, Assistant Vice Provost. Chu and Dean Mark Schlissel met with Hayes about the Syngenta emails.

In a letter dated April 1, 2009, Chu wrote: “Professor Hayes has acknowledged that some of the language in the email communications was unprofessional. He has agreed that he will cease using any language that could be considered offensive or unprofessional in future email communications. Should there be any further complaints of this nature,” Chu wrote, “please do not hesitate to contact me.” (To see Syngenta’s ethics filing with UC Berkeley, go to: http://www.atrazine.com/Amphibians/Univ_of_CA-7-19-10.pdf.)

The admonition was ineffective. Dr. Hayes’s email campaign continued well into this year. What, if anything, UC Berkley will do is an open question. That Hayes has given female executives at Syngenta real reason for offense and alarm is beyond dispute. (To see a fuller compendium of Dr. Hayes’s emails, go to http://www.atrazine.com/Amphibians/Combined_Large_pdf-r-opt.pdf.)

The larger question is, given the fact that Hayes refuses to share his data (as EPA most recently confirmed in a May, 17, 2010 letter from Donald Brady, Director of EPA Environmental Fate and Effects Division, Office of Pesticide Programs) why does anyone still regard Hayes as a credible source about anything having to do with atrazine?

Why does the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences continue to publish Hayes’s articles?

And when will the press quit trumpeting Hayes’s studies?

In short, what does it take for a scientist to be discredited?

# # #

Toxic Environmental Regulations Poison the Job Market

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 0 comments
by Robert James Bidinotto
The media continue to report dismal economic news, raising the specter that our teetering economy may fall back into a “double-dip recession.” Continuing high unemployment is the biggest worry for most Americans. The percentage of working-age people in the labor force last month fell to 64.7 percent—the lowest figure in a quarter century.

You would think that the administration’s top priority, then, would be to foster a pro-investment, pro-hiring business atmosphere. You’d certainly not expect them to pursue policies that could push any impending recovery, fragile at best, over the “tipping point” and down into another economic chasm.

That, however, appears to be just what they’re doing.

The administration’s entire agenda—from “stimulus” spending, to government-run healthcare, to takeovers of financial institutions, to higher taxes—has spread paralyzing uncertainty throughout the investment community. But that hasn’t caused them even to slow down, let alone change course.

Consider three job-killing measures imposed by this administration in a single area: environmental regulation.

1. The drilling moratorium. In response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the environmentalists heading the Interior Department imposed a six-month ban on all deepwater drilling in the Gulf last May, “while safety regulations are updated.” According to the New York Times, “The action has put hundreds of people who operate and service deepwater wells out of work and brought long-term uncertainty to the Gulf Coast economy. Politicians all along the coast have called the moratorium a case of federal overkill that threatens the livelihood of the region.”

Indeed; an analogy might be to shutting down all driving in Colorado for six months after a single major traffic accident in Denver.

Though a federal judge struck down the administration’s ruling, saying it had failed to justify “a blanket, generic, indeed punitive, moratorium” on deepwater drilling, work on the wells has not resumed, pending Interior Department appeals. And even if the administration loses its appeals, they plan to impose yet another moratorium. Meanwhile, oil rig workers have joined the swollen ranks of the unemployed.


3. The war on agro-chemicals. I’ve previously reported on the EPA’s renewed assault on agro-chemicals, including the crucial weed-killer atrazine, here and here. In those articles, I focused on the dire consequences to our food supply and health if environmentalist bureaucrats ban this safe, vital agro-chemical.

Now comes an important new study showing that such a ban also would lead to tens of thousands of job losses, especially in the farm sector of our ailing economy.

On July 7, University of Chicago economist Don L. Coursey appeared at the National Press Club and in a media teleconference to announce his findings. Dr. Coursey—a respected researcher who has worked for three decades with the EPA, foreign governments, nonprofits, and corporations—told us that “the economics are clear. The ban on atrazine at the national level would have a devastating—devastating—effect upon the U.S. corn economy.”

Drawing upon the EPA’s own prior studies, Coursey found that replacing atrazine would cost farmers between $26 and $58 per acre—meaning “the total loss to corn farmers from a national ban on atrazine would be between $2.3 billion and $5.0 billion per year.” Losses of that magnitude “will erase between 21,000 and 48,000 jobs related to or dependent on corn production, with additional job losses coming from both sugar cane and sorghum production losses.”

If all the job losses were concentrated in the agriculture sector, Dr. Coursey said, farm unemployment would grow by as much as 2.6 percent—rising from the current high 12 percent rate to a whopping 14.6 percent. And if all those job losses were concentrated in the area of corn farming, its current unemployment rate of 11 percent would soar into the catastrophic range of 30 percent. “A good ninety to ninety-five percent of the impact in the corn sector would be felt by small, rural, family farms,” he added.

Such economic losses would be in addition to many other harms noted in my previous articles. These include threats to food crops, higher food prices, and the resulting dietary impacts, especially among the poor. Ironically, there would be environmental harm as well. For example, atrazine is an invaluable aid to “conservation tillage,” which permits far less plowing—thus resulting in less agricultural runoff into streams and drinking water.

“Corn is a very important crop to the world economy,” Dr. Coursey concluded in his teleconference. “A ban on atrazine in corn production in the United States would be devastating to farmers, and devastating to the communities in which they live. The last thing we need is to ban something that’s a safe product, and that will cause more people to lose jobs in our economy, given current conditions.” If the Obama EPA bans atrazine, it would express “wanton indifference to our need for economic recovery.”

Read the full Big Government article here.

Up to 48,000 jobs lost if atrazine is ever banned, new study says

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 0 comments
University of Chicago economist says even more losses would come when sorghum, sugar cane and other crops are considered

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 7, 2010) – Banning the agricultural herbicide atrazine would cost between 21,000 and 48,000 jobs from corn production losses alone, according to University of Chicago economist Don L. Coursey, Ph.D.

Dr. Coursey announced his findings at a briefing sponsored by the Triazine Network today at the National Press Club in Washington.

Coursey estimates atrazine’s annual production value to corn alone to be between $2.3 billion and $5 billion. Atrazine’s additional value to sorghum, sugar cane and other uses increases these totals.

“The economic data on atrazine are very clear. As a first-order estimate, banning atrazine will erase between 21,000 and 48,000 jobs related to or dependant on corn production, with additional job losses coming from both sugar cane and sorghum production losses,” Coursey said.

“The range is wide because we have never before banned a product on which so many depend and for which suitable replacements have a wide variety of prices and application regimes.”

“If all of that job loss were concentrated in the agricultural sector, its unemployment would grow by as much as 2.6 percent. Replacement costs for corn farmers could reach as high as $58 per acre,” Coursey said.

Atrazine has been a mainstay of corn, sorghum and sugar cane production for 50 years. The second most-used herbicide in the U.S., it controls a broad range of yield-robbing weeds, is safe for the crop and supports a variety of farming systems, including soil-saving conservation-till agriculture.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) re-registered atrazine in 2006 based on the evidence of nearly 6,000 studies and more than 80,000 public comments. It began an additional, unscheduled review of atrazine in late 2009.

“Atrazine is essential to U.S. agriculture. We appreciate Dr. Coursey’s findings and will distribute them to our members, the EPA and to our elected representatives. With unemployment still painfully high across the nation, we can’t afford to lose as many as 50,000 jobs and the corn yield that sustains them,” said Jere White, Triazine Network chairman and executive director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association.

EPA cited a media report and claims by a longtime anti-atrazine group when it announced the additional, unscheduled review. It was the first time in history EPA did not cite sound science to initiate a review process.

Coursey’s statement can be viewed at http://agsense.org/.

Coursey is the Ameritech Professor of Public Policy Studies in the Harris School at the University of Chicago, where he served as dean from 1996 to 1998.

Aussies Rap Frog Rapper--Hayes’ Amphibian Studies Dismissed by Australian Government

Friday, June 4, 2010 0 comments
In an informational piece posted on its website on May 31, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) said “atrazine is unlikely to have an adverse impact on frogs at existing levels of exposure” and pointed out their conclusions were consistent with findings by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. APVMA said that past and current research papers by Hayes “ do not provide enough evidence to justify reconsideration of current regulations.” Here is an excerpt from the APVMA report:

There is a body of research (first published after 2002), most closely associated with the work of Professor Tyrone Hayes, that suggests that atrazine disrupts sex differentiation and organogenesis in amphibians. This work was assessed by the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) at the request of the APVMA prior to finalisation of the atrazine review. The conclusion of the APVMA at that time, based on advice from DEWHA, was that atrazine is unlikely to have an adverse impact on frogs at existing levels of exposure. This advice was consistent with findings by the US EPA in 2007 (see below) that atrazine does not adversely effect amphibian gonadal development.

Most recently, in March 2010, Professor Hayes was the lead author on a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (external site) that argued that atrazine demasculinised frogs exposed to a single laboratory controlled, low dose of atrazine throughout all life stages (egg, tadpole and adult). The APVMA submitted this and a number of similar papers to DEWHA for assessment. DEWHA found that these papers do not provide sufficient evidence to justify a reconsideration of current regulations which are based on a very extensive dataset.

Australia has it right when it comes to atrazine, according to Jere White, Executive Director of the Kansas grain sorghum and corn growers associations, and chairman of the Triazine Network

“The APVMA rightly asserts that the frog studies submitted by Professor Hayes simply don’t make the grade as sound science,” White said. “The regulatory agency also correctly points out that, despite the claims of atrazine opponents, including Hayes, atrazine is not banned in the EU.”

Atrazine is not banned in European Union

Although media reports and activists have stated repeatedly that atrazine is banned in the European Union, APVMA correctly asserted that it is not. The APVMA report states:

It is frequently asserted that atrazine has been banned in the EU. This is an incorrect interpretation of the EC decision. Atrazine has not been assessed and de-registered because of a human health or environmental concern. It is not on any EU ‘banned list” and could theoretically be reregistered in the EU should the product registrant provide all the required data. Terbuthylazine, a herbicide very closely related to atrazine is registered in the EU.

“This is one of the best independent explanations of atrazine status in the EU that I have seen” White said. “The notion that the EU banned atrazine is erroneous, but it’s difficult to get people to accept it because so many claim that it is. It’s like the old adage, if you repeat a lie enough, people will begin to believe it.”

For the full report, visit:


For more information on atrazine, visit the new AGsense website

IA Senate Leadership Stresses EPA to Use Only Sound Science in Re-evaluation of Atrazine

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 0 comments
A letter dated May 11, 2010 was sent by Iowa Senate leadership to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson regarding the agency’s decision to once again review atrazine. The letter reads-

“Dear Administrator Jackson:

The undersigned are:

Senator Michael Gronstal (D), Majority Leader
Senator John Kibbie (D), President of the Iowa Senate
Senator Thomas G. Courtney (D), Majority Whip
Senator Gene Fraise (D), Chair, Agriculture Committee
Senator Dennis H. Black (D), Chair, Environment Committee

All of the undersigned are writing to you because of our sincere and significant concern with the respect to the decision of the Unitied States Environmental Proection Agency (EPA) to re-evaluate Atrazine.

EPA re-registered Atrazine in 2006 after a 12-year study. EPA’s science used fresh, current and definitive data, based on nearly 6,00 studies that supported Atrazine’s availability and safe use. Therefore, we believe EPA’s September 2009 decision to announce an unscheduled Atrazine review is repetitive and unnecessary.

In 2003, the EPA estimated that corn growers benefit by approximately $28 per acre by having Atrazine available to protect their crops. For the approximately 10 million Iowa acres treated with Atrazine in 2007, that totals more than $200 million. The EPA stated: “The total or national economic impact resulting from the loss of Atrazine. . .would be in excess of $2 billion per year if Atrazine were unavailable to growers.” Iowa farmers and growers in 60 countries around the world to use Atrazine to produce safe, abundant and affordable crops.

Iowa Corn Growers Association and Iowa Farm Bureau joined more than 50 major agricultural groups in stating grower support for Atrazine to EPA. These groups and their members maintain in that the majority of U.S. farmers support Atrazine and stress that EPA use science, not politics, in its deliberations. We wholly concur and stress that EPA utilize only sound scientific principles and procedures in the new review of this vitally important compound.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


John Kibbie, Iowa Senate President
Michael Gronstal, Iowa Senate Majority Leader
Tom Courtney, Iowa Senate Majority Whip
Eugene Fraise, Chair, Iowa Senate Agriculture Committee
Dennis Black, Chair, Iowa Senate Environment Committee

View the letter- Iowa Senate Leadership Letter to EPA

EPA responds to Illinois Rep concerning Hayes’ atrazine based frog gonad assertions

Illinois State Representative, Dave Winters, who heard Dr. Hayes’ testimony last February regarding frog gonads sent a letter to USEPA asking if it were true that they had reviewed all Dr. Hayes’ data as Dr. Hayes testified. USEPA replied to Representative Winters this week.

The response states:

“. . . I regret that the EPA science staff in the office of Pesticide Program’s EFED (Environmental Fate and Effects Division) could not properly account for the sample sizes and study design reportedly used by the Berkeley researchers. As a result, we were unable to complete any independent analysis to support the study’s conclusions.”

“. . .no reliable determination of cause-effect or concentration-response relationship could be established between atrazine and reported effects in amphibians.”

“EPA presented its review to a FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide Rodenticide Act) SAP (Scientific Advisory Panel) and concluded that it was reasonable to reject the hypothesis formulated in 2003 that atrazine exposure can affect gonadal development. The Agency also determined that there was no compelling reason to pursue additional testing with regard to the potential effects of atrazine on amphibian gonadal development.”

View the complete letter- USEPA Response to Rep Winters May 2010.

Atrazine Scare Campaign Uses Same Junkscience, Playbook as Alar Scare

Thursday, May 27, 2010 0 comments
About the author: Jere White is the Executive Director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association.
Robert James Bidinotto wrote an
article this week on the spurious attacks on atrazine and highlighted the why consumers and farmers alike benefit from this herbicide. On behalf of the Kansas Corn Growers Association, I applaud Mr. Bidinotto on telling the story and history of the fear-mongering spread by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Mr. Bidinotto begins by recounting how NRDC essentially got the chemical growth agent alar, commonly used on apples, banned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after employing a campaign with actress Meryl Streep which “claimed that alar ‘might’ eventually cause thousands of lifetime cancer cases due to apple consumption by preschoolers. It was later revealed by Bidinotto that NRDC’s “junk science” used experiments which gave lab mice doses of alar that were “so outrageously high that 80 percent of the animals were poisoned to death.”

NRDC is attempting the same fear-mongering tactics with atrazine now and has successfully convinced the EPA to review the chemical for safety just six years after it was re-registered by the same government agency. Bidinotto points to another one of NRDC’s “junk science” reports released last September, Atrazine: Poisoning the Well. The report declares “that the chemical was ‘linked’ to all sorts of ‘potential’ health problems and raising the specter of unsafe concentrations in ground water,” writes Bidinotto. This is despite the fact that the EPA already employs a safety margin that limits atrazine concentrations in drinking water to no more than three parts per billion, “more than one thousand times below the threshold of any health concerns.”

Mr. Bidinotto is right on target with what NRDC is attempting to do. We must not allow consumers and the EPA to fall victim this junk science. Atrazine has been safely and effectively used for more than 50 years and banning it would only serve to harm millions of farmers around the country who depend on atrazine. In fact, there are more than 6,000 studies documenting the safety of atrazine from not only the United States but international bodies including the World Health Organization. The NRDC wants you to believe that their study is the only one that matters; but how can the one claiming atrazine is not safe be right when thousands of other studies contradict this claim? I encourage you to get the message out that atrazine is an important part of American agriculture and is needed to help farmers survive.

Atrazine: ‘Son of Alar’: The New Pesticide Scare Campaign

by Robert James Bidinotto
In 1989, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a major environmental group, launched a nationwide panic over the presence on apples of alar, a chemical growth agent. On TV shows such as “60 Minutes” and “Donahue,” and in major women’s magazines, NRDC (with the aid of its expert consulting toxicologist, actress Meryl Streep) claimed that alar “might” eventually cause thousands of lifetime cancer cases due to apple consumption by preschoolers.

This carefully choreographed publicity stunt terrified parents, cost alar’s manufacturer millions, caused over $100 million in losses to apple growers—all while creating a fundraising bonanza for the NRDC.

The scare campaign was based on junk science—on experiments on laboratory rodents in which dose levels were so absurdly high that the animals were dying of simple poisoning. These tests were so shoddy that an independent panel of scientists convened by the EPA—called a Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP)—dismissed the findings as scientifically worthless.
Under political pressure to find something, however, the EPA ordered new tests on mice at dose levels that, again, were so outrageously high that 80 percent of the animals were poisoned to death. Not surprisingly, this overdosing produced the tumors the agency was looking for, and gave it the excuse to ban all use of the chemical.

I spent six months investigating this scam for a special report that appeared in the October 1990 Reader’s Digest. After its publication, many people—echoing the rock group The Who—concluded that “we won’t be fooled again” by environmentalist fear-mongers.

But now a new pesticide panic is underway. Once again, it is being incited by the NRDC, with additional litigation pressure from trial lawyers. Once again, the scare campaign rests on studies that amount to little more than “junk science.” This time, though, the target is an herbicide that plays a far more significant role in agriculture: atrazine. MORE

Dispatch: Re-re-evaluating Atrazine

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 0 comments
An editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal notes, “With the headlines full of oil spills and immigration, the Obama Administration's regulatory agenda is getting little attention. That's a mistake. Consider the Environmental Protection Agency's effort to revive an assault on atrazine, one of the oldest, most well-established agricultural chemicals on the market. Just this past week, the EPA held its third ‘re-evaluation’ hearing on atrazine.”

“This editorial is right on target,” says Dr. Ross. “It basically points out that the plaintiffs’ bar and anti-chemical, anti-business activists are working hand in hand yet again to target atrazine, which is the second most widely used herbicide in the U.S. This campaign is based on no science whatsoever, as it is already acknowledged both by the EPA and WHO that there is no evidence that current levels of atrazine in drinking water are dangerous to humans. Lawyers, of course, will still continue trying to extort money from companies that manufacture this chemical.”

“Keep in mind that the EPA and other agencies have now been staffed by activists,” says ACSH’s Jeff Stier. “The way democratic governments usually work is that there are watchdog groups monitoring regulatory agencies, but now the watchdog groups are running the show. It is as important as ever for us to keep pressure on these agencies and encourage them to prioritize science and consumers’ health interest. With support from Dispatch readers, we will continue to watch them and fight against unscientific activism.

Dr. Whelan adds, “Well, someone has to watch the watchdogs these days.”

Read the rest of this article here.

U of I Atrazine Study Shows Ban Would Hurt Midwest Producers

A study at the University of Illinois aims at showing how important atrazine is to crops in the Midwest. The study looked at 175 sweet corn fields in the Midwest.

“While the vast majority of our Kansas corn growers raise field corn, which is a feedgrain, this research is valuable because it helps us understand how vegetable farmers also rely on atrazine,” according to Jere White, Executive Director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association.

Researchers noticed atrazine was being applied to two-thirds of the sweet corn acres; row cultivation was used on about half of the sweet corn acreage. Here is what one of the researchers, Marty Williams had to say about the study:

"If the use of atrazine was phased out completely, our data indicate the greatest burden would be on those growers who rely on less tillage for weed control, have particularly weedy fields, have early season crop production, and grow sweet corn in rotation with other vegetables such as snap or lima beans," said U of I and USDA Agricultural Research Service ecologist Marty Williams. "Vegetable crops have fewer herbicide options and there tends to be poorer levels of weed control in those crops. When more weeds escape, more weed seed are produced, and crops succeeding those vegetables can have challenging weed problems."

"Atrazine is the single most widely used herbicide in sweet corn, applied to fields before crop emergence, after crop emergence, or at both times," Williams said. "Manufacturers of many of the other herbicides recommend tank-mixing with atrazine to increase their products' effectiveness."

Atrazine is currently the subject of yet another review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning the safety of the herbicide, despite numerous studies contradicting the need to question its safety. If you would like to read the rest of this study, “Significance of Atrazine in Sweet Corn Weed Management Systems” is published in the April-June issue of Weed Technology.

White also serves as chairman of the Triazine Network a nationwide coalition of grower groups who are represent growers in regulatory issues affecting atrazine and other triazine herbicides.

“EPA opened a special review of the triazine herbicides back in 1994 and gave it a clean bill of health in 2006. A media blitz by activist groups in 2009 spurred EPA to announce another round of science advisory panels on the herbicide,” White said. “Our goal is to make sure EPA continues to base its decisions on good scientific research, and not politics.”

Atrazine Remains in Jeopardy

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 2 comments
By Stu Ellis - May 9, 2010 at 5:30 am

Alex, I’ll take “What’s going on here? for $1,000.”

The answer is: “It has been used for 50 years without any problem, it makes food economical, and the EPA is searching for any reason to prohibit its use.”

“What is atrazine?”

“You’re correct for $1,000!”

So with that bit of televised repartee, you learn all about atrazine and find that it is in jeopardy. And coincidentally, once again. This popular and effective herbicide, used on 60% of the corn, 75% of the sorghum, and on 90% of the sugarcane in the US (according to Illinois Corn Growers Association) is again the subject of an investigation by the US Environmental Protection Agency. In technical farmer vernacular, it is called, “witch hunt.”

Atrazine was introduced to the fathers and grandfathers of today’s farmers in the late 1950’s and has been killing grass in cornfields ever since. It has not only made a lot of money for Syngenta, which makes it, but has also benefited every farmer across the Cornbelt who has applied it to his fields. That benefit is to kill unwanted vegetation which is competing with corn and other crops for moisture and nutrients. Weed specialists at all of the Land Grant Universities can provide many examples of how yields are diminished when weeds and grass are allowed to grow.

Take Marty Williams for example. He works at the University of Illinois under contract with USDA’s Agriculture Research Service on the improvement of sweet corn. He’s concerned about the loss of atrazine as a crop protectant chemical, which he says will diminish commercial sweet corn yields. That means less sweet corn, higher prices for consumers, and the use of greater quantities of other herbicides to control grasses that lesser amounts of atrazine would control.

The EPA is initiating a new review of atrazine. In 2006 it completed a 12 year long study of atrazine and found that it was not causing cancer as atrazine opponents had alleged. Atrazine does show up periodically in water supplies, and will be known to spike above the three parts per billion threshold set by the EPA. But those molecules of atrazine have not been shown to be carcinogenic, nor causing other maladies alleged by opponents. The World Health Organization has also looked into atrazine and has not found any reason to prohibit its use anywhere around the world.

Farmers are hoping that at some point the EPA does not succumb to pressure from opponents or from a political appointee with an agenda against crop protectants and remove atrazine from the market. Some pesticides and herbicides have been removed on prior occasions when reasonable scientific tests have shown them to be dangerous. However, when sound science has show a product to be safe, its removal from the market may have unintended consequences. Those frequently include the use of other chemicals in greater quantities than the original product, which is a consequence that environmental advocates would probably find a bit disconcerting.

If that happened, just imagine the next season of Jeopardy, when the contestant sees the answer: “The federal agency which tried to reduce pesticides, but actually caused more to be used, and raised consumer prices in doing so.”

The correct answer would be: “The EPA.”

Read the original posting of this article here.

WSJ on Atrazine - The War on a Weed Killer

Monday, May 3, 2010 92 comments
The EPA opens a re-re-evaulation of a safe chemical.
From the Wall Street Journal

With the headlines full of oil spills and immigration, the Obama Administration's regulatory agenda is getting little attention. That's a mistake. Consider the Environmental Protection Agency's effort to revive an assault on atrazine, one of the oldest, most well-established agricultural chemicals on the market. Just this past week, the EPA held its third "re-evaluation" hearing on atrazine.

Atrazine is the nation's second-most common herbicide. For 50 years it has been the farm industry's primary crop protector. In the U.S., the weed killer is used in the production of 60% of corn, 75% of sorghum and 90% of sugarcane.

Since atrazine's debut in 1959, 10 Administrations have endorsed its use. The EPA in 2006 completed a 12-year review involving 6,000 studies and 80,000 public comments. In re-registering the product, the agency concluded the cumulative risks posed "no harm that would result to the general U.S. population, infant, children or other . . . consumers." The World Health Organization has found no health concerns.

None of this has stopped the most politicized environmental groups, which oppose both chemicals and the idea of industrial farming itself. Organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council have spent years ginning up claims that atrazine in groundwater causes cancer, birth defects and other maladies. Manufacturers such as Syngenta have been required to conduct millions of dollars worth of studies investigating these alarmist claims. EPA staff routinely review the studies in atrazine's favor.

But now the Obama Administration has begun to fill such agencies with hires who are either sympathetic to, or even hail from, these activist groups. Consider the EPA's new head for toxic substances, Stephen Owens. As director of Arizona's Department of Environmental Quality, he so aggressively imposed an activist's climate agenda that the state legislature voted to strip his department of authority to enact greenhouse gas rules.

In August, the NRDC and the Pesticide Action Network began a new campaign against atrazine. In October, the EPA announced it would begin a re-re-evaluation of atrazine with a series of scientific panel meeting, and those are underway. The goal seems to be to lay the groundwork to ban atrazine.
Among the environmental lobby's new lines of attack is that some U.S. water systems occasionally show "spikes" in the chemical. This ignores that the EPA's drinking water standard for atrazine—three parts per billion—has a built-in, 1,000-fold safety factor. It ignores EPA findings that atrazine isn't likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

Also re-energized by the EPA's sudden interest in atrazine is, you guessed it, the plaintiffs bar. Tort kingpin Stephen Tillery, joined by Baron & Budd, filed a class action in 2004 against atrazine makers in tort-friendly Madison County, Illinois, but they've struggled even there. The EPA's re-re-evaluation is already helping the lawyers sign up more water-district plaintiffs—Mr. Tillery has filed a new federal class action—and it surely will provide ammunition in court.

There is an agenda here far more ambitious than getting one chemical. The environmental lobby wants more farmland retired to "nature," and one way to do that is to make farming more expensive. The EPA notes that eliminating atrazine would cost $2 billion annually in lost crop yields and substituting more expensive herbicides. Some farmers would go out of business or ask the federal government for more subsidies.

The environmental lobby also figures that if it can take down atrazine with its long record of clean health, it can get the EPA to prohibit anything. Sounds plausible. Between this and its determination to regulate greenhouse gases, the Obama EPA is proving itself a regulatory fundamentalist, with scant regard for good science or economics.

Farmers Speak Out at the EPA: Atrazine is Safe, Effective, and Critical to Our Bottom Line

Friday, April 30, 2010 2 comments
WASHINGTON (April 28, 2010) -- Farm groups traveled to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to voice support for atrazine before the third in a series of hearings being held by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to re-review the critically-effective herbicide.

Among those testifying were Jere White, Chairman of the Triazine Network and director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association; Laura Knoth, the executive director of the Kentucky Corn Growers Association; and Richard Fawcett, of Fawcett Consulting, who shared his expertise in weed science and critical yield gains atrazine provides farmers.

Noting that atrazine has been more extensively studied than any other crop protection product and has continually been awarded a clean bill of health, Jere White commented that growers often ask him, “When is enough enough?”

It was only in 2006, after all, after an extensive 12-year review, that EPA concluded that the triazine herbicides, including atrazine, pose “no harm” to the general population, including women and infants. It wasn’t until “the New York Times and Huffington Post supplied their version of ‘peer review’ of an NRDC report to certain political appointees at EPA,” said White, that EPA hastily convened this un-necessary re-review.

White questioned whether this extraordinary break with standard EPA procedures violates FIFRA standards, and highlighted the enormous burden of material the independent scientists have been asked to digest in a relatively short period of time due to the compressed schedule. As White noted, “…though the average number of studies submitted for SAP review per session number around 15, EPA has generously provided you with 123.”

Given that scientific bodies around the world have determined that atrazine is safe to use, and extensive monitoring shows that levels in raw and finished water are steadily declining, White questioned the need for this EPA’s “politically driven second guessing.” He ended by expressing the hope that the high standards of scientific objectivity that enabled the EPA to register atrazine as safe in the past would continue to prevail at the agency.

Laura Knoth outlined the profoundly beneficial effects of atrazine to the environment, especially as a result of no-till and low-till agriculture. By 2008, Knoth noted, “atrazine was applied to 60 percent of conservation tillage and no-till corn acres.” Without such effective weed control, the result would be a massive increase in erosion, “estimated to be more than 300 billion pounds annually.” Sediment has been identified by both the USDA and by individual states as the leading source of water pollution in our nation today.

Atrazine-enabled no-till agriculture also reduces the use (and expense) of fossil fuels to power tractors for field cultivation and keeps crucial nutrients in the soil.

On top of the extraordinary environmental benefits, Richard Fawcett emphasized the critical importance of atrazine to farmers’ bottom line. Analysis of data from two different decades starting in the 80s and in the 90s, showed a very similar – and impressive – boost in yields in both eras. Average yield gains with atrazine from 1986 to 2005 in university field trials were 5.7 bushels per acre compared to alternative herbicides.

EPA itself has estimated that farming without atrazine would cost corn growers $28 an acre in reduced yields and higher costs for less effective substitutes.
The voice of the farm community was clear: atrazine is safe, it’s effective, it’s essential to the environment, and it’s critical to our bottom line. Sound science, sound economics, and sound environmental stewardship would all tell the EPA one thing – leave atrazine alone, so American farmers can get on with the business of feeding the world.

Let's hope atrazine lawsuits go away faster than asbestos

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 2 comments
4/18/2010 10:37 AM By Ed Murnane -Illinois Civil Justice League

While the Madison County asbestos meter continues to spin like some kind of hyper-active Las Vegas slot machine, there is a chance another one of the trial lawyer "get richer quicker" schemes from the "A" file may be handed a "get out of our court" card, which is similar to a "get out of jail free" card from Monopoly but much more significant.

Last Wednesday, Madison County Judge Barbara Crowder was scheduled to hear motions to dismiss several lawsuits against manufacturers and a retailer of atrazine, the second most important herbicide in Illinois.

Illinois, if you have forgotten, is a state that depends heavily on corn and other crop production for its economic vitality. Look out the car window in a few weeks and you'll start to see the miracle of Illinois crops breaking ground. Given the current state of the economy, it's a shame crops can't grow year-round, and in highway medians too. And maybe in the chambers of the Illinois General Assembly.

There are several aspects of major significance to the proceedings in Madison County.

First, it will be among the early major rulings by Judge Crowder who is taking over the docket of retiring Judge Daniel Stack. Stack has handled the massive asbestos docket in Madison County and while popular, respected and likeable, the number of asbestos cases filed in Madison County continues to grow and a sign that atrazine cases are being encouraged to follow along the "welcome" path would not be positive.

Second, the ruling could serve as another sign that the good old boys club continues to thrive in Madison County. While not based in Madison County, plaintiff's attorney Stephen Tillery of St. Louis is one of many Southwestern Illinois/Eastern Missouri lawyers who has struck it rich in Madison County and who is a major player in the atrazine litigation.

Six suits against atrazine manufacturers and a retailer, Illinois-based Growmark, were filed five years ago in Madison County, recognized nationally as one of America's "judicial hellholes," primarily because it welcomes out-of-state plaintiffs' attorneys seeking cash bonanzas.

Last month, the same lawyers hedged their bets, filing a federal class action suit for 17 plaintiffs from six Midwestern states in the Southern District of Illinois. The plaintiffs in both suits are local water boards.

Among the lawyers are Baron and Budd - billionaire attorneys from Texas - and Tillery, their local representative.

The trial lawyers are likely to say the lawsuits aim at far-off companies unjustly enriched in Illinois. The truth is their immediate victims will be Illinois corn growers.

Atrazine is no ordinary herbicide. EPA says it brings $28 of value to every acre, in 2003 dollars. By that estimate, it is worth more than $200 million per year to Illinois corn growers and its annual national value is no less than $2 billion, again in 2003 dollars.

Losing that much would hurt all corn growers; it could devastate those who are struggling. In these tough times, it could put them out of business and their families out of their homes.

The lawsuits say runoff makes drinking water unsafe. But atrazine, the most studied agricultural input in history, is found to be safe around the world, in Britain, Canada, Australia, by the World Health Organization and our own U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency.

It has been approved for use in the United States for over 50 years. Currently used in 60 countries, it has never been banned due to health concerns. The EPA, in 2006, after a 12-year review that included more than 6000 scientific studies, found atrazine poses no harm to infants or the general population when used as directed.

Trace amounts found in a few handfuls of water systems are so tiny - literally measured in parts per billion - and EPA safety margins are so large, that an average adult could drink thousands of gallons every day for 70 years and still not reach an exposure level at which any health effects have been detected.

In other words, there is no safety issue.

So, why are they suing? Why do many - most? - plaintiff attorneys sue? Why are dozens of asbestos suits filed in Madison County each month?

Public documents show one of the plaintiffs plans a new $4.5 million filtration system. It is no coincidence that the suits demand new, high-end, state-of-the-art filtering systems.

And of course the plaintiffs' attorneys will receive cash for their clients if they win. Big piles of cash. Silos full of cash.

Farming -- and corn growing especially -- is basic to Illinois. Cash-strapped water districts seeking new sources of funding is not a surprise, but neither are out-of-state attorneys trying to cash in.

But we need to remember that their bonanzas are not free to our farmers - or to us.

If atrazine's value is wiped out, jobs will be lost and Illinois farmers will produce less corn. That means less revenue, and that will hurt the economies of our rural communities and ultimately our state economy that already faces so many challenges.

Read the rest of this article on atrazine lawsuits here.

EPA’s Ag Plate Fills -From Atrazine to Nutrient Runoff, Agency Has Ag Issues in Sights

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 1 comments
Source: Greg D. Horstmeier DTN Production Editor

COLUMBIA, Mo. (DTN) — Agriculture is becoming a common subject in the halls of the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA rulings could cast a long shadow over agriculture in the coming year. The agency has a number of regulation reviews and other activities that could affect farming, and some ag leaders are becoming concerned about what they deem an “activist-led agency.”

“We have a whole new administration that’s built on activism,” said Rick Tolman, chief executive officer of the National Corn Growers Association. “So there is a component of the Obama constituent base that feels more empowered, so there’s more opportunity for those voices to be heard than in the past. Whether that’s right or wrong, you can decide. It’s just a reality.”

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, speaking before the National Press Club recently, noted that the agency’s more aggressive stance was partially based on the fact that chemical safety laws in the U.S. “are 30 years old, and the fact that (those laws) are widely perceived as being toothless, I think we owe it to the American people to answer their concerns and pleas for help.”

Here’s a look at some of the subjects EPA is looking at this year that could have an impact on how you farm.


The popular corn herbicide is going through agency review for human and environmental impacts. EPA spokespersons say this new review, falling on the heels of a 2006 review that essentially gave the herbicide a clean bill of health, was already being planned, then was stepped up to be part of the discussion of how EPA uses epidemiological and other human health studies to evaluate pesticide safety. Pesticide supporters have called foul, intimating that current EPA leadership is forcing agency employees to look at specific health and environmental studies that never got a glance before, due to questionable science.

New rules, if any, on atrazine use should be finalized by the end of 2010.

In the meantime, water districts from 16 states have joined a federal lawsuit against atrazine manufacturers, asking for compensation for water filtration systems needed to remove atrazine from drinking water.


Known inside Washington Beltway ag circles as the “Sixth Circuit Court decision,” the issue is based on Clean Water Act regulations that state an entity that could be a “point source” of pesticides or other pollutants that have the potential to run off into water must have a permit for “discharging.” In the past, EPA has said agricultural pesticide applicators, when abiding by pesticide labels, don’t fall under discharge rules, and don’t need a permit. The Sixth Circuit Court disagreed, saying its reading of the Clean Water Act makes any pesticide discharge, whether from an industrial waste pipe or a sprayer nozzle, a potential point “source.”

EPA Administrator Jackson, asked a question on the subject at her National Press Club speech, said creating a proper permitting scheme “is a huge undertaking.” Essentially, every farmer or commercial applicator applying pesticides that have any chance of running off into waterways will have to be permitted. She promised that permits will “be done in a way that I think shows we’re building on programs that are already out there as we comply with the court ruling.” Several state regulators said they likely would handle such permits in a “class” format, in which the state creates one broad permit, and applicators could make a simple application to fall within that permit. Permit rules are expected mid-year.


The agency has proposed that pesticide manufacturers reveal the contents of so-called “inert” ingredients on the product label. Inerts typically include surfactants and other chemicals that can enhance the pesticide’s activity or make it easier to mix and apply.


EPA presented a draft of new pesticide drift regulations late in 2009. Comments on those rules drew fire from state regulators and farm groups alike, as the draft said applicators would be violating regulations any time drift occurred with a pesticide that “could cause” damage to property, wildlife or humans. Critics said it is impossible to achieve zero drift during a season, and also said the phrasing “could cause” was too open-ended and superseded current pesticide law. EPA is reviewing comments on the draft rules.


EPA is expected to release a proposed rule that could include an indirect land use change penalty for biofuels. The penalty is based on the theory that growth in biofuels will spread land use change around the world away from native vegetation and toward biofuel crops. “It’s a flawed piece of policy that has tremendous negative implications for farmers right now,” Tolman said.


There is concern among many farm groups that the failure of voluntary nutrient management plans to clean up the Chesapeake Bay will create mandatory maximum runoff and nitrogen and phosphorus loading levels. Such maximums could then become the template for controlling nutrient runoff for the rest of the country. Last month, the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, part of the Mississippi River Collaborative, called for more consistency in state fertilizer application regulations, increased crop set-backs from waterways, mandatory fencing to keep livestock out of streams, and more teeth in clean water regulations for agriculture.

Read the rest of this article here.

No Award for Ivory’s Inaccurate Atrazine Story

Monday, April 5, 2010 1 comments
The Huffington Post Investigative Fund’s Danielle Ivory was a finalist for the Investigative Reporters and Editors investigative journalism award for an article she wrote on atrazine. Maybe she didn’t win because her story was inaccurate.

Sure, I crossed over to the “dark side” leaving newspaper journalism for public relations, but I still remember my news roots. Those roots go back to ink-scented offices at my college newspaper, then at the historic Emporia Gazette in Emporia, Kan.  The pay wasn’t great, but I gained a fortune in news smarts from some amazing (and often grumpy) editors.  A lazily written story was always challenged with red ink. Notes to the side like “attribution?”, “source?” or “prove it!” were common even in the simplest of stories. Opinion was to be left on page four, and you had better interview sources from each side of a story. Lots of red pens must be sitting unused in today’s newsrooms.

An example is Danielle Ivory’s almost award-winning reporting on atrazine. While I took issue with many parts of the story, let’s simply look at the lead: “One of the nation's most widely-used herbicides has been found to exceed federal safety limits in drinking water in four states, but water customers have not been told and the Environmental Protection Agency has not published the results.”

The lead is a little long and, but it does portray the breathlessness with which the writer is reporting the story. Breathlessness aside, let’s look at the facts in the lead. Ivory states the herbicide has exceeded federal safety limits. This is incorrect. The federal safety limit for atrazine is three parts per billion based on an annual average. This is specified in the Safe Drinking Water Act’s standards for atrazine.  While test results showed atrazine levels well above 3 parts per billion in some cases, those were found in individual weekly tests that were part of a program designed to take a closer look at atrazine levels in certain areas. The EPA drinking water limits are based on an “annual average” and not individual readings. If the writer was not aware of this, her editors should have been. The atrazine levels in water in these areas fall well within the EPA’s drinking water standards. In fact, there have been no violations of the drinking water standards anywhere in the U.S. since 2005.

According to EPA:  “Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the atrazine Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) is intended to prevent longer-term, or chronic, health concerns from occurring even after years of exposure and is calculated against a running average from four quarterly samples. An occasional peak concentration above 3 ppb is, therefore, not cause for concern. Rather, a long-term, consistent value above a yearly average of 3 ppb would be of concern. The MCL is designed to protect all population subgroups.”

An editor once told me, if the lead is wrong, the entire story lacks credibility. He also told me that I couldn’t slant a story based on my personal agenda. Maybe these rules no longer stand.
The Huffington Post congratulated Ivory on being chosen a finalist for the IRE investigative journalism award, claiming that the story played a part in mobilizing Senator Barbara Boxer into pressuring EPA to open yet another evaluation of atrazine, and led  to a class action suit against the makers of atrazine.

I congratulate the IRE for not giving Danielle Ivory an award for her investigative article. I like to think an old editor who serves on the IRE board marked her copy with red ink.

Sue Schulte, Director of Communications
Kansas Corn Growers Association
Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association