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

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.