Atrazine review: Will sound science prevail?

Published on: 14:42PM Sep 10, 2010

Chuck Foresman

Following is a guest blog from my colleague Beth Carroll, with the Syngenta regulatory group, as another EPA hearing on atrazine is scheduled for Sept. 14-17. 
Beth Carroll 
Do you remember the panic over Alar on apples about 20 years ago? 
An investigative journalist who dug into the science and the EPA hearings around the Alar issue writes that he sees parallels between that scare and the current debate over atrazine herbicide. His perspective on how science can be manipulated to support a point is fascinating, and the costs he reported to the apple industry were real.
This year, the EPA is in the process of reviewing new studies related to atrazine with a series of Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meetings, even though the Agency completed an extensive, 12-year review of the herbicide in 2006. At that time, EPA ruled that atrazine should be re-registered. And even though the EPA has continued to scrutinize atrazine’s safety by conducting several SAPs on atrazine in 2007 & 2009. Last fall, in announcing yet another several year re-re-review of atrazine, the Agency said, “Recently, articles in the media and a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have raised human health concerns for atrazine and have been critical of EPA’s regulatory oversight of this herbicide.” 
According to a regional EPA director, the Agency’s goal is not to ban atrazine, but to base its decision on the soundest science available. As they consider the new studies, I trust that they won’t disregard the proof of atrazine’s safety provided by the weight of evidence of more than 6,000 studies the EPA says have been previously submitted. 
As the executive director of the International Policy Network points out in another article, time has shown that not all potential threats come to pass. The author notes that many of the technologies feared by environmentalists have turned out to be environmentally benign and have helped increase yields and reduce soil erosion.
Growers agree that technology, including the effective, economical herbicide atrazine, helps them feed the world. For that reason, let’s be sure sound science, rather than activist media hype, prevails in this case.