Tim Pastoor: Atrazine is proven safe, despite critics' assertions

2010-02-03T00:15:00Z Tim Pastoor: Atrazine is proven safe, despite critics' assertionsBy Tim Pastoor Winona Daily News
February 03, 2010 12:15 am  • 

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture said last month that "atrazine regulations protect human health and the environment in Minnesota."

This finding, publicized in a department news release Jan. 15,

reaffirms what we've known all along - the herbicide atrazine can be used safely by farmers in the U.S.

But here we go again. This month, two environmental activist groups escalated their attacks on Syngenta and atrazine in Minnesota, suggesting the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Min-nesota need to rethink atrazine.

These claims are baseless and wrong. The EPA just completed a 12-year evaluation of the corn herbicide atrazine in 2006 and concluded that it can be re-

registered for use. The EPA's painstakingly detailed review of more than 6,000 scientific studies led it to state very clearly that atrazine poses "no harm that would result to the general U.S. population, infants, children or other ... consumers."

One would think such a thorough review with this much data and with so many qualified scientists examining each aspect of atrazine's safety would be enough. But not for the agenda-driven activist organizations that just don't like EPA's conclusions. Political pressure by these groups has pushed the EPA to announce yet another "comprehensive" re-evaluation of atrazine.

Been there, done that.

But we'll do it again. Even though atrazine has been through one of the most comprehensive reviews in EPA's history, Syngenta, as a science-based company, looks forward to bringing the same high-quality science into an open and transparent safety review of atrazine by the EPA in 2010.

Syngenta expects a positive outcome and the continued availability of atrazine to Minnesota farmers.

For the 50 years farmers have had atrazine to produce safe, healthy and abundant crops, sound science has governed U.S. regulatory decisions on this valuable product. To get a license (or registration) to sell atrazine or any of its products, Syngenta is required by EPA to conduct a long list of mandatory high-quality studies. These studies must be done under rigorous scrutiny by the EPA, known as "good laboratory practices."

Every data point is available to verify that the studies were done properly and the science can be verified by EPA scientists. Recently cited studies by activist organizations are not required to adhere to the same extraordinarily high quality standards.

The EPA reviewed the best science in its recent regulatory decision, so these activists' calls for yet another review of atrazine would only be repeating the work that has been done already.

These activist groups urge the removal of safe, regulated crop protection tools farmers rely on to produce safe and abundant food for the world. It is estimated 40 percent of the world's food supply would not exist without the use of such products.

The activists' call for another atrazine evaluation seems even more out of touch now, considering the report just issued by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

World-renowned institutions, including the World Health Organization, the National Cancer Institute, and governments in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, all have studied atrazine. WHO said atrazine is deemed "not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans," placing it in the same cancer risk category as substances such as tea, rubbing alcohol and talc.

Today, atrazine is used in more than 60 countries - in Africa, North and South America, Asia and the Middle East. No country has ever discontinued the use of atrazine based on health effects.

Even though countries in the European Union do not use atrazine, the product received a favorable safety review there: "It is expected that the use of atrazine, consistent with good plant protection practice, will not have any harmful effects on human or animal health or any unacceptable effects on the environment."

Farmers rely on atrazine to control weeds on more than half of U.S. corn, and a 2003 EPA review said "the total or national economic impact resulting from the loss of atrazine to control grass and broadleaf weeds in corn, sorghum and sugar cane would be in excess of $2 billion per year if atrazine were unavailable to growers."

That would have a devastating effect on Minnesota's farm economy.

Last week's MDA report further validated the importance of atrazine to Minnesota farmers, saying, "The MDA has been advised by weed scientists from the University of Minnesota that there are no direct replacements for atrazine in preemergent weed control that are currently registered for use in Minnesota."

More than 50 farm groups from across the country, including the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and Minnesota Crop Production Retailers, who truly represent American farmers, asked the EPA to leave politics aside and support the farming community by ensuring the continued availability of atrazine.

Farmers have told us again and again to fight for atrazine, which is an important tool in growing affordable and abundant food, and we will.

Tim Pastoor, Ph.D., is a toxicologist and principal scientist with Syngenta Crop Protection of Greensboro, N.C. More is available online at www.atrazine.com.

Copyright 2015 Winona Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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