The Atrazine Debate in Perspective

by Ben Somberg | August 30, 2010

CPR Member Scholar Frank Ackerman had an op-ed in the Des Moines Register the other day, "Atrazine ban would not ruin the Corn Belt."

The chemical in question is a weed-killer, and also a known endocrine disruptor. The Bush Administration's EPA determined that atrazine does not cause negative effects to human health. The Obama Administration's EPA is currently conducting a review of that assessment (stay tuned).

Ackerman responds to arguments that banning atrazine would cause huge economic harm, writing:

How great is the economic benefit of using atrazine? Several studies have estimated that atrazine boosts average corn yields by 6 percent or less. A database of field trials, maintained by consultant Richard Fawcett and relied on by atrazine supporters, shows that it increases corn yields by an average of 3 to 4 percent. The most comprehensive national study, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, estimated that banning atrazine would lower corn yields by 1.2 percent.

In fact, atrazine might have no effect at all on corn yields. Two corn-growing countries, Germany and Italy, both banned atrazine in 1991. I compared the trends in corn yields per acre, and in corn acreage, in the United States, Germany and Italy for 1981-2001. Both Germany and Italy did as well or better in corn production after banning atrazine as they did in the 10 years before the ban. And both countries did as well or better than the United States ...

Atrazine, Syngenta's Confidential Data, EPA's Review, and the Five Stages of Grief

by Sandra Zellmer | January 13, 2010
My family has gotten a lot smaller lately. My mother died in 2004, my father in 2007, and my uncle in 2008. I’ve done the five stages of grief, as introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, but not exactly as she described. It’s true that I initially felt denial: “I’m a lucky person; this can't be happening.” Then I was angry and felt sorry for myself. Then, at least during my mother’s struggle with pancreatic cancer, I hit the bargaining ...

Obama EPA Takes Strike One on Atrazine

by Rena Steinzor | August 25, 2009
The publication of in-depth investigative reporting on complex regulatory issues is a phenomenon that has become as rare as hen’s teeth, and I greeted the front-page story in Sunday's New York Times on the perils posed by atrazine with a big cheer. Unfortunately, despite reporter Charles Duhigg’s best efforts, the response of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokespeople and other commentators garbled the issue substantially. What the story revealed is that even on this mammoth and controversial environmental problem, Obama’s EPA ...

Atrazine in Drinking Water

by Holly Doremus | August 24, 2009
This item cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet. Atrazine is suddenly very much in the news. Sunday’s New York Times features a major story about whether the EPA’s current standard for acceptable levels of atrazine in drinking water is tight enough to protect human health. Yesterday’s Peoria Journal carried a story about a class action lawsuit filed in Illinois state court against Syngenta, the primary manufacturer of atrazine. And NRDC has just issued a report accusing EPA of ignoring the ...

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