Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Atrazine and Groundwater

A few weeks ago, there was a post linking to a moving personal story about atrazine use in agriculture and concerns about the potential cancer risk associated with chemical pesticides. This highly charged issue was in the news again this week, and the divide in the agriculture community was readily apparent.

In January, the Land Stewardship Project collaborated with the Pesticide Action Network in the publication of the report, The Syngenta Corporation & Atrazine: The Cost to the Land, People & Democracy.

According to this report:
Syngenta’s atrazine has become one of the most commonly detected pesticides in U.S. ground and surface water. Between 1998 and 2003, 7 million people were exposed to atrazine in their treated drinking water at levels above state or federal health-based limits. The U.S. Geological Survey found that atrazine was present in streams in agricultural areas approximately 80 percent of the time, and in groundwater in agricultural areas about 40 percent of the time.
Earlier this month, a number of commodity groups signed a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stating that they were “troubled by the activist forces that seem to be guiding the very intensive and urgent re-evaluation (actually a re-re-evaluation) of atrazine despite its recently completed re-registration, which provided for its continued safe use.”

The farmers involved in the Land Stewardship Project report are deemed to be "activists" and "special interest groups." This is amusing in that this is also clearly what the commodity groups are - and I don't mean that in a derogatory sense. Organizations like the National Corn Growers Association exist to lobby for the interest of their members. The letter argues for a science-based approach, which seems to be what everyone says that they are asking for. It is just that each side reads the "science" differently.

I'd like the EPA to look at atrazine openly, honestly and without pressure from any interest group - including the chemical and agricultural industries. It is simply too hard for them to separate out economic interests. It is universally acknowledged that atrazine is in the drinking water consumed by many farm families and rural communities across the United States. They deserve an honest look at the health impact of that contamination.

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