Wednesday, March 02, 2005

EPA Back To Old Tricks: Atrazine, DDVP and Industry Influence

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has filed another lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). NRDC claims that the EPA “secretly” met with representatives from companies manufacturing Atrazine, a pesticide, and DDVP, an insecticide.

Such behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing is not unprecedented. As the attached NRDC press release mentions, the EPA committed “widespread violations” under Administrator Ann Gorsuch, during the tenure of President Ronald Reagan.

The EPA is beholden to the sitting administration and, under George W. Bush, we've witnessed a steady corrosion of EPA regulations. Resignations were submitted by the more honest EPA officials, so the news that the agency is making deals with pesticide manufacturers is hardly surprising. The EPA is no longer just a branch of the federal government; it’s also big business. (The EPA's recent mercury regulations, for example, were dubbed a “gift to industry.”)

Atrazine, manufactured by the Swiss-based company, Syngenta, is implicated in an observed spike in the incidence of amphibian feminization. The males of some freshwater fish species, such as the smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), are also producing eggs. Dr. Tyrone Hayes, a biologist at UCBerkeley, is leading the charge against Atrazine. His experiments suggest a direct correlation between Atrazine levels and amphibian feminization. Unfortunately, because Dr. Hayes believed Atrazine threatened amphibians from the get-go, many other biologists are reluctant to stand with him until further work has been done. Technically, the verdict is still out.

In the meantime, the EPA is working to ensure that Atrazine and other chemicals not only continue to find their way into our water systems, but that they will do so in large quantities. Across the Atlantic, several European countries have banned use of the pesticide, after scientist expressed concern about the potentially negative effects of Atrazine on the human population.

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