And for good reason: it's still one of the most effective, affordable and trusted products in agriculture today.
The company points out that this herbicide is 'safe' and that it is essential for increased crop production at a time of critical demand in the United States and the world. Syngenta also refers to the fact that in 2006 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "…re-registered atrazine in 2006, based on the overwhelming evidence of safety from nearly 6,000 studies" (Syngenta).
While the main reason for the EU ban on this product was the indication of contaminated drinking water supplies, Syngenta denies this claim. It supports this view by referring to a 2008 study in which 122 Community Water Systems monitored in 10 states were monitored. This study found that the federal standards set for Atrazine were not exceeded in any of the states.
One should however bear in mind that Syngenta has a vested interest in the continued free sale of this product and therefore that its results may be biased. The above view is strongly contrasted by other studied. A good example is that atrazine is in reality a …potent endocrine disruptor with ill effects in wildlife, laboratory animals and humans. Atrazine chemically castrates and feminizes wildlife and reduces immune function in both wildlife and laboratory rodents. Atrazine induces breast and prostate cancer, retards mammary development, and induces abortion in laboratory rodents (What is Atrazine? And why do we love it?).
While the final verdict on Atrazine by the EPA is still outstanding, it is clear that there are many reasons why this product should be banned in the United States. This view is based on the fact that European countries have already seen fit to ban this herbicide. This already suggests that the herbicide should not be used on crops and near water systems.
Coupled with the above are two other factors. The first is that the EPA has decided to reassess the toxicity of atrazine after it had officially given it the stamp of approval in 2006. This is a clear indication that there are certain discrepancies and areas of concern that have to be fully explored and researched. The second factor is that there are an increasing number of reports, studies and commentaries that link this product to serious illnesses like cancer and to a direct effect on the human reproductive system and the environment. One could, for example, refer to a report which states that,
The relationship between Atrazine and prostate cancer and breast cancer is very significant. Experimental evidence in rodents show that Atrazine is associated with an increased incident of both prostate cancer and breast cancer. There is also correlational evidence that these findings are also applicable to humans.
(EU on Atrazine)
One must also take into account that there are certain interested parties that would benefit from the continued and unimpeded sale of this product. This aspect is also related to criticisms of the sale of this product. Some studies indicate that the use of atrazine in fact only increases corn production by as little as 1.2% (Ackerman, 2010). This contradicts the assertion by the suppliers of atrazine that the continued availability of their product is essential to the agricultural industry. There is also the suggestion and allegation that the sale of this product is being promoted by big business at the expense of human health. "The agri-giant Syngenta… has a very powerful lobby and spent $250,000 lobbying in Minnesota alone in 2005 to keep atrazine on the market there" (What is Atrazine? And why do we love it?).
There are many viable alternatives to atrazine that do not have any possible health repercussions. One of these is Mesotrione, which is a direct chemical alternative to Atrazine (Lister, 2010). Studies and trials of this product have "… outperformed the carcinogenic atrazine in terms of protecting corn plants and producing a high crop yield" (Lister, 2010). It has also been ascertained as being better able to maintain safe levels of herbicide content in the environment. The practice of crop rotation has also been put forward as a more practical solution to the problem of using herbicides.
In the final analysis the headlines of an article from the Kansa City Star tends to sum up the situation:" With weed killer atrazine, the benefits are small, the risks are huge" ( Ackerman, 2010). The fact that many other countries has considered the risks of using this herbicide as being too great in relation to and viable returns should be a guideline for Americans to ban this herbicide.
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