Roughly 10 years after the EPA gave the green light for atrazine to be used on American corn, sorghum, and sugar cane crops, the federal agency has begun to backpedal and is setting off a firestorm of criticism from groups such as American Farm Bureau Federation and National Corn Growers Association. The groups accuse the EPA of ignoring the wealth of scientific research affirming atrazine’s safety.
— National Corn (NCGA) (@NationalCorn) August 8,
The future of atrazine as a crop protection tool is threatened. @EPA is accepting
comments Until October 4. https://t.co/wnFBdzqzpS
— Nebraska Farm Bureau (@NEFarmBureau) August 8, 2016
— Mace Thornton (@AFBFMace) August 8, 2016
EPA draft report on atrazine ignores scientific evidence affirming herbicide’s safety- Brent Hostetler, OH Farmer https://t.co/mfrXXNw8EH
— Ohio Corn & Wheat (@OhioCornWheat) August 10,
Atrazine, manufactured by Syngenta, is the second most commonly used herbicide in the United States and is particularly popular on corn farms in the Midwest. It’s scientific safety was established by the government in 2006 and revisited with approval in 2009. Now, however, the EPA has opened up public comments (through Oct. 4) ahead of the re-reistration period for atrazine.
“EPA has published a draft ecological risk assessment of atrazine using data based on incomplete science,” the AFBF said on its website. “The agency’s assessment ignored multiple high-quality scientific studies that support the continued use of atrazine as a safe and effective herbicide. This assessment is inconsistent with EPA’s previous conclusion and those of other regulatory agencies around the world.”
The fear among the ag industry is that the a critical crop-protection tool is going to be taken away, which will have a massive finanical impact on farmers. Iowa Farmer Today reported that a 2012 University of Chicago study said a ban on atrazine would cost corn growers up to $59 per acre more in input costs.
Brent Hostetler, an Ohio farmer and chairman of the National Corn Growers Association’s Production and Stewardship Action Team, said that the EPA’s steps in regards to atrazine could set an unfortunate precedent for crop-protection tools.
“Federal law requires the EPA to base its decisions on science. And the science on this is pretty clear,” Hostetler said. “Atrazine is one of the safest and most effective crop management tools farmers have. It’s also one of the most studied pesticides in history-and more than 50 years’ worth of data show it is safe.”
Over the summer, California added atrazine to its list of chemicals believed to contribute to birth defects. While the state didn’t outright ban atrazine, the move that adds another layer of difficulty in keeping the product on the market for farmers.
The AFBF is urging farmers to weign in on the EPA’s draft ecological risk assessment, so that those comments can be factored into the final decision. The draft report and comments section can be found here.