Atrazine: Behind the Syngenta Curtain

Did anyone catch today’s Good Housekeeping article on tap water? In a lengthy piece about many tap water issues, it pulls out one chemical of interest: atrazine. It’s timely, since spring is just around the corner. And as we reported before, springtime is marked by spikes of the herbicide atrazine, especially in the drinking water and watersheds of the Midwest. I was pleased that our report – along with reports from the Huffington Post and the New York Times – raised the profile of this pesticide. Even the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would be reviewing its approval of atrazine by 2013.

So, since our report came out, what has Syngenta - the company that makes atrazine - done?

It turns out that Syngenta has been trying to buy its way out of the trouble that has been caused by its precious pesticide. The Center for Media and Democracy just released a series of articles and documents detailing Syngenta’s PR efforts to improve atrazine’s image.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Syngenta has been using its rich coffers to buy science to say that atrazine is safe. In fact, Syngenta has funded thousands of studies so that its supporters can say “thousands of studies show it is safe!”  But don’t you think that independent, third-party studies show the true picture about atrazine, not the air-brushed reality that Syngenta has been relying on to keep its poisonous cash cow on the market?

I don’t begrudge the PR companies for doing what they’re paid to do. But I am disappointed that there are people claiming to be scientists who are nothing more than a well paid mouthpiece for Syngenta. I’m even more disappointed that Syngenta has been spending millions in public misinformation, rather than working on ways to address the problems that are caused by its product.

Why not put that money towards identifying cost-saving treatment options for municipalities that are strapped for cash who are trying to deal with the problems caused by their product? Why not use some of that money to help farmers identify alternative solutions to their pest problems that uses something that doesn’t hurt those farmers’ own families and communities? Why not use that money to help communities monitor for atrazine so that they can take steps to prevent problems from happening or at least to minimize the damage?

Why not, indeed.


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