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Study shows EPA biased in favor of pesticide industry

Atrazine use in pounds per square mile by county. Atrazine is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the United States.
Atrazine use in pounds per square mile by county. Atrazine is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the United States.
Kopiersperre Public domain as a work of the U. S. Geological Survey.

The practices of the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency have a documented bias in favor of the pesticide industry. This is the contention of Michelle Boone of Miami University and her colleagues documented with specifics concerning the herbicide atrazine and its effects on amphibians. The study was published in the Sept. 3, 2014, edition of the journal BioScience.

The researchers point out several practices conducted by the EPA that result in a "presumption of innocence" for pesticides and herbicides. Chief among these practices is the use of risk assessments conducted by pesticide manufacturers that produces a conflict of interest. Often the EPA uses only the manufacturer’s research and does not include contradictory studies that are readily available.

The study also points out that the EPA does not consider the effects of a pesticide on all animal groups that could be harmed including humans. The EPA relies on lab studies instead of field observations according to the report. The scientists support the inclusion of an existing third-party (The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation) in the review process carried out by the EPA.

In the case of atrazine, the EPA approved the use of atrazine three times on the basis of lab studies only. The inclusion of contradictory evidence was not included in the approval of atrazine. Other research that was not included in the EPA analysis includes evidence that atrazine produces endocrine disruption in animals, fish, and frogs.

The manufacturer of atrazine, Syngenta Corporation, paid $105 million to over 1,000 water filtration systems as the result of a class action lawsuit to reimburse the cities and counties for the filtration of atrazine from human drinking water. The company denied any wrongdoing. Atrazine is still one of the most frequently used herbicides and runoff produces higher levels of atrazine in water than any other herbicide. Syngenta has been documented to have engaged in an active campaign to discredit researchers that contradicted the company’s claims of safety concerning atrazine.

The EPA is lobbied indirectly by manufacturers of herbicides and members of Congress that represent states that produce large quantities of food crops that require herbicides. There is no evidence of any direct quid pro quo. It may be doubtful that a third party that is unbiased can counter the influence of money and power on the EPA. Atrazine has been banned from use in the European Union and Australia.