April 30, 2010

Farm groups talk atrazine at EPA hearing

Atrazine was again front and center in Washington, D.C., this week when farm groups traveled there to add their support for very effective and well-studied herbicide. Three individuals testified before the third in a series of hearings being held by EPA to re-review the herbicide.

Which, of course, begs the question, how many re-reviews do you need? Junk science and false statements shouldn't trigger a response from federal agencies.

Some of those testifying were Jere White, who chairs the Triazine Network and is director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association; Laura Knoth, the executive director of the Kentucky Corn Growers Association; and Richard Fawcett, of Fawcett Consulting, who shared his expertise in weed science and critical yield gains atrazine provides farmers.

Noting that atrazine has been more extensively studied than any other crop protection product and has continually been awarded a clean bill of health, White commented that growers often ask him, “When is enough enough?”

In 2006, after an extensive 12-year review EPA concluded that the triazine herbicides, including atrazine, pose “no harm” to the general population, including women and infants. It wasn’t until “the New York Times and Huffington Post supplied their version of ‘peer review’ of an NRDC report to certain political appointees at EPA,” said White, that EPA hastily convened the re-review.

White questioned whether this extraordinary break with standard EPA procedures violates standards, and highlighted the enormous burden of material the independent scientists have been asked to digest in a relatively short period of time due to the compressed schedule. White noted that the typical number of studies submitted for review number around 15, EPA "has generously provided you with 123.”

Given that scientific bodies around the world have determined that atrazine is safe to use, and extensive monitoring shows that levels in raw and finished water are steadily declining, White questioned the need for this EPA’s “politically driven second guessing.”

Knoth outlined the profoundly beneficial effects of atrazine to the environment, especially as a result of conservation tillage. By 2008, Knoth noted, “atrazine was applied to 60 percent of conservation tillage and no-till corn acres.” Without such effective weed control, the result would be a massive increase in erosion, “estimated to be more than 300 billion pounds annually.”

Fawcett emphasized the critical importance of atrazine to farmers’ bottom line. Analysis of data from two different decades starting in the 80s and in the 90s, showed a very similar – and impressive – boost in yields in both eras. Average yield gains with atrazine from 1986 to 2005 in university field trials were 5.7 bushels per acre compared to alternative herbicides.

For more, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Atrazine is the single most widely used herbicide in sweet corn, applied to fields before crop emergence, after crop emergence, or at both times. Manufacturers of many of the other herbicides recommend tank-mixing with atrazine to increase their products' effectiveness.