GroundTruth Blog

Don't drink the atrazine Kool-Aid

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by Kathryn Gilje

Syngetna corporate control atrazine

The controversial pesticide atrazine, found in U.S. drinking water and linked to cancers, birth defects and low fertility, is on the big screen this weekend. And Syngenta, largest pesticide corporation in the world and maker of atrazine, is fighting with fire.

The chemical giant's PR machine is in high gear, downplaying the risks of atrazine exposure and even claiming that its gender-bending chemical can save the day. Greenwashing at its best.

Corporate spin machine

In response to last week’s release of the film Last Call at the Oasis, Syngenta’s PR firm Jayne Thompson and Associates launched a new website, “Saving the Oasis.” The project uses paid spokespersons posing as independent experts and attempts to greenwash atrazine as environmentally beneficial, downplay human health risks and discredit one of the scientists from the film. 

Syngenta’s lobbying and often-covert PR efforts have been continuously scrutinized in the press since it was revealed that the company held more than 50 closed-door meetings with EPA officials during atrazine’s previous review in 2003. Looking at the same data, EPA subsequently approved atrazine for continued use while E.U. regulators banned it as a water contaminant. Syngenta has since paid economists to claim that atrazine creates jobs, subpoenaed researchers and environmental health NGOs (including Pesticide Action Network) working on atrazine, and repeatedly attempted to suppress science showing the harms of atrazine.

High stakes for farm families

Syngenta's blatant PR campaignintimidation tactics and hired guns would make excellent material for a shocked chuckle, if only so much wasn't at stake for rural families, farmers and all Americans who drink water. Syngenta's relentless campaign keeps this pesticide on the U.S. market after the chemical has been pulled in its home territory, Europe, and so many scientists have raised alarm about its environmental and health harms.

Farmers need choices and tools that don't threaten the health of their families or our nation's waters, and that honor stewardship, a value that farmers around the world uphold. It's time for our government to follow the science, not Syngenta. For that to happen, Syngenta has to stop intervening relentlessly in government process and public opinion, and stop suppressing the science and researchers who reveal atrazine's harm. It's that simple.

Take action » Six months have passed since EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Panel reprimanded the agency for lowballing the cancer risks of atrazine, and no action has been taken. Urge EPA to take the current review of atrazine seriously, and to follow the science – wherever it may lead.

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