PANNA: EU says “No” to Atrazine, But Not to Paraquat


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EU says “No” to Atrazine, But Not to Paraquat
October 24, 2003

In a move that is likely to have a worldwide impact on herbicide use, the European Union has withdrawn regulatory approval for the widely used herbicide, atrazine, due to groundwater contamination. Several countries in the EU, including France, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden had already banned the herbicide, which is manufactured by Syngenta. In response, Syngenta has announced that it is already offering alternatives to this product in Germany and Italy, and would extend those products to the rest of the EU.

Atrazine, a triazine broadleaf herbicide, is the most used herbicide in the U.S., where more than 60 million pounds are applied each year, mostly to corn. In the U.S. it is also used on sorghum (a cereal grain), sugarcane, Christmas trees, woodlands and golf courses. In 2002, two studies raised new concerns about the herbicide, one connecting extremely low levels of atrazine with sexual abnormalities in frogs, and another pointing to increased prostrate cancer among atrazine production workers. Traces of atrazine are found routinely in streams, ponds and lakes within the U.S. “There seems to be no atrazine-free environment,” said University of California Berkeley researcher Tyrone Hayes, author of the study on frogs.

Both studies surfaced as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) was finalizing an ecological risk assessment for atrazine. Yet despite these findings, and the fact that its own seasonal water quality risk estimates were above “acceptable” levels, U.S. EPA re-approved the registration of atrazine in January, 2003. It also mandated a program of weekly water quality monitoring to be conducted seasonally by Syngenta in areas of high atrazine use.

In another decision, the EU has decided not to prohibit another controversial Syngenta herbicide, paraquat, which is already banned or severely restricted in eleven countries, including five EU member nations. This decision has put the fate of such pre-existing national bans in question, raising serious concerns by member states about their ability to protect the health of their citizens and environment from pesticide damage at the national level. A notorious occupational poison, paraquat has been on the PAN International list of “Dirty Dozen” pesticides since 1985. Due to its’ high toxicity, absence of antidote, easy availability and danger to workers and the public, especially in developing countries, an international campaign to end Syngenta’s production and sale of paraquat is now underway.

Sources: Terra Wire, EU withdraws approval for potentially harmful herbicide atrazine, Switzerland, Oct 05, 2003; Time’s Up for Atrazine?, PANNA, Global Pesticide Campaigner, August 2002; Atrazine Facts; PANNA website,; First Binding Controls of PIC and POPs U PAN UK,; Syngenta Press Release, EU Registration of Atrazine Not Granted Despite Favorable Science Review, Web site; Paraquat, Syngenta’s Controversial Herbicide, Berne Declaration, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, PAN UK, PAN Asia Pacific, Foro Emaús, 2002.

Contact: PANNA or PAN UK.

For information on the Syngenta/Paraquat campaign, contact PANNA; PAN UK email,, web site,; PAN AP email,, web site,; or Bern Declaration email, web site

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don’t always get coverage by the mainstream media. It’s produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

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