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Scientific controversy about atrazine

Alex Avery, Director of Research and Education at the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues, criticized new research by University of California Berkeley professor Dr. Tyrone Hayes alleging endocrine disruption in amphibians caused by the popular herbicide atrazine. Prior research by Dr. Hayes has come under scientific scrutiny and criticism by directors of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for lacking basic scientific standards and lack of transparency.

Avery pointed to comments by Anne E. Lindsay, former Deputy Director of EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, testified in 2005 that Dr. Hayes' 'data are insufficient' to support his claims.

She further noted: " . . .[EPA] has never seen either the results from any independent investigator published in peer-reviewed scientific journals or the raw data from Dr. Hayes' additional experiments that confirm Dr. Hayes' conclusions."

The EPA's independent Scientific Advisory Panel "believed strongly that all of the field studies reviewed had serious flaws that limit their usefulness..." and "these problems render interpretation of results problematic if not impossible."

Lindsay's testimony further invalidated any legitimacy of Hayes' work, saying "all of the available information was scientifically flawed. None of [Hayes'] laboratory studies on atrazine were conducted in accordance with standard protocols.""

"Dr. Tyrone Hayes has spent more than a decade allied with eco-activists peddling scare stories due to alleged health effects from atrazine. Yet despite his decade-long search and after more than 50 years of widespread use of this herbicide by farmers to minimize soil erosion while combating weeds, Hayes can offer no compelling real-world evidence that atrazine poses any appreciable risk to amphibian populations anywhere," Avery stated. "Aside from his own often-conflicting lab studies, other researchers have not seen the effects Hayes claims to have found. Replication is the gold-standard of science and Hayes' work has failed this test miserably."

"Finally, it should be noted that Dr. Hayes is an admitted anti-atrazine activist and has aligned himself closely with organizations including Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), organizations with a clear track record of campaigns against popular herbicides, large scale farm production and effective tools that have revolutionized agriculture today," Avery concluded.

Alex Avery is an expert in agricultural policy from a global perspective, with reference to both economic and environmental impacts. He has followed extensively the benefits of atrazine and has provided testimony before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on many occasions during its re-registration process.

by S. C.
05 march 2010, Technical Area > Science News

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