Syngenta Responds To Activist Claims

For 50 years, sound science has governed U.S. regulatory decisions on atrazine, a well-studied herbicide that farmers rely upon worldwide to produce safe, healthy and abundant crops. Syngenta, as a science-based company, looks forward to a continuing, open and transparent safety review of atrazine by the U.S. EPA in 2010 and expects a positive outcome.

Last week, two environmental activist groups escalated their attacks on Syngenta and atrazine, urging a departure from the EPA’s methodical, science-based approach to regulating crop protection products such as atrazine. Syngenta believes these claims are baseless and wrong.

These activist groups urge the removal of safe, regulated crop protection tools farmers rely on to produce safe and abundant food for the world. It is estimated 40% of the world’s food supply would not exist without the use of such products.

“Syngenta is committed to promoting and maintaining high standards of corporate responsibility worldwide in an industry that is essential to global agriculture and food production,” says Dr. Tim Pastoor, principal scientist for Syngenta Crop Protection. “The activist report is an irresponsible and defamatory characterization of our company’s efforts to implement high standards of stewardship for the safe, effective and environmentally responsible use of its products. Our people are committed to the highest level of ethical standards in all our business practices.”

EPA’s 12-year evaluation completed in 2006 found atrazine poses “no harm that would result to the general U.S. population, infants, children or other … consumers.”

To reach its conclusion, EPA required that Syngenta initiate studies defined by the EPA and conducted using internationally recognized Good Laboratory Practices.

“Syngenta is required by the EPA to conduct a long list of mandatory high-quality studies under rigorous scrutiny by the agency,” Pastoor says. “Every data point is available to verify the studies were done properly and the science can be verified by EPA scientists. Recently cited studies by activist organizations are not required to adhere to the same standards. The EPA’s recent evaluation reviewed the best science in its regulatory decision, so these activist calls for yet another review of atrazine would only be repeating the work that has been done already.”

World-renowned institutions including the World Health Organization, the National Cancer Institute, and governments in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom all have studied atrazine. WHO said atrazine is deemed “not classifiable as to carcinogenicity to humans,” placing it in the same cancer risk category as substances such as tea, rubbing alcohol and talc. The Australian government said “it is unlikely that atrazine is an endocrine disruptor in humans.”

In addition, Anne Lindsay, former Deputy Director, Office of Pesticide Programs, U.S. EPA, in testimony before the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee of the Minnesota House of Representatives, said “EPA has taken an especially close look at the research conducted by Dr. Tyrone Hayes which reports that atrazine adversely affects sexual development in frogs, causing a mixture of sex organs in a single animal. EPA has concluded that the existing data are insufficient to demonstrate that atrazine causes such effects. The Agency’s conclusions are supported by the independent, expert peer review of the SAP (Science Advisory Panel).”

“Farmers have told us again and again to fight for atrazine, which is an important tool in growing affordable and abundant food, and we will,” Pastoor said. “Atrazine is relied on to control weeds on more than half of U.S. corn, and a 2003 EPA review said ‘the total or national economic impact resulting from the loss of atrazine to control grass and broadleaf weeds in corn, sorghum and sugar cane would be in excess of $2 billion per year if atrazine were unavailable to growers.’ That would have a devastating effect on our farm economy.”

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