Biologist Tyrone Hayes battles one of the biggest agribusinesses in the world
I urge you to listen to this excellent interview podcast (24 minutes) included in the above link and you can judge Tyrone Hayes for yourself.
A powerful herbicide is a friend to farmers, but may not be a friend to frogs.
More than half the corn crops in the United States are treated with a herbicide called Atrazine. Golf courses and Christmas tree farms also get the Atrazine treatment to keep weeds under control. The chemical is used in Canada as well, though it is no longer used in the European Union.
In 1997, biologist Tyrone Hayes received funding from the maker of the chemical -- a company that would later become Syngenta -- to study its effects on the environment. He found Atrazine caused sexual abnormalities in frogs. He says Syngenta tried to stop him from publishing his findings and that it launched a campaign to discredit his research.
But Tyrone Hayes continued, looking into Atrazine as a professor of Integrative Biology at University of California, Berkeley. Documents released in a class-action law suit in 2005 suggest the company tried to side-line Professor Hayes and his work.
A VALUABLE REPUTATION
After Tyrone Hayes said that a chemical was harmful, its maker pursued him.
Syngenta, one of the largest agribusinesses in the world, had asked Hayes to conduct experiments on the herbicide atrazine, which is applied to more than half the corn in the United States. Hayes was thirty-one, and he had already published twenty papers on the endocrinology of amphibians. [...] But, when Hayes discovered that atrazine might impede the sexual development of frogs, his dealings with Syngenta became strained, and, in November, 2000, he ended his relationship with the company.
Hundreds of Syngenta’s memos, notes, and e-mails have been unsealed following the settlement, in 2012, of two class-action suits brought by twenty-three Midwestern cities and towns that accused Syngenta of “concealing atrazine’s true dangerous nature” and contaminating their drinking water. Stephen Tillery, the lawyer who argued the cases, said, “Tyrone’s work gave us the scientific basis for the lawsuit.”"Atrazine is one of the most common contaminants of drinking water; an estimated thirty million Americans are exposed to trace amounts of the chemical."
The E.P.A. complied with the Data Quality Act and revised its Environmental Risk Assessment, making it clear that hormone disruption wouldn’t be a legitimate reason for restricting use of the chemical until “appropriate testing protocols have been established.” Steeger told Hayes that he was troubled by the circularity of the center’s critique. In an e-mail, he wrote, “Their position reminds me of the argument put forward by the philosopher Berkeley, who argued against empiricism by noting that reliance on scientific observation is flawed since the link between observations and conclusions is intangible and is thus immeasurable.”"Since the mid-seventies, the E.P.A. has issued regulations restricting the use of only five industrial chemicals out of more than eighty thousand in the environment. Industries have a greater role in the American regulatory process."
For more information on how Syngenta tried to discredit Dr. Hayes, The New Yorker article tells us how they pursued him for 15 years. He fought back and he would not back down. At times he talked to them with street talk as if they were street punks and they were highly offended as they consider themselves "the captains of industry." The EPA in this case might be called the IPA, the Industry Protection Agency.
For years Dr. Hayes complained that he thought Syngenta was sending agents to all his lectures, hacking his email, generally stalking him. Documents revealed during a 2012 lawsuit confirm his suspicions. Documents prove that the company planned to do everything they could to destroy his reputation and cast doubt on his science. it hired its own scientists and had a list of supportive writers.
Jon Entine of Forbes magazine was on that list. Entine sides with industry refuting the science implicating neonics for Bee Colony Collapse. The title alone is an example of Entine's "objective" critique of the New Yorker article:
Did The New Yorker Botch Puff Piece On Frog Scientist Tyrone Hayes, Turning Rogue into Beleaguered Hero?
After starting Entine's
critique hit piece, I could see so many false claims, I could not finish the article.
Another industry friendly writer was Steven Milloy, "a freelance science columnist who runs a nonprofit organization to which Syngenta has given tens of thousands of dollars, wrote an article for Fox News titled “Freaky-Frog Fraud.”"
The CBC interviewer asks Dr. Hayes, "they accuse you of having a flamboyant personality, do you agree with that?" He says he wouldn't say that. It seems to me that he used that persona to fight back and to survive the attack by a billion dollar company. They attacked him personally but they could not really attack his science. All the opposing science has been funded by industry.
Where do we stand today with the threat of atrazine in the United States and Canada?
EPA admits the its dangers:
Reproductive effects are the most sensitive effects observed in atrazine toxicity tests and, as such, our efforts to regulate the pesticide to protect against these effects through drinking water exposure will protect against all other effects that occur at higher levels.
A diverse coalition of more than 250 conservation, public-health and sustainable farming groups sent a letter today asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban atrazine, a toxic pesticide that threatens wildlife and people across the country.
Although the pesticide is banned in the European Union, up to 80 million pounds of it are used in the U.S. each year, contaminating ground, surface and drinking water. Atrazine, or its primary degradate, was found in approximately 75 percent of stream water and about 40 percent of all groundwater samples from agricultural areas tested in an extensive U.S. Geological Survey study.
Cancer-causing atrazine is world's No. 1 drinking water contaminant
'Most well-studied pesticide on the planet'
"In areas where atrazine is used extensively, it (or its dealkylated metabolites) is one of the most frequently detected pesticides in surface and well water. Atrazine contamination has been reported in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan," said Health Canada.
The compound is manufactured by Syngenta, the world's foremost agribusiness giant; the European Union banned atrazine in 2004.