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Sex changes and EPA wrapped up in atrazine war

Darnell the frog is the champion of the anti-atrazine crowd. Darnell is an ex-male that became partially female and got cross-wired or something to that effect. A hemaphrodite, transgendered frog with high-pitched croaks — maybe that’s a more politically correct description and about as clear as mud.

Darnell has been afflicted with an odd series of reproductive problems as a result of exposure to the herbicide atrazine in his swimming tank — or at least that is the claim of bombastic UC Berkeley professor Tyrone Hayes. Tending to push his fame quotient alongside his atrazine research, Hayes blames atrazine for a litany of maladies in animals and humans: cancer, neural damage, hormone disruption, and a bunch more. Hayes’ ranting e-mail communications with atrazine’s manufacturer, Syngenta, recently became something of an Internet sensation. Hayes managed to undermine his own mines with pages of profane ramblings.

The intersex frog claim whipped up all sorts of alarms — or maybe insanity would be more apt. If atrazine wreaked havoc on Darnell’s genitals, what might it do to the rest of us? Americans may applaud Chaz Bono on Dancing With the Stars, but all that tolerance will give way to shrieks and screeches if our own daughters begin to grow beards.

Enough with the hysteria. In 2006, on the heels of a 12-year study, the EPA deemed atrazine acceptable to the nation’s environment. The EPA based its decision on sound science — backed up by over 6,000 studies.

Atrazine is a popular weed killer for U.S. farmers — old reliable. In fact, with the increasing weed-resistance hiccups seen in glyphosate, atrazine is arguably the No. 1 herbicide in America. An odorless powder, atrazine’s longevity and effectiveness is supported by over 50 years of use. Corn, sugarcane, and sorghum farmers all use atrazine — and the herbicide’s dollar value to agriculture ranks in the billions.

But sound science often gets thrown under the bus: enter the EPA.

In 2009, the EPA (without any specific cited reason) initiated another review. At some point in the latter half of 2012, the EPA is supposed to render another decision on atrazine (or maybe just issue some convoluted plan to commission a 20-year study of the former 12-year study).

The atrazine hysteria doesn’t pass inspection — it reeks of ambulance chasers and lawsuit shoppers. The activism swirling around atrazine is not going to end regardless of what science says. But at least the EPA should stand firm behind its own findings and acknowledge the safety of atrazine.

If the EPA were to give in to the lunacy, I could easily see the activists erecting a massive statue to Darnell; I’ve no idea if it would be in male or female form.

TAGS: Legislative
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