EPA’s draft report on the ecological assessment of the herbicide atrazine contains numerous data and methodological errors and needs to be corrected.
The agency posted its draft report this week. EPA stated it will open the docket for a 60-day public comment period within one week and that a Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) will be held in 2017.
U.S. corn, sorghum and sugar cane growers have depended on this safe and essential herbicide to produce food sustainably for more than 50 years. Atrazine increases crop yields and enables no-till farming and conservation tillage, which help keep aquatic systems healthy by dramatically reducing soil runoff into rivers and streams.
“We’re troubled the draft assessment discounted several rigorous, high-quality scientific studies and didn’t adhere to EPA’s own high standards,” said Marian Stypa, Ph.D., head, product development for Syngenta in North America. “The draft report erroneously and improperly estimated atrazine’s levels of concern for birds, fish, mammals and aquatic communities that are not supported by science.”
For example, data presented in the 2012 SAP demonstrated the level of concern (LOC) for atrazine could be more than six times higher than the conservative number proposed in EPA’s preliminary report, and still be protective of aquatic communities. Together with numerous errors in EPA’s modeling, the agency drew scientifically unsound conclusions, based on flawed assessments that need to be corrected.
“Assessments, even ones that are drafts, with such far-reaching consequences should only be based on the best, highest quality science to ensure farmers have this critical and irreplaceable tool for U.S. agriculture,” said Vern Hawkins, president, Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC, and North America region director. “We’re confident that when given a thorough science review, atrazine’s continued, longstanding safety will be confirmed.”
A 2012 University of Chicago economic study reported farming without atrazine would cost corn growers up to $59 per acre. While corn prices have fallen since the report was released, the availability of atrazine for use in corn could make the difference between growers making a profit or incurring a loss on their crop.
Atrazine is one of the most closely examined pesticides in the world and its safety has been established in nearly 7,000 scientific studies over more than 50 years. This important tool for sustainable agriculture deserves a thorough and comprehensive scientific review.