The Environmental Protection Agency is taking comment on a petition from an environmental group calling for a ban on the use and production of atrazine. The popular corn and sorghum herbicide is already undergoing a review by the agency, but the group cites studies that it claims points to toxic effects on amphibians. The Save the Frogs group claims other studies have demonstrated a link to reproductive defects in fish and cancer in lab animals, and epidemiological studies suggest it is a human carcinogen. EPA received the petition, which had more than 10,000 signatures on May 6 and has also received nearly 50,000 e-mails from supporters of two other advocacy organizations demanding that the chemical be banned.
Farm groups continue to defend the use of atrazine and Tim Pastoor, Principal Scientist for the chemical's registrant Syngenta, says the Save the Frogs petition doesn't change things at all.
"EPA is doing what it's supposed to do, it's responding to a public petition and are going through the procedures to respond to that," Pastoor said. "So they are doing what they have to do, but EPA has made it very clear that they have an ongoing re-registration process and evaluation process for atrazine."
Pastoor describes atrazine as one of the best reviewed and studied molecules on the planet, as well as a valuable tool in the arsenal of corn and sorghum farmers.
"The label as it's existed for atrazine has been very prudent," Pastoor said. "As a matter of fact includes reasons to use atrazine containing products in conservation tillage, which is a way of keeping the soil in its place and out of the stream, so atrazine is playing a very important environmental and ecological role in its use."
Pastoor doesn't expect any changes to emerge from the re-registration process. EPA's scientific advisory committee has already met to discuss atrazine several times, and Pastoor expects one more conference next year on the chemical's ecological profile.
Syngenta expects the agency to act on re-registration within the next year - but Pastoor says there's no way to know for certain. He adds Atrazine was not supposed to come up for re-registration under the agency's typical timetable until 2013. EPA has insisted this is not a "special" review and falls under normal procedures.