(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.)-An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) draft report on the herbicide atrazine is cause for alarm says the Triazine Network, a national coalition of farm organizations representing well over 30 agricultural crops in over 40 states. The group insists if the EPA continues to use the same false logic or endpoints as noted in the preliminary risk assessment, it could lead to a de facto ban on atrazine. Farmers use the popular herbicide for weed control in growing the vast majority of corn, sorghum and sugarcane in the United States.
"EPA's flawed atrazine report is stomping science into the dirt and setting farmers up for significant economic hardship. We challenge this latest proposal and insist EPA abide by federal law that requires the agency to make determinations based on credible scientific evidence," said Triazine Network Chairman Gary Marshall. Marshall is executive director of the Missouri Corn Growers Association. "Again and again, we must ask EPA to follow the law. A regulatory agency should not need to be reminded of that detail."
The Triazine Network asserts the federal agency discounted several high-quality studies and instead used studies EPA's own 2012 Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) deemed flawed. According to the latest report, EPA is recommending aquatic life level of concern (LOC) be set at 3.4 parts per billion (ppb) on a 60-day average. The EPA's current LOC for atrazine is 10 ppb, however a diverse universe of scientific evidence points to a safe aquatic life LOC at 25 ppb or greater. The proposed level cuts average field application rates down to 8 ounces (one cup) per acre. An acre is the size of a football field.
"At the proposed level, atrazine would be rendered useless in controlling weeds in a large portion of the Corn Belt, effectively eliminating the product," notes Marshall. "It sets a dangerous precedent when it comes to approving crop protection tools, puts farmers at a great economic disadvantage and would drastically set back conservation efforts. If EPA abandons the recommendations of their own Science Advisory Panels and more than 7,000 science-based studies in favor of activist agenda's and politics; they will have lost all credibility"
Used for more than 50 years, the loss of atrazine in corn producing regions would limit farmers' conservation efforts, specifically no-till production practices, leading to increased soil erosion and fossil fuel use. According to conservative estimates by EPA in 2003, farming without the availability of atrazine would cost an additional $28 per acre for a replacement product. A 2012 study by the University of Chicago estimated the loss of atrazine would cost farmers $59 per acre. Given tight margins in today's grain markets, the cost difference could determine whether farmers make any profit of lose money on their crop.
The Triazine Network and other farm groups have met with top EPA officials twice in the past few months asking them to follow a robust, science-based regulatory process established by Congress for regulating pesticides.
"We did not receive a positive response from the agency. EPA appears to be strongly committed to using flawed studies previously thrown out by their own science panels," Marshall said. "EPA risks its very foundation of being a science-based federal agency that makes decisions without bias."
EPA reregistered atrazine in 2006 and began its regularly scheduled registration re-review June 2013. The process typically takes six years to complete. Once the draft report is published in the Federal Register, EPA will begin collecting comments for 60 days. Learn more about atrazine at agsense.org.
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