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Why Is This Hormone-Disrupting Pesticide Banned in Europe But Widely Used in the U.S.?
The European Union just banned two agricultural weed killers linked to infertility, reproductive problems and fetal development—the first-ever EU ban on endocrine-disrupting pesticides. That’s good news for Europeans. But as in Europe, many endocrine-disrupting weed killers remain widely used on American crops and from farm fields make their way into drinking water and food.
One of the most widely used and most troublesome endocrine-disrupting pesticides in the U.S. is atrazine. Manufactured by agro-chemical giant Syngenta, atrazine is sprayed mostly on Midwest corn fields and is consistently one of the most detected crop chemicals in drinking water.
Tests by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have repeatedly found atrazine in Midwestern drinking water sources that exceed levels of concern for infants and children. In 2009, the New York Times reported that an estimated 33 million Americans have been exposed to atrazine through their taps.
The hormone-disrupting qualities of atrazine have been well-documented, most notably by Tyrone Hayes, a professor of biology at the University of California at Berkeley. His extensive research has shown the chemical altered the reproductive systems in frogs.
In 2010, Hayes and a team of researchers exposed 40 male tadpoles to water with atrazine at 2.5 parts per billion—well within the U.S. EPA’s established drinking water standards. Roughly one-tenth of the frogs that grew in the atrazine-tainted water become “functionally female,” Hayes reported.
Atrazine is banned in Europe. But it is the second most-used herbicide in U.S. agriculture, with more than 60 million pounds sprayed on crops each year, behind only Monsanto’s glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.
Some farmers are reducing the need for herbicides like atrazine by switching to organic production methods or adopting new weed management strategies. But the federal government doesn’t invest enough in supporting such innovative strategies.
Most federal farm spending supports and encourages large-scale industrial farming, dependent on chemical pesticides and fertilizers that pollute streams, rivers and lakes. Of the meager support for more sustainable farming, even less is dedicated to practices that reduce the need for pesticides. As a result, most farmers seeking financial help to reduce chemical use are turned away.
The U.S. EPA is currently reviewing the regulations on atrazine and should release its assessment in the next year. To protect public health and ensure clean drinking water, the agency should recognize the harm caused by atrazine and restrict its use.
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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.