Many in agriculture are not pleased with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency release of its draft report for the ecological risk assessment of atrazine.
Here is the abstract from the EPA draft report released yesterday.
“This refined assessment presents the ecological risks posed by the use of the herbicide atrazine. Based on the results from hundreds of toxicity studies on the effects of atrazine on plants and animals, over 20 years of surface water monitoring data, and higher tier aquatic exposure models, this risk assessment concludes that aquatic plant communities are impacted in many areas where atrazine use is heaviest, and there is potential chronic risk to fish, amphibians, and aquatic invertebrates in these same locations. In the terrestrial environment, there are risk concerns for mammals, birds, reptiles, plants and plant communities across the country for many of the atrazine uses. EPA levels of concern for chronic risk are exceeded by as much as 22, 198, and 62 times for birds, mammals, and fish, respectively. For aquatic phase amphibians, a weight of evidence analysis concluded there is potential for chronic risks to amphibians based on multiple effects endpoint concentrations compared to measured and predicted surface water concentrations. The breadth of terrestrial plant species and families potentially impacted by atrazine use at current labeled rates, as well as reduced rates of 0.5 and 0.25 lbs. a.i./A, suggest that terrestrial plant biodiversity and communities are likely to be impacted from off-field exposures via runoff and spray drift. Average atrazine concentrations in water at or above 5 μg/L for several weeks are predicted to lead to reproductive effects in fish, while a 60-day average of 3.4 μg/L has a high probability of impacting aquatic plant community primary productivity, structure and function.”
The report was a concern to the farmers who rely upon atrazine in their operations.
“With more than 7,000 scientific studies over the past 50 years, atrazine has been proven to be a safe and effective crop management tool. It is one of the most reliable herbicides available,” said Chad Kemp, president of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association. “We are dismayed and astounded that the EPA chose to fly in the face of guidance from its own Science Advisory Panel and base this assessment on studies the panel found flawed just four years ago. The trust level in this assessment plunges knowing that faulty studies were used as the basis of this evaluation.”
Kemp said that farming without atrazine could cost corn farmers up to $59 per acre, according to a 2012 study by the University of Chicago.
“And who pays the price for this not-so-scientific assessment? Consumers will face higher food costs as yields decrease and farm operating costs rise,” Kemp said. “We are deeply disappointed that the EPA has once again chosen to ignore science and, by doing so, has demonstrated its lack of support for and understanding of the farming industry and the negative economic impact its decisions place on consumers. We are urging all farmers and others who care about a plentiful, affordable food supply to contact the EPA and tell them to base their decision on sound science.”
The EPA’s draft report on the herbicide atrazine is cause for alarm, according to the Triazine Network, a national coalition of farm organizations representing well over 30 agricultural crops in over 40 states. The group insists if 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.
“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 Gary Marshall, Triazine Network Chairman. 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 per acre.
“At the proposed level, atrazine would be rendered useless in controlling weeds in a large portion of the Corn Belt, effectively eliminating the product,” Marshall said. “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”
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.