Herbicide hoopla

Arguing over atrazine

April 11, 2012

In its January/February issue, Mother Jones magazine ran a feature, "The Frog of War," detailing what author Dashka Slater dubbed “one of the weirdest feuds in the history of science.” The two sides in the fracas: scientist Tyrone Hayes, whose work shows that atrazine, one of the most popular industrial herbicides on the market, does serious damage to frogs, versus Syngenta, the Swiss agribusiness that manufactures atrazine.

At issue for humans: whether their drinking water, as often happens in agricultural areas, has been contaminated by atrazine. So far, no human — unlike the frogs Hayes studies — has undergone an involuntary sex change as a result of drinking atrazine-laced water. But it’s still a matter for concern, which is why representatives in the House keep trying to follow Europe’s lead by introducing legislation to ban atrazine.

After Slater’s article appeared, her colleague Tom Philpott began reporting on its strange fallout: the attacks on Hayes by Jon Entine, a pro-chemicals activist. Philpott picked apart Entine’s arguments and background. But a month later, Entine was back on Philpott's radar again, when Entine used his Forbes.com op-ed pulpit to denounce the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

In his op-ed, Entine published a memo about bisphenol A (BPA) purported to come from the NRDC; when it was revealed that Entine had written the memo himself, Forbes unpublished the op-ed and dropped Entine from its roster of writers.

But the Entine extravaganza did not prevent the FDA from refusing to ban BPA at the end of March. And those poor frogs? Philpott reports that new science shows amphibians suffering odd effects as a result of exposure to glyphosate, the herbicide better known under its Monsanto brand name of Roundup.

There are no comments on this item
Add a comment

Think before you type

Culinate welcomes comments that are on-topic, clean, and courteous. For the benefit of the community we reserve the right to delete comments that contain advertising, personal attacks, profanity, or which are thinly disguised attempts to promote another website.

Please enter your comment

Format: Bare URLs are automatically linked; use this style: [http://www.example.com "place text to be linked here"] for prettier links. You may specify *bold* or _italic_ text. No HTML please.

Please identify yourself

Not a member? Sign up!

Please prove that you’re not a computer

Our Table

Joy of Cooking app

A new tool for the kitchen

The latest in our collection of cooking apps.

Graze: Bites from the Site
First Person

The secret sharer

A father’s legacy

The Culinate Interview

Mollie Katzen

The vegetarian-cooking pioneer


Down South

Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more

Local Flavors

A winter romesco sauce

Good on everything

Editor’s Choice