Iowa Public Television


EPA Opens Comments for Atrazine Review

posted on November 6, 2009

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. For a record 22nd consecutive month, U.S. businesses slashed jobs in October, pushing the nation's unemployment to its highest level since 1983.

According to the Labor Department, U.S. employers trimmed 190,000 positions from their payrolls last month.

The cuts pushed the nation's unemployment rate to a 26-year high of 10.2 percent.

There were some bright spots in this week's employment report. Professional and business services companies added 18,000 jobs. And after losing ground for months, temporary employment grew by nearly 34,000 positions. That's a positive development because employers typically add temporary workers prior to hiring permanent staff.

Meanwhile, many companies are squeezing more production from existing work forces. Productivity, the amount of output per hour worked, jumped 9.5 percent in the third quarter in its sharpest increase in six years.

All told, more than 7.3 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December of 2007 and a record 5.6 million people have been unemployed for six months or longer. President Obama signed a $24 billion economic stimulus bill into law Friday, extending jobless benefits for the fourth time since the recession began and providing more tax incentives to prospective homebuyers.

Elsewhere in "The Beltway," officials held a special meeting this week to assess whether a popular herbicide poses a threat to the environment.

EPA Opens Comments for Atrazine Review

Officials at EPA say the meeting by the Scientific Advisory Panel for pesticides and herbicides was always on the agenda. Those opposing the potential ban on atrazine disagreed.

Jere White, Kansas Grain and Sorghum Producers Association: "What we're not sure, in this case, how we bypassed some of what I'd call a more formal internal review by agency staff and instead have gone to a peer review by the New York Times."

Those presenting comments included pesticide manufacturers, farm advocacy organizations, and environmental groups.

Dr. Jennifer Sass, Senior Scientist in the Health Program, Natural Resources Defense Council: "There's no statute of limitations on the truth. And in this case, I think that the science has been increasing in making a stronger argument supporting the concern that atrazine in our waterways, both in drinking water and in open surface water systems is a concern for wildlife."

Alex Avery, Director of Research, Hudson Institute: "The witch-hunt against atrazine has been perpetrated for more than a decade by the Natural Resources Defense Council and they will not take no for an answer. And they realize they don't need sound science, or any good scientific evidence, to justify a ban on atrazine. All they know, they know full well that, based on the alar scandal, that all they need is innuendo. All they need is innuendo and enough concocted public fear."

In use for more than 50 years, atrazine is widely considered a boon to agriculture and is used on 60 percent of the U.S. corn crop. Proponents credit the herbicide with effective weed control which helps to increase yields and reduce soil erosion when used as part of a no-till protocol.

Despite published EPA studies concluding the widely used farm chemical does not cause cancer in humans or harm amphibians, the agency says more study is warranted.

Gary Marshall, CEO, Missouri Corn Growers Association: " When is enough "enough." We think the science is there we've seen it. We've looked at some of the science that's out there and we don't believe that it tells us that we need to be looking, again, at more science."

Even though atrazine, technically, has been given a clean bill of health by both U.S. and European Union governmental agencies the chemical is still under what EPA calls "a special review." The investigation began in 1994 and is expected to be concluded sometime next year.

According to EPA, no regulatory decisions are expected on atrazine until December of next year.


Tags: corn Environmental Protection Agency news pollution sorghum