Atrazine next agrochemical to face the spotlight

The well-publicised war on glyphosate may have paved the way for a new anti-chemical campaign, this time targeting popular herbicide Atrazine.

Glyphosate made headlines in July when a Californian jury determined the agrochemical had caused groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson’s cancer, awarding him $289 million in damages.

Since that verdict was reached the debate over glyphosate’s carcinogenicity has continued to rage, with many feeling it should be banned outright, while others point to the scientific evidence which suggests it poses little risk to humans when used as recommended.

On those grounds, agrochemical company Monsanto have appealed the outcome of the Johnson case, with a resultant retrial expected to take place soon.  

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to many, concerns about another popular herbicide have been simmering under the surface.

In July, the EPA released their “Draft Human Health Risk Assessment for Atrazine”, part of the registration review process to which all herbicides and pesticides are subjected every fifteen years. The report found Atrazine to have no significant health risk for humans.

The EPA will allow farmers to analyse and comment on the draft up till November 23rd, at which point its evaluation will be made official.  

Anti-GMO groups were disappointed with this outcome, feeling it discarded new research and put the interests of pesticide manufacturers ahead of human health.

In a September article, the Environmental Working Group’s Olga Naidenko announced their intentions to launch a campaign against the agrochemical, saying:

“In a move that echoes pesticide industry wishes, the Environmental Protection Agency chose to ignore recent science and human health studies on atrazine… Since the EPA is not doing its job of protecting the public from pesticides, it is essential for families and communities to look for ways to safeguard their own health, especially when atrazine levels in their water are high… In the meanwhile, EWG, together with thousands of our supporters, is standing up to the EPA and demanding a ban on atrazine.”

As promised, the EWG has set up an online petition, imploring the public to sign, and in doing so, “stand up to the chemical industry and take action to protect our drinking water.”

Despite the claims of environmentalist and anti-GMO groups, the EPA report is considered by many comprehensive and conclusive.

Andrew Porterfield, writing for the Genetic Literacy Project, says their conclusion was “even firmer than in previous reviews”, and affirms that atrazine, like glyphosate, has consistently been found safe by scientific and regulatory bodies around the world.

This isn’t the first time Atrazine has faced scrutiny, in fact, the current EPA review of its safety began nearly ten years ago.

Then, as we’ve recently seen with glyphosate, hysteria was drummed up over claims Atrazine could cause cancer and birth defects, despite an EPA review conducted only three years earlier which determined its safety for humans.

Whether changes will be made to the EPA’s current evaluation of Atrazine’s health risks will be seen by November 23rd.


-          For more information and updates on the status of the EPA’s Atrazine review, click here.