Daily News Archive
From October 2, 2001

France Orders Withdrawal of Pesticides

Herbicides called triazines, which are used mainly on maize and sorghum fields, were ordered to be withdrawn in France last week due to human health threats, according to Reuters. French Farm Minister Jean Glavany ordered their withdrawal from the market by September 30, 2002, and discontinuation of use in other products by June 30, 2003. Glavany stated there is a "general presence" of triazines in water. Some areas of France are not allowed to consume their drinking water due to triazine levels exceeding the French food safety agency's recommended levels. Glavany's order will contest such contamination.

However, chemical producers and the French plant protection group UIPP were not happy. These groups state the withdrawal will be devastating to farmers who depend on triazines, who will now have to switch their product. Of the health risks, a spokesman for a French maize growers group called AGPM said, triazines are "not very dangerous" and that "kitchen salt was more toxic."

Atrazine, a type of triazine, is a possible human carcinogen. One study observed that rats exposed to high doses of atrazine throughout their lifetime developed mamory tumors. With such uncertainties in the risks of exposure, precaution should always be taken. Children and babies are especially at risk, according to the AFSSA, the French food safety agency. According to a report by the French environment ministry, atrazine products were found in 50 percent of surface water samples and 52 percent of ground water samples.

The use of such herbicides is not only a risk to human health, but also risks the breeding of weeds resistant to the chemical. The development of such "super weeds" is a threat to farmers both who use chemicals and who grow organically. For an information packet on organic farming, please contact Beyond Pesticides. To read more about the toxicity of atrazine, see http://ace.orst.edu/cgi-bin/mfs/01/pips/atrazine.htm.