Daily News Archive

MN Cancels Talk on Frog Deformities and Government Failures
(Beyond Pesticides, October 25, 2004)
The nation's preeminent and internationally recognized researcher on frog deformities was uninvited by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to be the keynote speaker at the agency's upcoming conference. According to the Star Tribune on October 20, 2004, Tyronne Hayes, Ph.D., a tenured professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California Berkeley, said he was asked by MPCA "if I would remove the words 'atrazine' and 'pesticide' from the title of my talk, and of course I refused to do that because that's what I work on."

According to the Star, "MPCA Commissioner Sheryl Corrigan said nobody is trying to keep Hayes' message 'out of the press or out of the mainstream.' 'When I looked at the stuff that he's talked about in the past, and his research to date, I just didn't think it was keynote material,' Ms Corrigan said." But the facts paint a very different story of pressure on the speaker who refused to change wording in his speech.

The Star's Tom Meersman reported that he received email correspondence between Dr. Hayes and MPCA's meeting planner Jennifer Anthony-Powell. According to the Star, "Anthony-Powell sent Hayes an email expressing the need to 'reassure management' about the keynote speech. 'Politically speaking - it sounds like it is the atrazine that is causing some concern from other agencies,' she wrote." Ms. Anthony-Powell said there were concerns that Dr. Hayes speech may be "anti-governmental," according to the Star. The paper reported that Wayne Anderson, an official in the MPCA commissioner's office, had approached her and raised these concerns.

Dr. Hayes planned to talk about research generated from field work along areas of the Upper Mississippi River and studies from the North Platte and Missouri rivers, research that form the basis of four new papers that will be published soon in scientific journals. Dr. Hayes told the Star, "[I]t seems that the government does not want people to know" about his findings that link pesticides, including atrazine to developmental problems in amphibians.

Speaking to Beyond Pesticides' 22nd National Pesticide Forum at the University of California, Berkeley on April 3, 2004, Dr. Hayes found 92% of the frogs living on the North Platt River in Wyoming, a river contaminated with atrazine above 0.1 ppb, were hermaphrodites. He said," Exposed animals had three testes filled with eggs. For whatever reason, they did not use atrazine this year and there are zero hermaphrodites. This is an unimaginable experiment. Contaminate an entire rive (the contamination comes out of Colorado) and you get these effects. Remove the contamination and it goes away. The company [Syngenta] is still arguing that it is just natural variation. If it was natural variation the effects would be there every year."

Dr. Hayes continued, "If we look at the 'danger zone,' the level of atrazine where we saw the effects in the lab (0.1ppb) up to 10,000 ppb, all of the habitats fall within this zone. This means that there is enough atrazine in rainwater in Nebraska to make hermaphroditic frogs. There is enough atrazine in clouds. There is enough atrazine in snow in the Swiss Alps in Switzerland, where they do not even use atrazine, to make hermaphroditic frogs."

Dr. Hayes provided some of the background: "We use more than 76 million pounds annually in the U.S. Atrazine is one of the top contaminants of ground and surface waters. In the U.S. and probably in the world, it is the largest selling chemical manufactured by the largest chemical company in the world [Syngenta]. It is used on our number one crop in the U.S., corn. And, it is used to fight the most common botanical in the world, a weed call the common groundsel, which has evolved resistance to atrazine in many populations. It has been used in more than 80 countries. Ironically, although we just reregistered it in the U.S., the European Union (EU) banned it two months later. In fact, it has never been used in Switzerland, which is where Syngenta is based."

See a transcript of the entire talk that Dr. Hayes gave to the 22nd National Pesticide Forum in the Summer 2004 issue of Pesticides and You.

TAKE ACTION: In the absence of an EPA that wants to act on data, contact your state pesticide agency, Governor and elected officials and ask that the state ban atrazine. To find the state pesticide contact information, go to Beyond Pesticides' state pages http://www.beyondpesticides.org/states/index.htm and click on your state. You can also click on state pages under "What's happening in your state" on the Beyond Pesticides' homepage. Otherwise, contact the Beyond Pesticides' office for your state contact information. While states register pesticides by generally accepting the position of EPA, they have the authority to ban pesticides under their state statutes and the clear responsibility to protect their population's health and welfare and the environment and wildlife of their state.