News / USA

Popular Weed Killer Stirs Health, Environmental Concerns

POOLESVILLE, Maryland -- Atrazine is the most widely-used weed-killer in the United States. It is also one of the most controversial.  Studies have linked atrazine to environmental damage and adverse health effects, including cancer.  While the European Union banned its use nearly ten years ago, it is still approved for use in U.S. corn, sugarcane and sorghum fields.  

Jamie Jamison produces corn, wheat and soybeans on his 500-hectare farm.  To boost production, he uses genetically modified seeds. To control weeds, he uses Atrazine. “It gives us good long-season control and allows us to have a good crop," Jamison said.

Jamison takes precautions when he sprays atrazine on his fields. He knows the wind could take the pesticide to unintended areas and kill other crops, or pollute waterways. But he's convinced its benefits outweigh the risks.   

But opposition to Atrazine is growing. “I think the most convincing evidence of effects on humans is actually the ones on birth defects data, and also reports on effects on male reproductive fitness, poor sperm quality and low sperm mobility," said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, a private environmental group.
 
Sass says critics are not convinced by the safety studies done by Atrazine's leading manufacturer, the Swiss giant, Syngenta. “I think Syngenta has been able to use its lobbying and financial weight to keep this argument going on for so long,” Sass said.

Although Atrazine's product label says it is toxic to aquatic invertebrates, Tim Pastoor, the company's principle scientist, says Syngenta's studies prove Atrazine is safe, if used properly. “As principal scientist with Syngenta I take it very seriously," Pastoor said.

Pastoor says U.S. farmers annually apply more than 35 million kilograms of Atrazine on their fields.  He concedes it doesn't always stay there.

“On occasion, Atrazine gets into the water, but in such low amounts that it will not harm human or environmental health,” Pastoor said.  

Fish pathologist Vicki Blazer, with the U.S. Geological Survey, studies fish mortality and mutations  and collects evidence on water pollutants. She has found fish with compromised immune systems. She blames that on Atrazine and other farm runoff.  

“... the spreading of poultry litter and then runoff during storms, plus herbicides such as Atrazine and other pesticides we are finding,” Blazer said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declined to comment for this report.  But EPA's website acknowledges public concerns about Atrazine in drinking water. “Europe has made a very reasonable and very scientific decision that people shouldn’t drink pesticides in their drinking water,” Sass said.  

Syngenta continues to defend the safety of Atrazine when it's used responsibly.  U.S. farmers like Jamie Jamison, who appreciates the fewer weeds and bigger harvests, plan to continue using it.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More