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WHO report shows atrazine safety

A recently released World Health Organization document has recommended a drinking water standard of 100 parts per billion, up from the previous WHO standard of two parts per billion. The atrazine drinking water standard enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is three parts per billion. Jere White, Triazine Network chairman and executive director of the Kansas grain sorghum and corn growers associations said the recent World Health Organization's recommendation reaffirms the safety of atrazine.

"While our EPA is in the middle of an unscheduled re-review of atrazine because of activist campaigns, the World Health Organization quietly relied on scientific evidence and found that atrazine is safe at levels up to 100 parts per billion," White said. "Here in the U.S., activists, insisting that atrazine levels at or even below three parts per billion are dangerous, have led EPA and the American taxpayer on an expensive wild goose chase."

Atrazine, a herbicide trusted by growers across America, was reregistered by EPA in 2006. The reregistration came 12 years after the beginning of EPA's Special Review of atrazine and other triazine herbicides. In its reregistration of atrazine, EPA stated that "levels of atrazine that Americans are exposed to are below the levels that would potentially cause health effects." EPA announced a new set of Science Advisory Panels on atrazine October 2009 after a coordinated publicity and media campaign surrounding the release of a study by the activist group Natural Resources Defense Council. An EPA official stated Science Advisory Panels were being held in response to the activist campaign.

Some argue that EPA should follow the World Health Organization's lead in setting less-restrictive atrazine drinking water standards.

"EPA's current drinking water standards for atrazine appear to be set at too severe a level," said James Lamb, Ph.D., center director and principal scientist at Exponent, a scientific consulting firm. "These new findings from WHO suggest that the EPA should re-evaluate the current three parts per billion standard in order to bring it into line with the latest scientific data."

The WHO summary and background document available at www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/chemicals/atrazine/en are available at the organization's website, and will be included in the WHO 4th Edition of the Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality. Atrazine drinking water standards in other countries are higher than that of the United States. Canada's standard is five ppb, Australia is 40 ppb and the United Kingdom is 15 ppb.

"The U.S. EPA should follow the lead of the World Health Organization and continue to rely on sound science to evaluate atrazine," White said. "Since the Special Review began in 1995, all that our growers have asked is for EPA to follow their own guidelines and base decisions on sound scientific evidence and not activist-generated politics."

Losing atrazine would have economic, agronomic and environmental implications. Atrazine is mainly used as an additive with many of today's newest weed control products. Not only does it provide economical weed control to growers, it also offers a different mode of action and is longer lasting. This helps in season-long weed control, and also helps growers fight herbicide resistance in weeds. Atrazine is also vital to growers who use conservation tillage practices. By reducing or eliminating the need for tilling the ground, farmers are able to dramatically reduce energy consumption and erosion and runoff, conserve soil moisture and enrich the soil. The loss of atrazine would force many growers to return to tillage to control weeds in their fields and reverse a trend that benefits all of us.

The Kansas Corn Growers Association and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association represent their members in legislative and regulatory issues. For more information, visit www.ksgrains.com. The Triazine Network, formed in 1995 at the beginning of EPA's Special Review of the triazine herbicides, is a nationwide coalition of growers and grower groups concerned with regulatory actions surrounding the triazine herbicides including atrazine. For more information, visit agsense.org.



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