UC Berkeley Professor Dr. Tyrone Hayes was targeted by Sygenta’s campaign to discredit him. Since 1997 he has been running experiments suggesting that herbicide atrazine causes sexual deformities in frogs.

Pest Control: Syngenta’s Secret Campaign to Discredit Atrazine’s Critics

By Clare Howard

To protect profits threatened by a lawsuit over its controversial herbicide atrazine, Syngenta Crop Protection launched an aggressive multi-million dollar campaign that included hiring a detective agency to investigate scientists on a federal advisory panel, looking into the personal life of a judge and commissioning a psychological profile of a leading scientist critical of atrazine.

The Switzerland-based pesticide manufacturer also routinely paid “third-party allies” to appear to be independent supporters, and kept a list of 130 people and groups it could recruit as experts without disclosing ties to the company.

Recently unsealed court documents reveal a corporate strategy to discredit critics and to strip plaintiffs from the class-action case.  The company specifically targeted one of atrazine’s fiercest and most outspoken critics, Tyrone Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley, whose research suggests that atrazine feminizes male frogs.

The campaign is spelled out in hundreds of pages of memos, invoices and other documents from Illinois’ Madison County Circuit Court, that were initially sealed as part of a 2004 lawsuit filed by Holiday Shores Sanitary District. The new documents, along with an earlier tranche released in late 2011, open a window on the company’s strategy to defeat a lawsuit that, it maintained, could have effectively ended sales of atrazine in the United States.

The suit originally sought to force Syngenta to pay for the removal of atrazine from drinking water in Edwardsville, Ill., northeast of St. Louis, but ultimately expanded to include more than 1,000 water systems covering six states.

For Syngenta, with $14.2 billion in sales last year, the stakes of the litigation were high. Atrazine has been popular with farmers since the 1950s because it is effective and economical in killing a broad spectrum of weeds. About 80 million pounds are used in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, most of it applied to corn in the Midwest. Three-quarters of all U.S. corn is treated with atrazine, but atrazine is also used on golf courses, Christmas tree lots and public lands.

The herbicide has long stirred controversy at the EPA, which approved its use as recently as 2003 but plans to launch another registration review this summer.

Research has shown that atrazine is prone to run off fields and contaminate water supplies. It also drifts hundreds of miles by air from sites where it has been sprayed.

Relatively few studies have examined atrazine’s health effects using human subjects. It has been shown to act as an endocrine-disrupting chemical, meaning that it can block or mimic hormones, and some human studies have suggested that it may harm fetuses and reduce men’s sperm quality. An Indiana University study found that women who lived in areas with higher atrazine levels in water had children with higher rates of some genital birth defects (see sidebar).

The Holiday Shores case grew into a class action lawsuit, ultimately settled in 2012, after 8 years of litigation. While not admitting culpability, Syngenta agreed to pay $105 million last year toward filtration costs for more than 1,000 community water systems in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio.

read more at http://100r.org/2013/06/pest-control-syngentas-secret-campaign-to-discredit-atrazines-critics/

Take action against atrazine use in the U.S.

With every passing year the evidence of atrazine’s harmful environmental and human health effects grows stronger.

Read an OnEarth magazine article about how women who drink water contaminated with low levels of atrazine may be more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles and low estrogen levels.

Frogs are disappearing around the world, and one of the main causes is their exposure to pesticides like the toxic weed-killer atrazine. As the most commonly found pesticide in U.S. waters, atrazine can kill tadpoles and lead to limb deformities in adult frogs. Send a message to the EPA asking for a ban on the use of this pesticide in the United States.

Photo: jetsandzeppelins/Flickr

On environmentalists.

Environmentalists…where to start?

It is no secret to all of us that some human activities are damaging the environment, and definitely something needs to be done about it. However, do environmentalists help solving these problems effectively?

Personally, I think the answer to this question (in many cases) is no, they don’t. The vibe that I get from many environmental activists is not a good one. In my opinion they only complain about companies, factories, people, chemical compounds, etc. What if instead of complaining so much and suing every single company and person in the planet you try to do something that REALLY helps solve problems.

I’m going to use an example to make myself clear. Atrazine is probably the most used pesticide in the USA. It’s used in corn crops, and you can still buy your Christmas trees because they don’t get damaged by weed thanks to Atrazine. University of Berkeley researchers have proved that this herbicide causes serious disruption in amphibian’s metabolic and reproductive functions. This means that amphibians, in particular frogs, who are exposed to this chemical compound have a deficient immune system, causing them to be more vulnerable to pathogens. Concerning their reproductive system, many male frogs develop female characteristics, producing eggs in their testes. 

The problem is quite terrible. But what do environmentalists really do to solve it? Nothing. Complaining about it, and suing Syngenta (the company who produces Atrazine) is not the solution. Instead of trying to ban the use of Atrizine, why don’t you try to find a way of removing it from water bodies? The solubility of this pesticide in water is not significant, and there are ways of effectively removing it from water through different natural processes. Now, think of what would happen if Syngenta stops making Atrazine, and no pesticides are used in crops. Would you be able to buy your delicious corn, macadamia, sugar, etc. at the supermarket? No you wouldn’t. The agriculture business would be negatively affected , producing the loss of crops all over the country and the rise of prices. 

So environmentalist, please, think about what you are fighting for and try to give useful and effective solutions. This is why scientific knowledge is so important to me.

And well, we are humans, we live in this planet, we need to learn how to remedy the damage we are doing to it. But damn, we also have the right to make use of Earth’s resources!

A Valuable Reputation

"[Scientist Tyrone] Hayes has devoted the past fifteen years to studying atrazine, a widely used herbicide made by Syngenta. The company’s notes reveal that it struggled to make sense of him, and plotted ways to discredit him."

Read more at the newyorker: http://goo.gl/CGQtLJ

And here’s a KQED QUEST interview with Hayes from 2008.

Previous KQED QUEST video Disappearing Frogs.

Australian scientists are aiming to clean up groundwater pollution by creating a “curtain” of bacteria that eat toxic chemicals.

They discovered the useful soil bugs earlier this year and are now about to put them to work, clearing up a plume of the weedkiller atrazine which lurks below a suburb of Perth in Western Australia.

According to The Denver Post, researchers found “that for every 0.01 milligram of atrazine per liter of water, there is a 4 percent increase in the risk for Parkinson’s disease. In agricultural areas, such as parts of the plains, where concentrations of the herbicide can be as high as 0.1 mg/l, there was a 40 percent increase in Parkinson’s disease.”


FOOD—ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMICALS:  Big Chemical’s Nasty Trick to Keep the Profits Flowing?  Discredit the Researchers who Threaten the Cash Flow


Pesticide Maker Syngenta Smears Reputation of Scientist who Uncovered Pesticide ‘Atrazine’ is Killing Frogs


How a pesticide company went after a frog-loving scientist


When Tyrone Hayes’ research suggested that atrazine messed up amphibian reproductive organs, its manufacturer set out to “discredit” him.

Dr. Tyrone Hayes, who was recently the subject of a profile in the New Yorker, has been portrayed as a tendentious and unhinged brawler. We now know that these portrayals were part of a campaign to — as a Syngenta communications manager wrote — “discredit Hayes,” and thereby protect the continued use of atrazine, the herbicide he studies.

Tyrone Hayes, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, has devoted the past fifteen years to studying the herbicide atrazine, which is applied to more than half the corn in the country. During that time scientists around the world have expanded on his findings, suggesting that the herbicide is associated with birth defects in humans as well as in animals. Company documents show that while Hayes was studying atrazine, Syngenta, the agribusiness firm which had originally asked him to conduct experiments on the herbicide, was studying him, as he had suspected for years. Syngenta’s notes reveal that the company’s employees struggled for years to make sense of him.

Industry has learned that debating the science is much easier and more effective than debating the policy. In field after field, year after year, conclusions that might support regulation are always disputed. Animal data are deemed not relevant, human data not representative, and exposure data not reliable.

David Michaels quoted in an article by Rachel Aviv in The New Yorker. A VALUABLE REPUTATION

After Tyrone Hayes said that a chemical was harmful, its maker pursued him.

via PR Watch:

Documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, recently unsealed as part of a major lawsuit against Syngenta, reveal that the global chemical company’s PR team had a multi-million dollar budget to pay surrogates and others who helped advance its messages about the weed-killer “atrazine.”

This is a northern leopard frog. Pesticides (particularly atrazine) have exterminated it in many regions. Atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides in the US. It runs off corn fields and golf courses all over the country, polluting our rivers and streams at levels that have been shown in the lab to turn male frogs into females, impair frog immunity, and threaten their survival. Atrazine isn’t good for humans either. NRDC is demanding that the EPA ban this toxic pesticide. You can help. Send a message now.

Industry has learned that debating the science is much easier and more effective than debating the policy,” Michaels wrote. “In field after field, year after year, conclusions that might support regulation are always disputed. Animal data are deemed not relevant, human data not representative, and exposure data not reliable.

Newly released documents reveal that Syngenta, the maker of atrazine, attempted to personally discredit a Cal professor whose research suggests that the herbicide feminizes male frogs.

To protect profits threatened by a lawsuit over its controversial herbicide atrazine, Syngenta Crop Protection, a major manufacturer of pesticides, launched an aggressive multimillion-dollar campaign that included hiring a detective agency to investigate scientists on a federal advisory panel, looking into the personal life of a judge, and commissioning a psychological profile of a leading UC Berkeley scientist who has been critical of atrazine. The Switzerland-based company also routinely paid “third-party allies” to appear to be independent supporters, and kept a list of 130 people and groups it could recruit as experts without disclosing ties to the company.

Pesticide Industry Misinformation PR Campaign 

As a new film highlights water contamination throughout the U.S. Midwest from Syngenta’s flagship herbicide atrazine, the world’s largest pesticide company has mounted a PR counter-attack downplaying the human and environmental health risks of a chemical linked to birth defects, low birth weight and certain cancers. Atrazine was banned in the EU in 2004, leaving the U.S. market as one of Syngenta’s most profitable and vigorously guarded markets.

To read more, CLICK HERE



ATRAZINE AND THE ENVIRONMENT features Tyrone Hayes, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, California, shares his landmark research on Atrazine the widely used herbicide in North America, and its disturbing effects on frogs, the environment, and on public health. Atrazine is used throughout the United States to control weeds in…

View On WordPress


This is really interesting! I saw a movie called “Living Downstream" at San Jose State tonight for extra credit, and wanted to share some facts I learned here. 

This is a conversation about the pesticide Atrazine:

"The European Union has banned one of the worlds most widely used pesticides. Atrazine in drinking water has been linked to prostate and breast cancer. Host Steve Curwood talks with Professor Tyrone Hayes of UC Berkeley about his research on the chemical’s prevalence in the United States.


CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley studios in Somerville, Massachusetts, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.

The European Union has banned the herbicide Atrazine, effective next year, after finding it contaminated a number of drinking water supplies. The weed killer first came under scrutiny for its effects on frogs, and more recently has been linked to adverse affects on human health.

Some 70 million pounds of Atrazine are used in the U.S. each year, mostly on cornfields. After studying Atrazine, the Environmental Protection Agency decided not to ban it in the U.S., but says its research into the chemical continues.

Joining me now is Tyrone Hayes, a professor at UC Berkeley who’s done pivotal research on Atrazine. And he’s just back from Europe, we caught up with him at the airport. Professor Hayes, welcome to Living on Earth.

HAYES: Good to be here.

CURWOOD: So from your expertise, what’s your analysis of the science behind the EU’s decision to ban Atrazine?

HAYES: Well, there’s a great deal of data showing Atrazine is in fact an endocrine disrupter. In amphibians, Atrazine results in the demasculinization – chemical castration – of male frogs, and subsequent feminization. It produces hermaphroditic frogs, males with ovaries and eggs. And in rodents and humans Atrazine is associated with breast cancer and prostate cancer and low sperm count.

The European Union has a slightly different approach to regulating chemicals than the United States. It operates under the precautionary principle, which says that if there is the potential for a chemical to cause environmental and public health harm, then that chemical is regulated. And in the case of Atrazine, banned, because it’s found in the water.

The United States counts on the industry that produces the chemical to produce data to actually prove that the chemical’s harmful. There are states that have made some movements towards regulating Atrazine. For example, Wisconsin bans Atrazine county by county, depending on when it shows up in the water.

CURWOOD: Now, what about the exposures here in the real world. How much Atrazine has been found in U.S. drinking water? And how does that compare to what’s been found in Europe?

HAYES: I think the levels are about equal between the United States and Europe. The current drinking water standard in the United States is three parts per billion, and, particularly in the Midwest, that three parts per billion can be exceeded. But, in fact, we know now that Atrazine is biologically active as low as .1 parts billion. So that’s 30 times lower than the current drinking water standard in the United States.

CURWOOD: There’s a lot of concern about prostate cancer and breast cancer here. What relationship, if any, is there between Atrazine and those diseases?

HAYES: The relationship between Atrazine and prostate cancer and breast cancer is very significant. Experimental evidence in rodents show that Atrazine is associated with an increased incident of both prostate cancer and breast cancer. And correlational evidence in humans shows that people who are exposed to Atrazine have higher rates of breast cancer and prostate cancer.

In fact, if you feed a female rat Atrazine – her pups that she is suckling, her male pups, can develop prostate disease. So those effects of Atrazine are transferable even from the mother to the suckling pup.

There’s also studies showing that prostate cancer was increased in men who worked in a factory that produced Atrazine. The levels of prostate disease and prostate cancer were 8.4-fold higher than expected, and 8.4-fold higher than men who worked in the factory but were not exposed to Atrazine.

So given that Atrazine is the number one selling pesticide in the world, and given that breast cancer and prostate cancer are the number one cancers in men and women, respectively, then I think this is a big concern.

CURWOOD: How prevalent is the presence of Atrazine in U.S. drinking water supplies? Is this a problem for five percent of the country? Ten? Twenty? Fifty percent?

HAYES: You know, the bigger problems for Atrazine are in the Midwest, where it’s used mostly, so like Nebraska and Iowa, Indiana. The concerns are not just for people who live in areas where Atrazine is used. But people have to also understand that Atrazine travels quite far and can be found in areas that are even considered pristine. Both in Europe and the United States it’s been shown that Atrazine can be found as much as 600 miles from where it has been applied.

CURWOOD: So in your view is there enough evidence out there to ban Atrazine in the United States?

HAYES: Certainly, when you look at the environmental health risks and the public health risks and the prevalence of Atrazine in groundwater and drinking water, there’s cause for concern. When you consider on top of that the evidence in every animal class that’s been examined that Atrazine causes adverse biological effects, then this raises concern. Essentially, in the United States, we’ve put a price on our breasts, on our prostates, on our environmental health, and decided that the economic hit to banning Atrazine, that that concern exceeds our concern for environmental health and public health.

CURWOOD: Tyrone Hayes is a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Thank you so much for speaking with me.

HAYES: My pleasure.”

I took the above conversation from this blog http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.html?programID=06-P13-00016&segmentID=1.  

Watch "Living Downstream" if you want to learn more!  Or read the book.  There is more information about the author’s inspirational story here, at the authors website:  http://steingraber.com/