Company spent $260,000 lobbying for herbicide
by FREDERIC J. FROMMER
WASHINGTON – The manufacturer of a herbicide that has been linked to frog
deformities has spent $260,000 lobbying the Environmental Protection Agency
and other government officials, an Associated Press review of disclosure
Syngenta Crop Protection, which makes the herbicide atrazine, enlisted
former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole to meet with White House officials on
at least one occasion. Dole represents the U.S. affiliate of Swiss-based
Syngenta as well as the Kansas Corn Growers.
In Minnesota this week, Democratic state Sen. John Marty, chairman of the
Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, said he might push for a
ban on atrazine, citing research that the chemical causes deformities in
frogs and poses other health hazards.
In August 2003, the U.S. affiliate of Swiss-based Syngenta Crop Protection
hired Alston & Bird to lobby for the registration of atrazine, which had
been challenged by environmental groups such as the Natural Resources
Dole, a special counsel at the firm, met with White House Deputy Chief of
Staff Joe Hagin soon after to discuss the registration process.
According to an Alston & Bird memo prepared before that meeting, which was
obtained by the NRDC under the Freedom of Information Act, Alston & Bird
said that EPA should reregister atrazine by Oct. 31, 2003.
EPA did just that, concluding in a statement that it found no studies “that
would lead the agency to conclude that potential cancer risk is likely from
exposure to atrazine.”
Dole spokesman Mike Marshall said in a statement that Dole “is a credible
voice for the Kansas Corn Growers and their coalition. Alston & Bird, which
has experts in this type of work, has helped the Kansas Corn Growers and
Syngenta with the re-registration process.”
He declined to answer specific questions about the lobbying effort.
According to disclosure forms, Syngenta paid Alston & Bird $180,000 in
lobbying last year and $80,000 in the first half of this year. Alston & Bird
lobbied the EPA, the White House, the Justice Department and Congress during
the 11-month period, the forms show.
At Monday’s Minnesota Senate hearing, University of California-Berkeley
biologist Tyrone Hayes testified that low levels of atrazine “chemically
castrate and feminize” male frogs, fish and other wildlife. Students first
noticed deformed frogs in 1995 in a farm pond near Henderson, Minn.
Other tests suggest that men who work near the chemical have a higher risk
of prostate cancer, Hayes said, while others make a link between atrazine
and cancer in laboratory animals.
Atrazine was banned last year by the European Union, but Syngenta says the
product is safe. According to the company, atrazine is used on two-thirds of
the corn grown in the United States and on 90 percent of the sugar cane.