ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
2 November 2002


Guess what? Alex Avery and a load of industry funded scientists are leading an attack on a Berkeley professor whose research casts doubt on a Syngenta product - sound familiar?

In North America farmers add the chemical atrazine into the tank mix of Liberty (glufosinate ammonium) used on Aventis herbicide resistant GM crops because Liberty by itself does not do the job. In Europe Aventis promote their GM crops as a way of avoiding atrazine use!!!!!!!

Read the Newsnight transcript on how GM crops encourage industrial quantities of a herbicide which is so toxic it's banned in some countries while the industry laims the exact opposite!

1. UC Berkeley prof's research links pesticide to abnormalities
2. Subj::alex avery on atrazine


1. Field study finds deformed frogs

UC Berkeley prof's research links pesticide to abnormalities
Carl T. Hall, Chronicle Science Writer
San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, October 31, 2002

The most widely used pesticide in the United States appears to be causing developmental defects in a common Midwestern frog, according to a new study that has sparked a high-stakes debate over a chemical long considered environmentally safe.

Led by UC Berkeley biologist Tyrone B. Hayes, the study is the first evidence from field studies to show a link between the controversial weed killer, called atrazine, and health problems in a native species of amphibian in the United States.

The research, a summary of which appears today in the journal Nature, is generating some fierce reactions from other scientists in the field.

In an unusual step, scientists on an industry-financed panel assembled to asses the latest research issued a written challenge this week to a longer version of Hayes' study appearing in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

For his part, Hayes said scientists who had been criticizing his work were motivated in part by their own financial interests, because many work as paid consultants or have had research financed by atrazine's manufacturer, the Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta.

..."These are preliminary papers that are setting the tone for other studies," said Andrew Blaustein, an ecologist at Oregon State University. "This is a wake-up call, one of the early wake-up calls. But his experiments are very well done and backed up with really good field survey data."

But biologist James A. Carr of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, and others on the industry-financed panel raised "serious concerns" about the Hayes study design and conclusions, including flawed statistical analysis and "major inconsistencies in the data."

Asked for comment on the latest study, a Syngenta spokeswoman said, "We concur with the panel's opinions."


2. Subj: alex avery on atrazine

Date:01/11/2002 18:40:55 GMT Standard Time

The following press release from alex avery gives his views on the use  of atrazine in no-till agriculture, avery claims that atrazine use is  sustainable and that removing the herbicide would harm the environment.  Regarding those claims it is worth pointing out that atrazine is a  global pollutant found in groundwater, off-shore waters, the great lakes  waters and it is found at elevated levels in rainfall. Atrazine is  mainly used with corn because that grass is naturally resistant to it.  However, the herbicide persists in soils for years after a corn crop is  produced using the herbicide and soy and other rotation crops cannot  readily be grown on the land treated with atrazine. No till production  of corn for several years running (without rotation) does not seem  desirable to me because of the depletion of nutrients and the build-up  of pathogens. Efforts were made to produce GM atrazine resistant soy to  rotate with corn, but, the GM atrazine resistant soy was found to be  deficient in yield. The atrazine build-up problem is well known in  midwest USA and Canada, I understand that avery may not have been aware  of the problem but no rotation does not seem sustainable even though it  is used no-till.

Oct. 30/02
Press Release by Research and Education at the Center for Global Food Issues

A newly released study by US scientists claims to find a link between a particular herbicide and hermaphroditism in North American frogs. However, Alex Avery, Director of Research and Education at the Center for Global Food Issues says jumping to conclusions could hurt farmers and the environment

The recent study by Tyrone Hayes and colleagues published in Environmental Health Perspectives and soon to be published in Nature, purports that low concentrations of the herbicide atrazine cause hermaphroditism in North American frogs.

The study suffers from methodological shortcomings and data inadequacies that make data interpretation difficult and call into question the authors' conclusions. Scientific research favorably reviewed by the Center for Global Food Issues released this week also finds this study to be flawed (see paper following).

Prematurely accepting the authors' conclusions as fact could have profound effects on farms where atrazine is used to save topsoil, protect water quality and conserve precious natural resources. Indeed, the vast majority of published scientific research contradicts the findings of this one report.

American farmers have successfully used atrazine to increase crop yields while using less land and fewer resources, such as fossil fuel.

Herbicides such as atrazine allow farmers to use no-tillage weed control methods, which reduce soil erosion by 65-95%. No-till methods, using selective herbicides such as atrazine for weed control rather than mechanical methods, have prevented the erosion of untold billions of tons of topsoil and significantly improved the water quality in our nations rivers and streams.

These methods enhance the sustainability of our farms and have been endorsed by agricultural heroes like Norman Borlaug, environmentalists such as Greenpeace co-founder Dr. Patrick Moore, and Nobel Prize Winner Oscar Arias (see

Hermaphroditism in frogs is a well-known phenomenon which has been observed for decades in all parts of the world. There are many reports of frog hermaphroditism occurring prior to the use of atrazine and in areas where atrazine has never been used.

According to Alex Avery, Director of Research and Education at the Center for Global Food Issues (CGFI), many other variables likely play a role in amphibious hermaphroditism, including temperature, parasites, viruses, and other natural factors.

"Hayes's latest study is reminiscent of recent peer-reviewed studies that tried to link pesticides to frog limb abnormalities, but were debunked after further studies found natural parasitic flatworms to be the cause," Avery said. "Until this work has been corroborated by other labs, it must be considered preliminary and inconclusive."

Above Referenced Paper Follows.

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