Syngenta sells poison.Slimy Syngenta

I just finished reading in the New Yorker (Rachel Aviv's "A Valuable Reputation," in their February 10, 2014 issue, page 53, here) on how Syngeta, "one of the largest agribusinesses in the world," instead of dealing with their atrazine problem, plotted instead to trash the reputation of a researcher who first published information about the chemical.  Researcher Tyrone Hayes discovered that the herbicide atrazine, "which is applied to more than half the corn in the United States" caused mutations in frogs.  Frogs exposed to atrazine, Hayes found, "could not be clearly identified as male or female: they had both testes and ovaries.  Others had multiple testes that were deformed."  Atrazine, the article went on to note, "is one of the most common contaminants of drinking water; an estimated 30 million Americans are exposed to trace amounts of the chemical."  

Instead of doing something helpful, like investigating further or finding out if there is a way to grow corn with less atrazine or without atrazine at all, Syngenta went to outrageous lengths to discredit Hayes.  According to documents, Syngenta lavishly paid other scientists in order to "make Tyrone look as foolish as possible," gave "tens of thousands of dollars" to Fox News (of course) freelance science columnist Steven Milloy to write an article disparaging Hayes as a "junk scientist" with "lame" conclusions, sent their vice president of "global risk assessment," Gary Dickson, to intimidate Duke University, where Syngenta "had a year earlier established a $50,000 endowment," into rescinding a job offer to Hayes, and petitioned the EPA to ignore Hayes' findings.  Elizabeth Whelen, the president of the American Council on Science and Health, "which asked Syngenta for $100,000 that year," went on MSNBC to declare as "bogus" and "not based on science" a New York Times article here about an investigation "suggesting that atrazine levels frequently surpass the maximum threshold allowed in drinking water" and that mothers living close to water sources containing atrazine "were more likely to have babies who were underweight or had a defect in which intestines and other organs protrude from the body." 

Syngenta held weekly meetings discussing how "it could invalidate Hayes's research, including hiring "communications manager" Sherry Ford, who made lists with action items like "ask journals to retract, set trap to entice him to sue," and "investigate wife."  Syngenta sent hostile letters to the dean of the university where Hayes worked, and hired people to travel to his public speaking appearances and ask questions they designed to embarrass him.  How does a publicly traded company get away with behavior like this?   Equally depressingly, even as the European Commission decided to remove atrazine from the market, the United States EPA approved its continued use.  

Other articles on Syngenta and atrazine: Mieuxprevenir's "How Syngenta Poisons People and the Environment" here, Inspiration Green's article here, and Wikipedia's article on atrazine here.  Read more about Syngenta's apparently ongoing efforts to deceive the public about atrazine  here and here.

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