Syngenta in a PR Panic

With the controversy over atrazine’s safety in a nonstop media maelstrom, Syngenta’s PR tactics are getting more and more frantic. A year ago the New York Times ran an exposéHuffington Post article chronicled the EPA’s over-reliance on industry-sponsored studies in its current safety review of atrazine. The week before several papers covered the contamination of a Missouri town’s water supply with atrazine levels sufficiently high to cause authorities to advise residents not to drink or cook with it. on how the company’s flagship herbicide has pervasively contaminated Midwestern water supplies, and in its wake newspapers large and small have been tracking the fate of the weed killer. Just last week, a

In response to all this negative attention, Syngenta is rallying its troops to deploy deceptive messaging to the public. quotes a Syngenta spokesperson as saying "EPA has stated that activist pressure and media reports prompted this unplanned evaluation of atrazine," while the EPA actually says that the review was prompted by "the new body of scientific information as well as the documented presence of atrazine in both drinking water sources and other bodies of water." In the same article, Gilbert Ross from the chemical industry front group American Council on Science and Health is quoted promoting a conspiracy theory as the explanation for EPA’s interest in atrazine: "We believe [EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson] is cooperating with, if not spearheading, a broad-based activist agenda to implement an official anti-chemical approach which has no basis in protecting anyone’s health, nor doing anything measurable or perceptible for the environment, but is designed to promote a political anti-chemical, anti-business agenda."

Earlier this week, the "Triazine Network" (an industry front group charged with protecting triazine pesticides from regulation) released an inflated analysis of the economic consequences of an atrazine ban by University of Chicago economist Don Coursey. Coursey’s previous analysis — which was commissioned by Syngenta — was thoroughly debunked in a peer-reviewed article by Tufts economist Frank Ackerman, and his latest work builds on this flawed foundation. Coursey predicts massive job losses and several billion dollars in lost revenue. Both conclusions are at odds with analyses by the EPA and USDA, as well as with the experiences of farmers in Europe, where atrazine was banned years ago with negligible effects on yields or on the agricultural economy. Coursey’s latest analysis draws criticism from some observers in the usually sympathetic farm press, with Richard Keller, editor of AgProfessional, writing "How many times can the ag industry cry wolf?" 




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