The Frog of War

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“ATRAZINE HAS LONG been a mainstay of American agriculture. Registered for use in 1959, it is now used on half the nation’s corn and 90 percent of our sugarcane, not to mention lawns, golf courses, and Christmas tree farms. All told, about 80 million pounds of it are applied each year, making it the most widely used herbicide after glyphosate, a.k.a. Roundup. While Syngenta, the largest producer, won’t disclose its profits from atrazine, the company earned $2.3 billion in 2010 from its line of selective herbicides (those that only kill specific plants), of which atrazine is the leading product. Sales keep rising as more weeds develop resistance to Roundup: Syngenta reported a14 percent bump in the first half of 2011.

n 1997, EcoRisk approached Hayes on behalf of Syngenta’s corporate predecessor, Novartis. They wanted him to study atrazine, which at the time was going through a product reapproval process mandated by the EPA. Hayes took the gig, figuring Novartis wouldn’t ask him to look into the herbicide’s effects if it expected him to find anything. “My hypothesis was, nothing’s going to happen,” he recalls.”

Read more: Mother Jones

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