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LETTERS: More comments about atrazine

More comments about atrazine

To the editor:

Last week’s edition of the Marion County Record had a letter from Marion County Farm Bureau Board of Directors to the cities of Hillsboro and Marion requesting that they drop out of a class-action lawsuit against the makers of the herbicide atrazine.

The health problems associated with atrazine have been known and publicized since the 1990s, and European countries have banned its use for more than a decade.

I wrote letters in this paper about the presence of atrazine in Marion Reservoir more than 10 years ago pointing out the need to stop the use of it in the watershed. In 1998, KDHE submitted its list of impaired lakes (303(d)list) to EPA in which several lakes in Kansas were identified as impaired by runoff of atrazine.

Atrazine should have been banned years ago, but the powerful industrial agribusiness interests lobbied hard to stop any efforts in protecting water sources and human health. Scientific research indicates that the consumption of endocrine disruptors in low levels via drinking water may contribute to an increase in birth defects and human reproductive problems (some could see this as a “rights of the unborn issue”). On a June 2007 EPA Draft List of Chemicals in the EPA Endocrine Disrupter Screening Program (EDSP), the chemical name atrazine appears as no. eight on a list of 73 chemicals.

The Farm Bureau letter refers to best management practices (BMPs) that are recommended to reduce atrazine runoff. In Atrazine Herbicide: A Water Quality Concern for Kansas, “12 Best Management Practices for Atrazine” the no. one BMP is to “incorporate atrazine into the top two inches of soil” for a 60 percent to 75 percent reduction in runoff.

This begs the question of how to accomplish the two-inch soil incorporation in a no-till farming operation. The no. seven BMP that guarantees a 100% reduction in atrazine runoff is “Use non-atrazine herbicides.” The publication that includes the list referred to is available at: http://www.oznet.ksu.edu, titled “Atrazine Herbicide: A Water Quality Concern for Kansas.”

The Marion County Farm Bureau letter also states the potential loss of atrazine as a production “tool” would result in a loss of profitability and efficiency for farming operations. Steve Baccus, President of Kansas Farm Bureau, was the no. one recipient of USDA Farm Subsidy payments in Ottawa County, receiving $908,700 in payments from 1995 to 2006; $826,453 was in the form of commodity subsidies (information source: www.ewg.org).

I am going to assume, for the sake of argument, that he uses atrazine in his farming operation. If the atrazine is such a vital part of crop production profitability, then why was there a need for $80,000 per year in government funding to supplement farm income?

I think the answer lies in the fact that no matter how effective the chemical inputs, the profitability lies in the market price for commodities within the supply/demand dynamic dictated by the fundamentals of capitalism. Rather than “carrying water” for large trans-national corporations (Syngenta the maker of Atrazine is based in Switzerland) the Kansas Farm Bureau would better serve its membership by working hard and organizing to obtain market prices that reflect a decent margin for farmers and allow profits to come out of the marketplace rather than the government commodity subsidies.

The true beneficiaries of USDA farm programs are Cargill and ADM, which process large quantities of wheat, soybeans, and corn bought at less-than-production cost prices that produce very good profit margins for their shareholders.

Our system of government allows for redress of issues in a court of law. While flawed at times, it is a system that is vital in protecting our rights as U.S. citizens.

It is completely within the rights of the cities of Hillsboro and Marion to enter into a lawsuit and have the question reviewed before a judge and jury. To bow to pressure from a group based on political or economic pressure would be an insult to democracy.

Harry E. Bennett

1761 Remington Road

Marion

Last modified Aug. 26, 2009

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