State concludes special Atrazine review: concludes current regulations are doing the job

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

The state of Minnesota conducted its first multi-agency review of the herbicide Atrazine, in a cooperative effort of Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The group of agencies announced their finding Tuesday that current regulations and oversight are adequately protecting public health and the environment–keeping levels of the chemical well below what federal guidance calls for.

This state level review was undertaken despite US EPA’s ongoing process of periodic, comprehensive reviews of the herbicide Atrazine–a process the federal government has undertaken numerous times in the 50-plus years that Atrazine has been used by US farmers.

“Atrazine may be the most carefully studied compound of all time–after all the work ups we’re getting the same answer as before–regulators tell us it’s safe and effective under current guidelines,” said Greg Schwarz, a farmer in Le Sueur, Minnesota, and president of Minnesota Corn Growers Association. “We hope now that the state can let the US EPA do its job reviewing and regulating farm chemical inputs, and free up some of the time and resources of Minnesota state agencies for other ways to protect the environment and help farmers. We don’t need the MDA to duplicate research done by the federal government.”

Minnesota Department of Agriculture said in a statement that it plans to continue its current activities that reduce Atrazine impacts to the minimal possible level. In addition to expansion of water monitoring efforts, state agencies will continue to communicate with private well owners about the importance of testing well water.

Minnesota corn producers use Atrazine at a rate about half of the national average use and it appears that its use will continue to decline as more producers use a variety of herbicides, including RoundUp ™.

“What keeps each of these inputs effective at the lowest possible rate is the fact that we have a range of chemicals available,” said Schwarz. “When farmers, nursery and orchard producers start to rely on fewer products, the danger of weed resistance grows and the rate of application rises. Our goal at MCGA is to help farmers achieve long term success–that can’t happen without stewardship that keeps the soils fertile and water impacts to a minimum. One thing we try to help our customers–everyone who eats–to understand is that maximizing yields does not need to come at the expense of the environment. By growing our yield each year, we assure that there is enough grain to meet all needs–food, feed, fiber, energy. We do that without expanding the acreage that we farm. In this way we can conserve sensitive land and produce crops from the acres where that makes the most sense.”

More information about the review process, including the public comments that were gathered, can be found at www.mda.state.mn.us/atrazine/specialregreview.aspx

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