Throughout 2002 and 2003, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency were conducting regular meetings and email correspondence with representatives of Syngenta, the primary manufacturer of a pesticide called atrazine, at a time when the EPA was supposed to be evaluating atrazine, according to documents obtained by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The 40-plus meetings were all in violation of EPA policy, as was the private deal that the agency struck with Syngenta before releasing its official findings on atrazine. Under the terms of the deal, the EPA identified the 1,172 sites at highest risk from atrazine contamination and Syngenta agreed to monitor 40 of them. Apparently satisfied, the EPA went on to decline to impose any further regulations, saying only that if atrazine levels at these sites were high two years in a row, they would allow Syngenta to propose voluntary mitigation.
Between 60 and 70 million pounds of atrazine are applied annually to crops (mainly corn), golf courses and lawns. The EPA sets the limit for atrazine in drinking water at 3 parts per billion (ppb), but a 2002 study from the University of California, Berkeley showed that even amounts as low as 0.1 ppb can induce hermaphroditism in frogs. Says Tyrone Hayes, the lead professor on the study,