Organic Consumers Association

EU Bans Toxic Atrazine Herbicide Still Widely Used in US Corn Belt

Pesticide Action Network Updates Service

EU says "No" to Atrazine, But Not to Paraquat

October 24, 2003

In a move that is likely to have a worldwide impact on herbicide use,
the European Union has withdrawn regulatory approval for the widely used
herbicide, atrazine, due to groundwater contamination. Several countries
in the EU, including France, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden had
already banned the herbicide, which is manufactured by Syngenta. In
response, Syngenta has announced that it is already offering
alternatives to this product in Germany and Italy, and would extend
those products to the rest of the EU.

Atrazine, a triazine broadleaf herbicide, is the most used herbicide in
the U.S., where more than 60 million pounds are applied each year,
mostly to corn. In the U.S. it is also used on sorghum (a cereal grain),
sugarcane, Christmas trees, woodlands and golf courses. In 2002, two
studies raised new concerns about the herbicide, one connecting
extremely low levels of atrazine with sexual abnormalities in frogs, and
another pointing to increased prostrate cancer among atrazine production
workers. Traces of atrazine are found routinely in streams, ponds and
lakes within the U.S. "There seems to be no atrazine-free environment,"
said University of California Berkeley researcher Tyrone Hayes, author
of the study on frogs.

Both studies surfaced as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S.
EPA) was finalizing an ecological risk assessment for atrazine. Yet
despite these findings, and the fact that its own seasonal water quality
risk estimates were above "acceptable" levels, U.S. EPA re-approved the
registration of atrazine in January, 2003. It also mandated a program of
weekly water quality monitoring to be conducted seasonally by Syngenta
in areas of high atrazine use.

In another decision, the EU has decided not to prohibit another
controversial Syngenta herbicide, paraquat, which is already banned or
severely restricted in eleven countries, including five EU member
nations. This decision has put the fate of such pre-existing national
bans in question, raising serious concerns by member states about their
ability to protect the health of their citizens and environment from
pesticide damage at the national level. A notorious occupational poison,
paraquat has been on the PAN International list of "Dirty Dozen"
pesticides since 1985. Due to its' high toxicity, absence of antidote,
easy availability and danger to workers and the public, especially in
developing countries, an international campaign to end Syngenta's
production and sale of paraquat is now underway.

Sources: Terra Wire, EU withdraws approval for potentially harmful
herbicide atrazine, Switzerland, Oct 05, 2003; Time's Up for Atrazine?,
PANNA, Global Pesticide Campaigner, August 2002; Atrazine Facts; PANNA
website,; First Binding Controls of PIC and POPs U
PAN UK,; Syngenta Press
Release, EU Registration of Atrazine Not Granted Despite Favorable
Science Review, Web site;
Paraquat, Syngenta's Controversial Herbicide, Berne Declaration, Swedish
Society for Nature Conservation, PAN UK, PAN Asia Pacific, Foro Emaús,

Contact: PANNA or PAN UK.

For information on the Syngenta/Paraquat campaign, contact PANNA; PAN UK
email,, web site,; PAN AP email,, web site,; or Bern Declaration
email, web site

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