• Amir Muhaisen

Atrazine : It Doesn't Matter !!

in this article, the weak point of chemical marketing is illustrated with reference to conspiracy theorists and the case of atrazine.

if you have spent anytime online, you have probably moved upon one of the viral rants by the american conspiracy theorist and radio show host Alex Jones. In 2015 he uploaded a video to his youtube channel which has since been widely mocked where he was having one of his hysterical rounds. He believes that chemicals added to drinking water are responsible for reducing fertility and causing homosexuality in humans.

However, still there is a small nub of truth to this. In 1997, Tyrone Hayes -an american professor of biology at the university of california berkeley- was working as a contract researcher for an agrochemical company to study the herbicide atrazine.

Atrazine belongs to fine chemicals, it is synthesized by reacting cyanuric acid with isopropylamine and ethylamine. the chemical value chain is illustrated including reaction types, commodities (red), intermediates (black) , and chemical structures.

Atrazine : Hormonal Abnormalities

Tyrone Hayes discovered that atrazine might be causing hormonal abnormalities resulting in impaired sexual development in frogs, he went on to speculate that the herbicide could cause the same abnormalities in humans. According to Hayes, the company tried to prevent him from publishing his research but then Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) got involved, and in 2002 he finally published the paper: “hermaphroditic, demasculinized frogs after exposure to the herbicide atrazine at low ecologically relevant doses”. This paper caused panic in agrochemical community because atrazine was one of the world's most popular herbicides

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called for more studies with high quality controls to investigate the link between atrazine and abnormalities in frogs, also asked for fund from agrochemical companies because it is not the taxpayer’s responsibility to pay for private research on product safety for businesses. Consequently, multiple research papers found no link between atrazine and abnormalities in frogs. Hayes was actually confronted with this and claimed that such papers are biased because they were industry-funded despite that that his initial research was also industry funded.

Exploiting the weak side

Hayes continues to promote the idea that atrazine is abnormalities. Now makes up to 9 K USD per speech, he also makes money working as a consultant for attorneys seeking settlements from agrochemical businesses. It doesn't matter if Hayes is a victim or an opportunist, as in both cases he is exploiting the weak side of chemical businesses. The chemical business image is far beyond academic papers. It weighs in public opinion, and as long as the public fears chemicals, someone will exploit the weak point again.

Syngenta is a multi-national agri-tech company specialized in crop protection (pesticides), with its headquarters in Switzerland, and further locations in USA, Israel, and China. The company was founded in 2000 by the merger of the agrichemical businesses of Novartis and AstraZeneca, and acquired in 2015 by China National Chemical Corporation . In 2020, Syngenta Group was formed, bringing together Syngenta, Adama, and the agricultural business of Sinochem.