Julia Debes and the Issue of EPA’s Regulatory View on Atrazine

(Jamie) Welcome to Farm Factor! First Kyle Bauer and Julia Debes discuss the EPA’s regulatory review process for Atrazine.
(Kyle Bauer) Hi, this is Kyle Bauer. I have the opportunity to visit with Julia Debes; she is a Communications Director for the National Sorghum Producers. Julia, what sort of issues or projects are you working on with the National Sorghum Producers? (Julia Debes) Hi. Good morning Kyle. One of the biggest issues that we are working on and tracking right now is the regulatory review process with the Environmental Protection Agency with regard to crop protection products. Sounds absolutely not sexy but something that’s really important to the farm when we talk about how the Environmental Protection Agency is fundamentally changing how they’re playing the game of conducting these registration reviews for chemicals like Atrazine, Chlorpyrifos and others. (Kyle) Literally, I graduated from high school in 1980 and in 1981 I had the opportunity to serve on an Atrazine Task Force in 1981, and all these years later we’re still talking about it. (Julia) Absolutely. Atrazine is one of the most widely studied, widely used chemicals that we have in our toolbox. We have more than 50 years of use, more than 7,000 scientific studies demonstrating its safety. Yet again at the EPA it is currently coming under attack as part of its regular 15-year cycle registration review. Their process should be pretty straightforward but unfortunately the EPA is playing some games with it. (Kyle) You mentioned regular review, I think there are a lot of people who don’t realize that, that after something is approved by EPA there’s still constant supervision of those products. (Julia) Absolutely. That’s one of the strengths of the science-based system in the United States is that every 15 years every agrochemical undergoes a registration review process to update environmental standards to look at efficacy to see how these chemicals are having an impact in the environment, how they’re being used and are supposed to be having a risk-benefit process that is under going. Unfortunately, in this latest round of registration reviews, the EPA is choosing solely to focus on risk and even more particular they’re focusing on a hazard number within that risk. Meaning, if I go outside I could get a sunburn. That’s a hazard but when we look at risk, if I go outside and I put on sunscreen then I’m less likely to have a sunburn. Unfortunately, EPA is focusing solely on that hazard component and not really taking a lot of other factors into consideration. (Kyle) Truly with Atrazine being around for more than 50 years at that point it was parts per million. Now, they have the opportunity to measure down to parts per billion. (Julia) Absolutely. EPA’s own scientific advisory panels have set the level of that parts per billion even higher than it is currently allowed. However, in the proposed analysis EPA is ignoring their own scientific panels and proposing lowering that threshold down to 3.4 parts per billion. If you translate that over to application rates that would take it down from your Atrazine application of one to two pounds per acre to about a quarter of a pound per acre, about 8 fluid ounces, so less than a drinking glass which effectively renders the product useless on most sorghum acres. (Kyle) We’re visiting with Julia Debes; she is with the National Sorghum Producers. This is Kyle Bauer reporting back to you Jamie.
(Jamie) Thanks, Kyle! Folks come back after these messages for this week’s Kansas Soybean Update.

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