Jason Hancock published a fascinating story at Iowa Independent today about a federal lawsuit against Syngenta AG and its U.S.-based subsidiary, Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. Sixteen communities, including Creston in southwest Iowa, are suing Syngenta because it profits from sales of atrazine while communities have to pay to remove the weed-killer from water supplies. Apparently Creston has a higher concentration of atrazine in its drinking water than any other Iowa city.
Judging from this comment by a Syngenta spokesperson, the key to the company’s defense will be a Bush administration Environmental Protection Agency finding, which asserted that atrazine has no detrimental effects in humans. However, the herbicide is banned in Europe because of numerous studies showing that it enters the water supply and is correlated with certain cancers and birth defects.
We could reduce water pollution if we made polluters pay the cost of removing contaminants from drinking water, but asking farmers who apply atrazine to pay for water treatment is a political non-starter. I don’t know what legal precedent supports suing the manufacturer of a farm chemical over the cost of treating drinking water. Last year the Obama administration EPA ordered the independent Scientific Advisory Panel to conduct a thorough scientific review of atrazine’s “potential cancer and non-cancer effects on humans,” including “its potential association with birth defects, low birth weight, and premature births.” I assume the results of that review will affect the outcome of the cities’ federal lawsuit against Syngenta.