Syngenta, maker of the herbicide atrazine, just announced a settlement with litigants in a case based on allegations that the widely used chemical caused water contamination despite the fact that it s beensafely used by farmers for over fifty years.
Some may wonder, if atrazine is so safe and important to American agriculture, why did Syngenta decide to pay off the plaintiffs?
Good question. While we here at ACSH recognize that the settlement was a matter of business, not science, we still think that this concession to opportunistic lawyers and activist groups is yet another flight from science. As Dr. Ross observes, These anti-chemical extremists have again accomplished their goals: Gaining money and publicity while doing their best to harm farmers and the American people in order to pursue their own cynical agendas."
Yet as Dr. Bloom points out, Syngenta, unfortunately, just did what it had to do. When drug and chemical companies have tried to fight lawsuits in court using science-based arguments, he says, they have not been very successful. So, every so often, a company gets selected to play Wheel of Extortion and they usually settle the suit. It s just part of doing business nowadays.
According to Syngenta, the decision to throw money at the plaintiff's lawyers was made in an effort to end the uncertainty and expense resulting from lawsuits filed nearly eight years ago. Following the settlement, however, farmers will, thankfully, be able to continue to use atrazine, since regulations concerning the herbicide have remained unchanged. Final judicial approval of the settlement is expected in November.
Meanwhile, Syngenta acknowledges no liability and points out that the plaintiffs were not able to come up with any new scientific studies actually impugning the safety of atrazine. As ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan observes, "The scientific facts have always been clear: No human has ever has been exposed to enough atrazine in water to adversely affect their health." Her op-ed from 2009 holds true today as it did then.