Monday, June 05, 2006

Company Spent $260,000 Lobbying For Herbicide

Company spent $260,000 lobbying for herbicide FREDERIC J. FROMMER Associated Press WASHINGTON - The manufacturer of a herbicide that has been linked to frog deformities has spent $260,000 lobbying the Environmental Protection Agency and other government officials, an Associated Press review of disclosure forms shows. Syngenta Crop Protection, which makes the herbicide atrazine, enlisted former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole to meet with White House officials on at least one occasion. Dole represents the U.S. affiliate of Swiss-based Syngenta as well as the Kansas Corn Growers. In Minnesota this week, Democratic state Sen. John Marty, chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, said he might push for a ban on atrazine, citing research that the chemical causes deformities in frogs and poses other health hazards. In August 2003, the U.S. affiliate of Swiss-based Syngenta Crop Protection hired Alston & Bird to lobby for the registration of atrazine, which had been challenged by environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council. Dole, a special counsel at the firm, met with White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin soon after to discuss the registration process. According to an Alston & Bird memo prepared before that meeting, which was obtained by the NRDC under the Freedom of Information Act, Alston & Bird said that EPA should reregister atrazine by Oct. 31, 2003. EPA did just that, concluding in a statement that it found no studies "that would lead the agency to conclude that potential cancer risk is likely from exposure to atrazine." Dole spokesman Mike Marshall said in a statement that Dole "is a credible voice for the Kansas Corn Growers and their coalition. Alston & Bird, which has experts in this type of work, has helped the Kansas Corn Growers and Syngenta with the re-registration process." He declined to answer specific questions about the lobbying effort. According to disclosure forms, Syngenta paid Alston & Bird $180,000 in lobbying last year and $80,000 in the first half of this year. Alston & Bird lobbied the EPA, the White House, the Justice Department and Congress during the 11-month period, the forms show. At Monday's Minnesota Senate hearing, University of California-Berkeley biologist Tyrone Hayes testified that low levels of atrazine "chemically castrate and feminize" male frogs, fish and other wildlife. Students first noticed deformed frogs in 1995 in a farm pond near Henderson, Minn. Other tests suggest that men who work near the chemical have a higher risk of prostate cancer, Hayes said, while others make a link between atrazine and cancer in laboratory animals. Atrazine was banned last year by the European Union, but Syngenta says the product is safe. According to the company, atrazine is used on two-thirds of the corn grown in the United States and on 90 percent of the sugar cane. --- Fred Frommer can be reached at ffrommer(at)ap.org

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