Atrazine axed and GM trials rendered meaningless
Atrazine axed in EU review
09 October 2003
By Tom Allen-Stevens
TWO mainstays of maize and field bean weed control programmes are to be axed in the European pesticide review.
Simazine and atrazine, used by growers worldwide for over 40 years, have not been granted re-registration by the EU pesticide regulatory body.
But in a controversial move, paraquat has been granted approval, even though its use is already banned in a number of European countries.
Few details have emerged as to why simazine and atrazine are to go and how long the withdrawal period is likely to be.
But industry experts have warned that maize growers face higher weed control bills, while that there are no alternative approved herbicides for bean growers.
"It's a very disappointing decision, especially when you consider the scientific committee gave the herbicides the thumbs-up," said Michael Stopford, head of global public affairs for manufacturer Syngenta.
"But overall sales in Europe of simazine and atrazine are not that large - paraquat is the more important one for us."
UK campaign manager Bruce McKenzie said alternative products for maize are available, but herbicide costs would go up.
"Atrazine is cheap and cheerful and forms the backbone of maize weed control programmes.
"But we won't be taking advantage of the situation by putting up prices of newer alternative chemicals."
Beans would "prove to be more problematic", he said, since no alternative chemistry to simazine has full approval.
"I hope the withdrawal period or essential use provisions will give the industry enough time to come up with alternatives."
Meanwhile a coalition of European trade unions and environmental groups have slammed the committee's decision to approve paraquat.
"Adding paraquat to the positive list will now allow greater use of this toxic substance and could force it back onto the market in countries where it is currently banned," said International Union of Food Industries secretary general Ron Oswald.
But Syngenta said that paraquat gives farmers "a very valuable and environmentally-friendly tool" and poses no harm to operators provided label instructions are followed.
"It gives you a quick knock-down of weeds and has no weed resistance problems," said Mr McKenzie.
Tearing Down Biotech's 'Berlin Wall'
EXCERPT: "Proponents of GM crops claim that public fears over GM risks are exaggerated and way beyond what is justified by 'scientific' risk assessments. But that is exactly the type of situation where attractive highly profitable insurance business can be done. Yet the insurance sector is deliberately avoiding such business. Why? It seems clear that they are well aware that the science is immature and that the assessment of GM related risks may be operating well beyond the capacity of science to identify them in advance of their widespread use. It is that scientific immaturity which goes to the heart of the debate and concern about GMOs. Why are we unwilling to recognise that reality politically when the de facto actions of commerce and industry confirm that internally they recognise it economically?"
Tearing Down Biotech's 'Berlin Wall' - 4 May 2003