Tech Tuesday

Water, Atrazine and Getting at the Truth

New website tackles the value of atrazine head-on in the wake of a documentary released earlier this year.

The power of the documentary cannot be underestimated, and when the writers miss the point or tackle a subject they don't completely understand, things get garbled. "Food Inc." got a lot of things right, but there were also a range of issues farm groups and food companies didn't find enlightening.

Earlier this year a movie - "Last Call at the Oasis" - took a serious look at water and the issues surrounding this critical resource. The majority of the movie did a solid job of characterizing the challenges and opportunities ahead for managing and using this resource. However, one section took a different tactic and in the process indicted a product long used by farmers. Yep, they went after atrazine.

This 50-plus-year-old crop protection product has already proven itself safe in more than 7,000 studies. Even the frog worries of a few years ago were dealt with in a two-continent extensive study of frogs and their exposure to atrazine. The conclusion: atrazine isn't a problem.

Over the years farmers have also gotten better at using this powerful weed killer so detections in ground and surface water have been falling for years. There are more than 300,000 water samples collected in a monitoring program set up by atrazine's chief maker Syngenta showing no detects above the allowable 3 parts per billion level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A number of groups still don't like atrazine, claiming all sorts of issues regarding contamination of drinking water. The fact is, at the 3 ppb level that's a 1,000-fold safety level. So what's a company to do when a major documentary - which also contains a lot of useful information on the challenges of water use - targets your product.

In Syngenta's case, you deal with it head on. The company has produced its own website called Saving the Oasis where it deals with the science, the use and the critical need for crop protection products for meeting world food needs. So why am I writing about this in a tech blog? Because Syngenta has not backed away from the issue with public relations weasel words, it has hit the issue head on with respected experts who look at the science and the social implications of the product.

The three short videos - I've embedded all three below - offer a look at key issues surrounding atrazine, the charges often made against the product, and the truth about its use and safety. Major environmental groups still rail against the product, but they don't want any crop protection products used regardless of their safety profile. And frankly modern crop production doesn't happen without good weed and pest control.

Another key tech feature is that Syngenta is using the Internet to get its story out to the general public so they can see more of the story when opponents of any farm technology start in with their anti-diatribes there's often a shortage of facts from all sides. Not this time. Want to know more about atrazine, how it's been researched and its role in food production? Take a few minutes and watch the three videos below.

Atrazine Saves Soil & Water

Atrazine Safety

Atrazine and Food Security

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