(Beyond Pesticides, January 23, 2008) Agribusiness giants Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto have successfully persuaded the state of Minnesota to reconsider their water-quality limit for the chemical, acetochlor. Scientists representing the industry presented their own studies to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and explained that the state’s original draft limit for acetochlor was too strict.
Despite three years of research conducted by the state, scientists from Dow and Monsanto presented officials at the MCPA with six published studies- one of them in Chinese- which they claimed were overlooked by the state when determining the standard for acetochlor in waterways. As a result, the MPCA has decided to allow 3.6 parts per billion of acetochlor in rivers, more than twice the concentration of the 1.7 parts per billion previously proposed. As a result, three of five streams classified as ”˜impaired’ by acetochlor, including a popular trout stream in southeastern Minnesota, can no longer be considered polluted.
Some environmental advocacy groups question whether the MPCA gave favorable treatment to the pesticide makers, claiming that other research that suggest that the chemical can cause ecological damage have not been seriously considered.
“It looks like there’s a double standard, that industry can come in and suggest changes without putting it up for new review and comment,” said Janette Brimmer, legal director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.
Acetochlor, widely used in Minnesota, is a herbicide that kills weeds before they can start growing in cornfields and is marketed as Harness, Surpass and Keystone, among other brands. The chemical, however, washes off from fields and into streams, rivers and lakes. According to former hydrologist for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Paul Wotzka, acetochlor started showing up in waterways soon after it was first marketed in the state in 1994. Concentrations have increased since then as corn cultivation and herbicide use increased on surrounding lands.
In 2002 the Agriculture Department asked the MCPA to develop a standard for acetochlor. Last July, the state determined that acetochlor was contaminating a well-known trout stream, as well as four other streams. The limit of 1.7 parts per billion, proposed by the MCPA would have been the first legal limit in the nation for acetochlor. However, industry officials found this limit to be too strict. They are also calling the new limit of 3.6 parts per billion unnecessary and scientifically unjustified.
In 1994, the US EPA approved the registration application proposed by the Acetochlor Registration Partnership (ARP) for the use of acetochlor on corn. This partnership includes Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences. The EPA imposed several restrictions and conditions on the use of acetochlor to limit potential risks to human health and the environment. This included several early-warning measures to ensure that ground and surface water resources remain protected.
The Agency has classified acetochlor as a probable human carcinogen and it is listed as an endocrine disruptor in the European Union. The Agency believes that the potential for exposure in drinking water is significant, with degradation products also present at significant levels in many ground and surface water sources of drinking water.
The continued registration of acetochlor is dependent on compliance with the registration agreement. For more information on the regulatory status of acetachlor, please visit http://www.epa.gov/oppefed1/aceto/
Source: Minneapolis-St Paul Star Tribune