Keith Ellison introduces bill to ban Atrazine


It's Earth Day, and Rep. Keith Ellison is taking note by announcing that he's introducing a House bill to ban a herbicide that's long been the target of environmentalists: Atrazine.

The news comes ahead of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Scientific Advisory Panel meeting next week that will reevaluate the human effects of Atrazine in drinking water based on the latest science.

Ellison's bill, if it were to pass, would have a significant impact on some of the state's corn growers. According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the herbicide is used to control mostly broadleaf weeds and a few specific grasses in Minnesota corn fields. It's a component in various pesticide mixtures, and it was applied on an estimated 22 percent of the 7.3 million field corn acres in Minnesota in 2007.

From the press release:

Last year, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report linking Atrazine to adverse health effects in humans and animals. Specifically, Atrazine is associated with infertility, low birth weight, and abnormal infant development in humans. Despite these harmful linkages, trazine provides only moderate agricultural benefits. For example, the US Department of Agriculture estimates that an Atrazine ban would result in crop losses of only 1.19 percent.

"Banning Atrazine is the most effective way for us to keep our rivers and drinking water safe from toxic pesticides and this bill is a great first step toward achieving that," stated NRDC attorney Mae Wu.

The pesticide is currently banned in the European Union and faces calls for greater regulatory scrutiny in the United States.

Atrazine is the most commonly detected pesticide in U.S. waters and the most prevalent found in Minnesota waters. The U.S. Geological Survey found Atrazine in approximately 75 percent of stream waters and 40 percent of ground waters sampled near agricultural areas. An estimated 33 million Americans have been exposed to Atrazine through drinking water.

"On this 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, I can think of no better tribute to our planet and our people than protecting it from known harmful chemicals," Ellison stated. "No one should ever have to worry if the water they drink is making them sick or preventing fertility."