Logout|My Dashboard
  • Subscribe

Atrazine Experts: Atrazine a real threat to Westside residents

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 12:45 am

WAIMEA — More than 300 people gathered at Waimea Canyon Middle School Sunday afternoon for a presentation about the effects of Atrazine, a herbicide used in agricultural fields near Waimea — a town described by Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte as the “central battle ground” in a fight against biotech companies and genetically modified organisms.

One of the world’s most widely used and controversial herbicides, Atrazine — which is manufactured by Syngenta — has been banned in Europe since 2004 due to groundwater contamination risks. Studies have also suggested the chemical is associated with a number of health problems, including birth defects, low-birth weight and reproductive issues.

The event on Kaua‘i’s Westside featured keynote speaker Tyrone Hayes, an expert on Atrazine and a biology professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Other presenters included Ritte and Dr. Lorrin Pang, Maui District Health Officer for the state Department of Health.

“When I tell you what Atrazine does to frogs, you should remember that our hormones are so similar to frog hormones that our pregnancy hormone will make this frog lay eggs,” Hayes said. “So, if I tell you what Atrazine does to reproductive capabilities in this frog, you should be thinking, ‘What about me?’”

Hayes said Atrazine, first introduced in 1958 in the U.S., is used particularly on GMO and experimental corn, and historically on sugarcane in Hawai‘i and Florida. Each year, the U.S. uses 80 million pounds of Atrazine, he said.

For the last 15 years, he has been studying the effects of Atrazine on the African clawed frog. As part of his study, Hayes proposed that Atrazine turns on Aromatase, an enzyme which turns testosterone, a male hormone, into estrogen, a female hormone.

“If you are a male exposed to Atrazine, your testosterone goes away, so you’re demasculinized, or chemically castrated,” he said. “And you’re also feminized because you’re making estrogen, which you should not be doing as a male.”

Hayes said he discovered when frogs that have been injected with minimal amounts of Atrazine grow up, up to 10 percent of the males turn completely into females. He said those effects are produced when introducing the equivalent of 1/1,000 of a grain of salt in a gallon.

Hayes said a typical farmer often applies the chemical at levels that are 290 million times higher than what he uses in the laboratory.

“Men who apply Atrazine (in the field) have 24,000 times the Atrazine in their urine than we use in our laboratory to chemically castrate frogs and fish,” he said. “Think about that. One of these guys could pee in a bucket, I could dilute their urine 24,000 times and I could use the Atrazine in their urine to chemically castrate and make hermaphrodites out of 24,000 buckets of 30 tadpoles each.”

In a 2003 study, Hayes said Shauna Swan found that men who could not get their wives pregnant and had low sperm counts had significantly higher levels of Atrazine in their urine, a correlation he said can’t be ignored.

“We know that the sperm goes away when you give a fish Atrazine, when you give a frog Atrazine, when you give a reptile Atrazine, when you give a bird Atrazine, when you give a rat Atrazine,” he said. “Testosterone goes down and the sperm goes away and now this correlation says there’s an association in humans as well.”

Atrazine legacy

Hayes said his frogs trapped in a contaminated aquarium are no different than a human fetus trapped in a contaminated amniotic fluid inside the placenta.

“The placenta was not designed to keep out the 80,000 chemicals that we’ve invented, and studies now show that we are exposed to over 300 chemicals before we leave the womb,” he said.

And the Atrazine legacy apparently carries on for generations, according to Hayes.

He said studies with rats have shown that Atrazine causes prostate and mammary cancer, immune failure, neural damage in offspring, abortions, prostate disease in pups, impaired mammary development and impaired growth and development.

“This rat was never exposed to Atrazine; this rat was affected by Atrazine that its grandmother was exposed to,” he said. “This means that my daughter, that all of your daughters, that their granddaughters could be impacted by chemicals that we’re using today. This is not about you and me … We’re talking about using chemicals today that your grandchildren’s grandchildren may be impacted by.”


Pang focused on the dangers of combining chemicals, which he said occurs regularly on biotech farms on Kaua‘i’s Westside.

“I knew (the companies) were using combinations, but until the lawyers came on board … I didn’t know they were using so many in combination,” he said. “When you combine (drugs), it’s considered a new drug until proven otherwise … Same with pesticides.”

Pang said some of the chemicals the companies are using might stay in the environment five days, but could remain in the human body for six months.

“So if they spray pesticide A today, and B two weeks from now, … I think they’re there together,” he said.

Pang said the problem with chemicals like Atrazine is the potentiation (to enhance the effect of a drug or chemical), which has not been studied.

“It’s worrisome to have Atrazine in your water, but what about the 50 (other) chemicals?” he asked. “Will they potentiate Atrazine? Will they potentiate each other?”

Pang said the margin of safety with chemicals like Atrazine means nothing without knowledge of the potentiation.

“I don’t care what you think these 50 chemicals do or don’t do, you’ve got to prove it by doing a little experiment, not telling me what you think,” he said.

Westside vs. Pioneer

Honolulu-based attorney Gerard Jervis is representing the Westside community in a lawsuit against a seed company.

“As you know, Waimea residents have filed a lawsuit against … Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc.,” Jervis said at the meeting. “This meeting today is not about that lawsuit … This is an informational meeting that is intended to educate the community about what’s going on here. We believe that education is a powerful thing.”

The location of Sunday’s event seemed an appropriate fit, as Jervis said the U.S. Department of Agriculture tested the water in Waimea for Atrazine and “found positive results at this very middle school in the drinking fountains.”

Ritte said he came from Moloka‘i to support the Waimea community against biotech companies and GMOs. Waimea, he said, is the only community in the state that has taken legal action in the GMO issue.

“You are in a position now to become leaders in this state in this whole GMO battle,” he said. “You guys are in the middle of it.”

Ritte encouraged everyone in attendance to join him and North Shore resident Dustin Barca March 9 in Po‘ipu for the “March in March” event, starting at noon. Protesters will meet on Maha‘ulepu Road in front of the Grand Hyatt and walk to Po‘ipu Beach Park. A GMO-free potluck will follow.

• Chris D’Angelo, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or lifestyle@thegardenisland.com.

© 2016 Thegardenisland.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More about

More about

More about

Rules of Conduct

  • 1 Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
  • 2 Don't Threaten or Abuse. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated. AND PLEASE TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
  • 3 Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
  • 4 Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
  • 5 Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
  • 6 Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Welcome to the discussion.


  • kauaibuilt posted at 10:31 am on Fri, Mar 8, 2013.

    kauaibuilt Posts: 49

    The title of this article might as well be "Experts: GMOs a real threat to KAUA'I residents"

  • Moloaa Dreamin posted at 8:29 am on Wed, Mar 6, 2013.

    Moloaa Dreamin Posts: 21

    This is sad news for Kauai. We are being slowly poisoned and most people aren't aware of it. We have got to stop these GMO seed companies from ruining our Garden Island for future generations.

  • mrb posted at 4:20 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    mrb Posts: 153

    What will be the aftermath to the presentation of the information rendered? Here are some suggestions:
    1. It is important for communities to organize themselves to:
    a. determine what can be done to obtain as much information they can get with respect to concerns relevant to their health, safety, and well-being. These questions arise: Is it possible to have studies conducted on the high rate of cancers and respiratory ailments in their communities? Are there contamination issues in their communities which need to be addressed?
    b. become pro-actively engaged and involved in these efforts. Unless and until community residents empower themselves by taking the time to become knowledgeable, dedicated and committed, not much can be accomplished.
    2. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to do all what we can to remediate our environment. It is our shared responsibility to take care of our finite resources.

  • kalundy posted at 2:31 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    kalundy Posts: 1

    Aloha, as a concerned organic farmer in Washington state, supporting GMO protests and concerns in Hawaii, I just wanted to post my concerns of water contamination from chemicals that are being used on the Syrgenta seed trial fields that surround Waimea, Looking at you all on the google map page, and the canals, water resevoir, shrimp farm, beach, and college located close to the test plots surrounding the area, please be sure to continually test your water daily for atrazine, especially when they begin spraying. Corn here in the Columbia basin is sprayed every four days when ears begin to form, and pickers are not allowed in the field for eight hours, (what a joke) because of health concerns. Unfortunately here, we do not have access to the information on where exactly GMO's are being tested, only who is testing them. We in Washington support your fight for safe drinking water and healthy communities. Stay informed! Aloha

  • Merilee posted at 12:46 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    Merilee Posts: 3

    How did we get to a place where chemicals are just sprayed on food even though we know they cause damage. If someone sprayed this crap on our food in a resturaunt we would be talking about criminal charges!

  • Akamai Mom posted at 10:31 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    Akamai Mom Posts: 19

    I'd like to correct the last sentence of this article. The potluck at the beach will be an All Kauai Grown Food potluck; quite the opposite of a gmo potluck. Big Smiles. Thanks for the important article.

  • da1wahine posted at 10:26 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    da1wahine Posts: 16

    Mahalo, Chris DeAngelo, for this insightful article and to The Garden Island for finally having the gonads to print the truth about what's going on here in "Paradise". So many of our neighbors are already affected, and don't even know it. I hope that the next "Thank you note" goes to the Kauai County Government for having the courage to stop this atrocity. I can't wait to write that one!

  • Akamai Mom posted at 10:10 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    Akamai Mom Posts: 19

    Great report on this important meeting in Waimea on Sunday. The science is compelling as to why we need to stop the contamination of the land of the bio-tech companies. Walter Ritte ended with the excellent point that it is the generational responsibility of us all to nurture and preserve the health of the land for the future. It is all of our responsibilities to help our elected officials, policy makers, business community, etc. understand the challenges we face. The atrazine in the water table is there from practices decades in the past. We need to stop what is being applied in the present. We owe to the future to become informed and make corrective action.

    Here is an excellent short film on You Tube about what is happening more openly in Paraguay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McX2pgSFtzs called Killing fields: the true cost of Europe's cheap meat

  • emmdee posted at 7:15 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    emmdee Posts: 6

    how come we still are using a chemical herbicide poison that has been banned in europe for 10 years because it contaminates groundawter? i'll tell you why. europe decides what is right and wrong for it's people, the US is owned by the industry of chemical farming and gmo. monsanto runs the fda and puts roundup poison IN our corn's dna . oh and monsanto owns roundup too. hmmmm. monsanto has dozens of lawsuits currently pending against them for making people sick and violating the law around the world. it's also maddening that most people would rather follow j lo on twitter than concern themselves with this deadly issue that effects everyone and theire kids!


Online poll


Most Popular

Follow us on Facebook