Pop quiz: what is a pesticide that is banned in Europe, causes birth defects, and you have probably already drank it today?
Meet atrazine. Among large-scale farmers, it is hailed as a cheap and effective pesticide. The problem is that in addition to its ability to kill weeds and grasses, atrazine is particularly adept at getting into our drinking water. On top of that, it has been associated with birth defects and other health issues. The National Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, reported that a U.S. geological survey found that 75% of stream water and 40% of ground water samples in agricultural areas contained atrazine. According to a recent study, a shocking 80% of U.S. drinking water contains atrazine.
The Environmental Protection Agency agrees, noting that a Scientific Advisory Panel concluded that “while there are still areas of uncertainty – the agency’s scientific bases for its regulation of atrazine are robust and ensure prevention of exposure levels that could lead to reproductive effects in humans.”
This, folks, is why we have governments. Is anyone going to start boycotting farms that use atrazine on their corn, sugar cane and sorghum? You’ll have to find out everyone that they supply to, which is going to be tricky, because that food doesn’t just end up in the produce aisle, it’s processed into chips, crackers, sugars, feed for livestock, and, well just about anything you eat other than fruit and vegetables is going to have corn or sugar cane in some form. You could get a PhD in avoiding atrazine.
What is also quite difficult, but much more possible and far reaching is that the government could strictly regulate or even ban atrazine. It would make life difficult for some farmers, but perhaps that can be balanced out with subsidies if Congress ever passes another farm bill (they have been trying). Regardless, a principle function of government is to protect its citizens, and one of the most basic ways the government can do that is to keep poison out of our drinking water.
You can sign a petition calling on Congress to ban atrazine to protect the next generation from birth defects.