Rohr, J. R.; “The Atrazine Saga and its Importance to the Future of Toxicology, Science, and Environmental and Human Health;” Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 2021, 40(6), 1544-1558; DOI: 10.1002/etc.5037.
The herbicide atrazine is one of the most commonly used, well studied, and controversial pesticides on the planet. Much of the controversy involves the effects of atrazine on wildlife, particularly amphibians, and the ethically questionable decision making of members of industry, government, the legal system, and institutions of higher education, in most cases in an effort to “bend science,” defined as manipulating research to advance economic, political, or ideological ends. In this Critical Perspective I provide a timeline of the most salient events in the history of the atrazine saga, which includes a multimillion-dollar smear campaign, lawsuits, investigative reporting, accusation of impropriety against the US Environmental Protection Agency, and a multibillion-dollar transaction. I argue that the atrazine controversy must be more than just a true story of cover-ups, bias, and vengeance. It must be used as an example of how manufacturing uncertainty and bending science can be exploited to delay undesired regulatory decisions and how greed and conflicts of interest—situations where personal or organizational considerations have compromised or biased professional judgment and objectivity—can affect environmental and public health and erode trust in the discipline of toxicology, science in general, and the honorable functioning of societies. Most importantly, I offer several recommendations that should help to 1) prevent the history of atrazine from repeating itself, 2) enhance the credibility and integrity of science, and 3) enrich human and environmental health. FULL TEXT