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Bioscience warfare

UC professor Tyrone Hayes found that a highly profitable weed killer causes sexual abnormalities in frogs. Then he found out how nasty a biotech multinational can be.

(Thursday, June 3, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Alison Pierce, SF Weekly:
Professor Tyrone B. Hayes watches as one of his students leans over a table covered with small plastic cups, each containing a few ounces of water and a single African reed frog. The short, trim professor hovers, carefully checking the fluid and the frogs, glistening and mottled green in their makeshift miniaquariums. The water in each cup contains a minuscule amount of a single chemical, an amount that can be compared to the weight of one one-thousandth of a single grain of salt. The chemical is atrazine, the most widely used large-scale weed killer in the world. It is pervasive in U.S. streams and waterways and so persistent it can be detected in rain. It is officially considered safe at three parts per billion in human drinking water.

Hayes is experimenting on frogs, dosing them with atrazine at levels far below what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says humans can consume. What he's found is frightening, at least for the frogs. He has occasionally encountered not only the frog malformations previously related to pesticides in farm, golf course, and highway runoff -- missing limbs, deformed or missing eyes, partial jaws, no jaws -- but also one other, statistically widespread effect. Hayes has found that atrazine turns the testosterone in male frogs into estrogen, causing them to develop ovaries as well as testicles. In other words, atrazine is a chemical castrator. Research has also linked it to human prostate and breast cancer.

"You know, I used to get up in arms about how we could make DDT illegal in the U.S., but how we still sell it to other countries," Hayes said in a recent interview. "The same thing is happening to us; atrazine was never allowed in Switzerland [home of its manufacturer, Syngenta AG], and now it is banned across the European Union. And it is still being sold to us."

When the EPA is notified of serious possible risks associated with a chemical, agency policy requires an environmental and human health risk review of the chemical. The environmental agency also periodically reviews chemicals that have been on the market for decades. In October 2003, after a lengthy environmental review triggered in part by Hayes' initial research, the EPA reapproved atrazine for use in the United States. Critics think atrazine was reapproved because of pressure from Syngenta, a biotechnology giant with more than $6.5 billion in annual revenues.

Hayes is familiar with that pressure. He was once employed by Syngenta to study atrazine and its impact on frogs. When his research turned up results the company considered unfavorable, Hayes suddenly found himself pinned by powerful corporate arms, his research discredited, his once-pristine reputation marred. It's a battle he's still fighting, not always successfully, even though his research, to all appearances, is valid, and his critics, it would seem, are less than convincing.

Tyrone Hayes is one among many scientists now inquiring into the long-term impacts of chemicals and biotechnological products being produced, mostly, by huge multinational conglomerates and released, increasingly, throughout the world environment. Proponents of these chemicals and products say they are vital if the world's poorest and most populous countries are to be fed. Golden rice, for instance, a strain of rice genetically modified by Zeneca Inc. (now AstraZeneca), produces beta carotene, a compound converted in the human body to vitamin A, which is essential to vision, growth, cell division, reproduction, and immunity. It is hoped the modified rice will combat blindness and immune-system problems and promote general health in developing countries. Golden rice clearly has enormous potential for good; there is also some evidence that poorly fed people will not be able to absorb the beta carotene in the rice.

Because most biotech products have been created only recently, however, their comprehensive effects on world ecology are, in many cases, unknown. And as biotech companies continue to forge partnerships with universities, augmenting their dwindling research budgets, scientists at some of the world's most prestigious institutions -- including Cornell University, the University of California at Berkeley, the Swiss Federal Research Station for Agro-Ecology, and the Rowett Research Institute in Scotland -- complain that large multinational biotech companies have attempted to suppress studies that suggest highly profitable products may have adverse effects on health or the environment.

"They've been going after scientists in a systematic, organized way that I haven't seen in my memory," says Chuck Benbrook, a food policy expert and former executive director of the Board on Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences. "Let's face it, [big biotech has] silenced the vast majority of scientists who are interested in doing research on risks."

Industry-university alliances are often seen as advantageous to both academia and the companies that fund research. Over the last three decades, funds provided to U.S. universities by the industrial sector grew faster than funding from any other source. Industry provided 6.8 percent of funding for academic research in 2001 (the latest year for which such figures are available), a slight decline from a high of 7.4 percent in 1999.

To be sure, corporate largess has sometimes created a new dynamism in staid academic research quarters, catapulting cures and medicines quickly to market.

But sometimes, the relationship has raised suspicion. At UC Berkeley, for example, Novartis Agribusiness, now merged into Syngenta, gave $25 million to fund basic research in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology over a five-year period that ended in November 2003. The deal, which was not renewed this year, gave Syngenta some rights to research findings and was an issue of great political contention within the university and the state. The Atlantic Monthly published a disparaging article titled "The Kept University" criticizing the relationship.

And sometimes, corporations try to control the research they fund. Sometimes, information and research that are intended to benefit the public are intentionally kept from the public. Sometimes, a lack of attention to critical research on risk assessment -- or to research on risk of any kind -- undermines the ends of scientific research itself.

Sometimes, the facts and data are drowned in spin, and scientists who bear "bad" news are buried in pseudo-science and innuendo.

Tyrone Hayes grew up in South Carolina, where his summers were lush and full of adventure in the reeds and mud of the great Congaree Swamp. Since boyhood, he's been fascinated with catching tadpoles and watching them change into entirely different creatures that breathe air, hop, and absorb their own tails. His parents nourished the interest. Hayes recalls when his mom gave him the first book he really treasured. It was called What Is a Frog?

"Everybody has this fundamental interest in little crawly things and animals, and some of us grow out of it, and some of us don't," Hayes says, laughing as he leans back on his lab stool.

Hayes' father laid carpet in Columbus, and his mother stayed at home with Tyrone and his two brothers, who are now both teachers. Hayes worked hard in school, competing for state and national science awards, winning many of the contests and developing a passion for science. The passion paid off, and he was admitted to Harvard University, where he studied biology on full scholarship. One night at a Harvard party, Hayes met his future wife, also a biology major; they were married two days after his graduation, and in short order had two children. Hayes' speaking tours include a slide show. At one point in the show, he flicks to a slide of his two children standing by a waterfall, holding hands, and says, "This helps remind me why I am doing this. For the future."

Hayes began teaching at UC Berkeley in 1994 after finishing his Ph.D. there. A rising star in his field, he was tenured at the remarkably young age of 30, and six years later remains Berkeley's youngest full professor. He has published some 40 papers in scientific journals. His students and lab environment seem to froth with the infectious enthusiasm that he projects. He has managed to rapidly build himself a reputation as one of the country's leading experts on endocrine research. Almost every major college biology textbook carries his work, and, often, his picture. He thinks his picture gets used because he doesn't look like a typical scientist. For one thing, he's black; for another, he braids his hair and wears long, dangling earrings.

Hayes also says "yes" to invitations other scientists wouldn't bother with, and thus finds himself keeping to a fanatical schedule of speaking tours all over the world. He was recently invited to speak at the National Water Security Board of Nepal and at the Integrative Pest Management Conference in Sacramento. At the latter event, the talk that preceded his detailed how to safely blow up gophers with a gas gun.

"The things that mean the most to us [scientists] here mean nothing to 99 percent of the public," Hayes says. "We're arguing in front of the EPA, but the farm workers and the public don't ever know about it. The most important people aren't getting the information. To me, that's who we should be talking to.

"When a woman concerned about her family asks her water board about levels of atrazine, it sure isn't because she read my paper."

Four years into his burgeoning career at UC Berkeley, Hayes made a move he would regret. Like many scientists, Hayes decided he would dabble in the private realm and make extra money for his growing family.

In 1998, he joined a private research consulting group, Ecorisk Inc., to explore atrazine's effects on frogs. Ecorisk is an independent company regularly hired by Syngenta, the firm that manufactures atrazine, to provide risk assessment on its products and chemicals. Hayes assumed that he'd been hired because Syngenta wanted to assess the risks of its herbicide. But when Hayes found alarming abnormalities in frogs that had been exposed to trace levels of atrazine, the group was not excited about the results; in fact, Hayes contends, quite the opposite.

Hayes had applied atrazine to frog specimens in his UC Berkeley lab and detailed changes in the larynxes of the frogs. His study wasn't initially aimed at the reproductive system, but to his surprise he also discovered that atrazine caused significant malformations in frog sex organs. What Hayes found was serious and unexpected but was considered, even by him, to be a preliminary indication, merely a basis for more research. That is just what Hayes wanted to do -- continue research and conduct new experiments.

Instead, Syngenta halted funding for Hayes' Ecorisk study. At the same time, Hayes alleges, the company insisted he repeat his previous experiments. Syngenta refused to let him publish the data from his first study, suggesting he complete the repeat experiments in a "private" setting, essentially offering to pay him to keep the results secret, Hayes and others who are close to the situation (and who have asked not to be named) claim.

In 2000, Hayes quit the Ecorisk panel that was studying atrazine in protest. "It will appear to my colleagues that I have been part of a plan to bury important data," he wrote in his resignation letter. "This fear will be particularly realized when independent laboratories begin to publish data similar to data that we [Syngenta and my laboratory] produced together as early as 1999."

Hayes says that he tried to give the U.S. EPA information alleging that Syngenta knew atrazine was harmful but did not take proper action, as required by FIFRA, the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. According to the act, Hayes contends, Syngenta should have immediately notified the EPA of the results of his research and taken steps to review the environmental and health risks of its chemical. EPA spokesman Dave Deegan says that he is not familiar with Hayes' allegations, but that the agency has bent over backward to look publicly at every piece of information on atrazine's risks.

Ronald Kendall, director of the Ecorisk study of atrazine and a professor and chairman of the Department of Environmental Toxicology at Texas Tech University, has said Hayes' charges are untrue and any delay in releasing the atrazine findings was based on the desire to test the data further. "We felt it prudent, as a panel, that the experiments be repeated," Mr. Kendall told the Chronicle of Higher Education in October 2003. "That's just good science."

Another biology professor at Texas Tech University, who also worked with Ecorisk and published an atrazine study that contradicted some of Hayes' work, says he considers Hayes a credible scientist. "I think my experience with Ecorisk was probably more positive," he says. The scientist, who asked not to be identified in this article, suggests that scientific issues, like those surrounding atrazine, ought to stay in the scientific realm, and not be debated in the popular press. "The science will sort itself out, that's pretty certain," he says. "The issue is not, 'How does the public find out?' It is, 'How do you decide when you have that information?'

"The question of whether or not you want to get people frightened about something prematurely is a concern as well."

The argument over the merits of Hayes' research was and is being conducted in a situation rife with strong appearances of conflict of interest that, Hayes believes, are connected to attempts by Syngenta to discredit him.

Shortly after starting work at Ecorisk, Hayes ran into a conflict of interest that seemed almost too obvious to be true; it involved Ronald Kendall, the environmental toxicology professor who runs the Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University. Kendall was, at the time, director of Ecorisk, the consulting company that had a $600,000 research contract with Syngenta to review atrazine. He was also on the boards of the two EPA groups -- its scientific advisory panel on atrazine, and its endocrine disrupter screening committee -- that would be involved in any decision on whether atrazine should be reapproved by the environmental agency. And as president of the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Kendall edited the Journal of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, in which Texas Tech professor James Carr's study on atrazine -- a study that Kendall was involved with that concluded the chemical was not toxic to frogs -- was published.

In summary, then, Kendall simultaneously headed an academic institute where atrazine research was done; directed Ecorisk, the private consulting group funded by Syngenta to study the chemical; sat on the EPA boards reviewing atrazine and advising the EPA on its reapproval; and edited the journal publishing the research that supported reapproval of atrazine for use in the United States.

Kendall did not reply to a request for comment.

Hayes says that the conflicts surrounding atrazine research played into what he views as a concerted effort to discredit his findings and ruin his career. After completing his research showing atrazine to have astonishingly harmful effects on frog reproductive organs, Hayes tried to continue without funding from Syngenta or other private companies. He began another study, this one focusing on frogs' reproductive systems; it was published in the journal Nature in October 2002. He is now working on a third study that involves the reaction in frog endocrine systems to mixtures of pesticides; he contends such reactions have already resulted in at least one loss of an entire species of frog in the Midwest. That study should be made public in the next few months, he says.

Hayes' research has been questioned by leading members of the Ecorisk panel, attacked in the popular press by a conservative Fox News commentator, and blasted by the Kansas Corn Grower's Association and the Triazine Network, a collection of about 1,000 growers and herbicide manufacturers named after the family of chemicals that includes atrazine. Both the Kansas Corn Grower's Association and the Triazine Network receive some funding from Syngenta. In November 2002, the Kansas Corn Grower's Association and the Triazine Network petitioned the EPA to ignore Hayes' studies when considering the reapproval of atrazine.

Within a scientific world rarely seen by the general public, the response by Syngenta and associated researchers to his ongoing studies was, Hayes says, scientifically appalling. According to Hayes, Syngenta hired a number of scientists from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, Michigan State University, the University of Florida, and Texas Tech University, among others, with the intent of discrediting his work. "This is a group of individuals whose sole goal is to prove me wrong and to keep atrazine on the market," says Hayes. "Their science is so poor, yet they continually try to damage or hurt my findings by saying they can't reproduce my work under the pretense that they're doing real science."

For instance, Hayes contends, a group of scientists led by John Giesy, an aquatic toxicology professor at Michigan State, did a study that exposed frogs to atrazine and claimed to find no effect on testosterone levels. "They took blood samples from juvenile males ... when it was not breeding time or season, and stressed them by anesthetizing them for hours," says Hayes. "It was as if I had taken [testosterone] samples from a 3-year-old boy. They specifically designed the study to fail." In another study, the same scientists treated green frogs with atrazine and claimed they found no change in the gonads. Hayes took a closer look at their study. Ninety percent of the animals died during the experiment, which, he contends, should have rendered any change (or lack thereof) seen in the remaining 10 percent statistically meaningless.

In another study led by Giesy, scientists claimed that they did get hermaphrodite frogs when they exposed the amphibians to atrazine. But, the scientists claimed, they found similar changes in the sex organs of the control group of frogs that they did not dose with atrazine. Thus, the study claimed, those changes were naturally occurring. After a closer look Hayes found that the control group of frogs was contaminated with more atrazine than the test group. It's possible, he notes, that the scientists didn't realize that tap water in Michigan is already contaminated with significant levels of atrazine. Giesy did not return calls or e-mails requesting comment for this story.

Another researcher whom Hayes worked with closely on the Ecorisk panel, professor James Carr of Texas Tech University, published a study in the toxicology journal edited by Kendall. The Carr study, Hayes contends, actually backs up his own findings, showing, with a level of statistical significance even greater than that found in Hayes' experiments, that developing frogs become hermaphrodites when exposed to low levels of atrazine. In their summary, however, Carr and his fellow scientists working on the study concluded that atrazine is "not lethal and not directly toxic to developing frogs." Hayes says that the scientists released this conclusion in the popular press before the actual study was published, spreading a misleading impression about atrazine and, consequently, his own research. Carr did not respond to this claim, but it seems unlikely the academic would have been involved in disseminating information to the general press.

Syngenta responded to Hayes' contentions with a prepared statement, declining to answer specific questions or allegations. Sherry Ford, communications manager for Syngenta Crop Protection, the U.S. arm of Syngenta AG, issued the statement, which reads, in part: "Mr. Hayes' allegations are simply not true. They serve only to distract others from the real work at hand, which is the ongoing study of atrazine and any potential effect on amphibian development. Syngenta is fully committed to this endeavor and to the safe use of atrazine."

According to the statement, Syngenta feels the EPA and a scientific advisory panel have reviewed all available research, and the company believes the EPA's conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to say whether atrazine is harmful or not. "Our focus continues to be the pursuit of sound science in this emerging area of study, and we are confident that the safety and benefits of atrazine will continue to be confirmed," the statement says.

So far, Hayes acknowledges, the attacks on his research and credibility have had no official effect on his status at UC Berkeley, but they have created enough stress and tension within the Berkeley faculty and administration that Hayes no longer wants to work there. He says he plans to accept an offer to relocate to Duke University.

In the meantime, he continues to submit papers to scientific journals explaining his experiments and challenging his opponents' research. Overall, though, he's severely disappointed in the reaction of the scientific community to what he believes is a campaign to stop research into atrazine's risks. "I thought only criminals and desperate people lied, not educated people," he says. "My 11-year-old looks over their experiments and sees that they have no controls. They can't be that dumb, so they're lying."

Tyrone Hayes has unexpectedly found himself in the company of scientists around the world who say they have also experienced pressures related to university research alliances, and also seen the priorities of private sponsors influence what should have been impartial research findings.

John Losey, an entomologist at Cornell University, says he was extremely careful when publishing the results of his study of the effects of genetically modified "BT-corn" on monarch butterflies in May 1999. BT-corn, a grain variant genetically engineered to kill the European corn borer, is patented by Monsanto Corp. To test for possible unintended side effects from the pest-resistant BT-corn, Losey fed monarch larvae milkweed leaves dusted with BT-corn pollen. Losey noted that 44 percent of the larvae that consumed the engineered pollen died. The BT-corn produces pollen that contains crystalline endotoxin, which, as it turns out, poisons monarch caterpillars.

In the article he submitted for publication, Losey was sure to include a prominent disclaimer that his findings were preliminary and did not prove BT-corn to be harmful to butterflies. All the same, after Losey published his study, he says, he was attacked by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the world's largest international biotech group, with a membership that includes the multinational giants Syngenta, Monsanto, Genentech, Bayer CropScience, and DuPont. (Coincidentally, BIO holds its annual meeting in San Francisco this week.) BIO supplied misinformation to the popular media, Losey says, and the resulting maelstrom of press reports on his study was like nothing he had ever seen. "It was overwhelming, and certainly there were industry folks trying to denigrate what we found," says Losey. "We can't say whether [genetically modified organisms] are safe or not until we can study them."

Angelica Hilbeck had an uncannily similar experience. A native of Stuttgart, Germany, Hilbeck studied for her Ph.D. in entomology at North Carolina State University, where she developed an interest in genetically modified crops and their relationship to insects. She returned to Europe to work for the Swiss Federal Research Station for Agro-Ecology and began to study the environmental effects of crops that are genetically engineered to kill certain insects. Hilbeck wanted to find out whether insects that are not meant to be the targets of a plant's genetically built-in insecticide might unintentionally be killed. She decided to study a type of genetically modified corn produced by Syngenta; her main so-called "non-target organism" was the green lacewing fly, which feeds on the larvae of the target organism, the European corn borer. Hilbeck's research showed that the green lacewing was being poisoned by eating corn borer larvae that had fed on the genetically modified corn. Hilbeck basically proved that the genetically modified crops had broader environmental ramifications than first realized.

When her first publications came out in 1998, Hilbeck says, environmental organizations picked up the news and spread it through the media -- and, Hilbeck says, the biotech industry retaliated. "They [Syngenta officials] first of all tried to delay publications," says Hilbeck. "We had used their seeds, and they had the right to see the publications before we published, and they delayed."

Then, Hilbeck says, Syngenta sent out a press release claiming that the German researcher had fed dead larvae to the lacewing flies, and that the lacewings died not because of modified corn, but because the corn borer larvae were not alive when eaten -- a claim that Hilbeck calls ridiculous. "They were hoping that by discrediting the messenger, the message would die," says Hilbeck. "They went for our credentials as scientists, and with that of our work."

Hilbeck says that she was pressured by her institute to stop research. Syngenta officials accused her of focusing entirely on the bad effects, and not at all on the benefits, of genetically modified corn. But she says the value of risk assessment lies in determining whether previously unknown dangers exist, and, if they do, how significant they might be. "As an ecologist you go out and assess the risks; it is clearly a very beneficial thing to do," Hilbeck says. "But clearly they felt the work was too inflammatory."

Hilbeck was working under temporary contracts at the Swiss Federal Research Station for Agro-Ecology; the contracts weren't renewed. She says she does not feel the same pressure from her current employer, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

The most dramatic and high-profile allegations about retaliation against researchers involve Arpad Pusztai, a native of Hungary who was, until August 1998, the senior scientist at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. He made the mistake of publishing a study on potatoes transgenically modified to make them more pest-resistant without first consulting his institute. He fed the potatoes to rodents and discovered that there were dramatically negative effects on the animals' stomach linings, as well as immunological damage. This was one of the few studies ever done to assess the risks of such food on humans or animals.

The study was published in the leading United Kingdom medical journal, The Lancet. Shortly thereafter, Pusztai's home was burglarized, his files detailing the research were stolen, and he was fired from his job of 30 years at Rowett. Pusztai says he has undergone a slanderous international campaign to discredit him. He now spends much of his time traveling to interested universities and groups telling his story.

"I grew up under Nazis and Communists," Pusztai said during a panel discussion on the difficulties faced by researchers studying genetically modified organisms held at UC Berkeley in December. "But only in the U.K. for seven months was I not allowed to defend myself. How many other papers should have been -- but have not been -- published?"

Tyrone Hayes worries about the EPA's system for regulating chemicals such as atrazine. When it receives a credible report that a chemical may pose a danger to human health, the environmental agency undertakes a risk review process, but, Hayes says, it is not at all clear that such a process finds or addresses some real risks. The EPA's regulation regime requires that, once a risk review begins, the manufacturer of the chemical in question -- in the case of atrazine, Syngenta -- conduct studies, or hire groups such as Ecorisk to conduct studies. The agency also, of course, encourages independent scientists to submit studies, and makes a decision based on what it believes the submissions show. In this so-called "weight of the evidence" model, the EPA itself does not conduct independent research.

"So what they do is put a call out, and everyone who has data submits it. So what the EPA gets is a flood of papers; [EPA officials] count how many studies support the data, and how many don't," Hayes says. "The only problem is that they are way more flooded with dead animals and contaminated controls than with real studies."/

EPA officials say the risk review process is far more complicated and stringent than Hayes suggests. As EPA spokesman Dave Deegan explains, "These decisions, they go through a rigorous, science-based process. ... It is a gargantuan amount of information that we look at. Unfortunately, all data is not conclusive; that's why we look at the weight of the evidence." Still, Karen Heisler, head of the EPA's Agricultural Initiative, a regional program that works to make the EPA's agricultural and environmental regulations a cohesive whole, acknowledges that when she tried to act as a liaison between the media and EPA staffers, few of the staffers were willing to talk to SF Weekly about the process that reauthorized use of the chemical.

Last June, atrazine was reviewed by the EPA and by a scientific advisory panel composed of scientists from outside the agency. Seventeen atrazine studies were presented for review. Twelve of these studies were submitted by Syngenta, and three were from Hayes. The other two studies came from independent researchers, Heisler says. In this case, it seems, the scientific advisory panel and the EPA felt that the weight of the evidence supported continued use of atrazine. In this case, it also seems, the EPA was not overly concerned about apparent conflicts of interest. More than two-thirds of the studies supporting atrazine were provided by Syngenta, the company that manufactures it, and the advisory panel that helped conduct the risk review included Ronald Kendall, the Texas Tech scientist who had led Syngenta-funded research into atrazine's risks.

Hayes believes the EPA's risk review process, which not only allows but requires companies to study the dangers of their own often highly profitable products, leads, inherently, to biased results. "There has to be some way to police what the company is doing," he says. "If the company is required to study the safety of its own product, no one else is going to do it."

Seven countries in the European Union -- France, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Austria, and Italy -- have banned atrazine. These countries have a policy of banning pesticides that occur in drinking water at levels higher than 0.1 parts per billion.

After the initial phase of an ongoing review in the United States, and even though it did not take atrazine off the market, the EPA did recently acknowledge that "there is sufficient evidence to conclude that atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs." There apparently is not enough evidence, however, to stop farmers from dumping 80 million pounds of atrazine per year on U.S. farms.

And, actually, Tyrone Hayes is not attempting to have atrazine banned from use. He is, he says, just trying to protect the scientific process from being perverted by those with huge financial incentives to do so. If banning atrazine (or some other pesticide) would cost the manufacturer too much money for regulators to contemplate, Hayes says, then regulators should feel free to leave the pesticide on the market -- if they explain that the reason for doing so is financial, rather than scientific. "Atrazine is not going to go away," says Hayes. "What I would like to see is, I would like to see honesty. Atrazine earns $500 to $800 million per year, and it increases corn yield by only 1.2 percent. We need to acknowledge that it makes a lot of money, and we can't afford to take atrazine off the market.

"It's that simple."

Alison Pierce is an associate of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Source: http://www.sfweekly.com/issues/2004-06-02/feature.html/1/index.html