Syngenta Moves on Atrazine Lawsuit

Syngenta Petitions to Intervene in Lawsuit Challenging Atrazine Registration

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Environmental Editor
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Syngenta has filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging EPA's approval of atrazine and two related herbicides. (DTN file photo by Emily Unglesbee)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Syngenta has filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit that challenges EPA's approval of its herbicide, atrazine, and two related herbicides, propazine and simazine.

That lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco in November, by the Rural Coalition, Pesticide Action Network North America, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety. The groups allege EPA violated its duties under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, when the agency released its interim registrations of the three pesticides in September.

Now Syngenta, the registrant and primary manufacturer of atrazine, wants a chance to defend its herbicide in the lawsuit, which only named EPA as a defendant.

"As courts have repeatedly held in similar actions, Syngenta's private interests will not be adequately represented by EPA," the company said in its motion to intervene.

"In defending its registration decisions, the agency takes into account broader interests and objectives that may diverge from Syngenta's more specific commercial and reputational interests in its own products and registrations."

Atrazine is an herbicide widely used in agriculture across a range of crops, primarily corn but also sugarcane and sorghum, as well as a smaller amount of use in landscape care. The herbicide is under re-registration review by EPA, and in September, the agency released an interim registration decision approving its continued use.

Environmental groups have lobbied for atrazine to be banned entirely, based on concerns about human health risks and environmental problems, particularly concerning water quality.

In September, the agency announced a number of new requirements in its interim registration for atrazine.

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The agency now requires a reduction of the maximum application rate for atrazine and simazine when used on residential turf in order to protect children who crawl or play on treated grass.

EPA added a requirement for irrigation immediately after simazine application to residential turf and required additional personal protective equipment for workers who apply atrazine and simazine.

The agency is finalizing label requirements for all three triazines to include mandatory spray drift control measures, to minimize pesticide drift into non-target areas, including bodies of water, as well as updating label directions to slow weed resistance to atrazine.

New label language will prohibit spraying during a temperature inversion, set a 15-mph wind speed restriction for aerial and ground applications, as well as add specific boom and nozzle requirements.

The EPA also proposed ending one of two ongoing atrazine water-monitoring programs started in 2004.

EPA's September registration decision for atrazine remains "interim" as the agency awaits one final step -- a biological evaluation of atrazine's potential effects on endangered species and critical habitats, as required by the Endangered Species Act.

Final endangered species determinations for atrazine are expected to be completed in 2021.

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Todd Neeley

Todd Neeley
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