By Brian Bienkowski and Marla Cone
Environmental Health News
Atrazine, one of the most widely used farm pesticides in the United States, has feminized frogs and other animals in some scientific studies. But research examining potential effects in people is relatively sparse.
A few studies have found possible connections between atrazine and higher rates of some birth defects and poor semen quality in men. Yet scientists say more human research is needed to reach any conclusions. “It pales in comparison to the animal research,” said Dr. Paul Winchester, an Indiana University professor of clinical pediatrics who studies the pesticide.
For more than half a century, U.S. farmers have used large volumes of atrazine to kill weeds, particularly in cornfields. The herbicide has been found in waterways and aquifers that supply drinking water. Syngenta, its manufacturer, says that the chemical is safe for both humans and wildlife at levels found in the environment.
But about a decade ago, researchers at University of California, Berkeley, found that low concentrations — the amount expected near farms — caused male tadpoles to turn into female frogs.
Follow-up studies in the wild found that atrazine either turned male tadpoles into females or “demasculinized” them, causing eggs to grow in their testes and rendering them unable to reproduce, said Tyrone Hayes, a UC Berkeley professor of biology who led the research.
Appearing as if from vapor, a band of Somali pirates armed with bazookas suddenly roars toward the CEC Future, a Danish ship plying the perilous Gulf of Aden. The ship’s captain radios for help, and a German pilot picks up the distress call. He tells the captain to hang on. “Five minutes,” the pilot radios. “We’ll be there in five minutes.” By then, the ship is overrun with pirates, its captain and crew taken hostage.Thus unfolds Stolen Seas, the riveting documentary by Thymaya Payne, which had its Washington debut at the West End Cinema on January 30th. Payne’s film explores the resurgence of piracy on the high seas, and the unusual relationship that develops between Pers Gullestrup, CEO of the Danish company and Ishmael Ali, the Somali who negotiates on behalf of the pirates.
Following the screening, 100Reporters hosted a brief panel discussion and audience Q&A featuring Matthew Peed, an attorney representing a Somali accused of piracy in U.S. court, Martin Murphy, an expert on piracy and author of several books. Donations accepted, with fun thank you gifts on hand, and Urmila Venugopalan, the South Asia Lead for the Oceans Beyond Piracy Program at One Earth Future.
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What is a giant multinational capable of doing to protect its brand, and how can its actions block public awareness and free expression? Those were the central questions raised in the Washington premier of Fredrik Gertten’s film BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!*, which screened before a packed house at the West End Cinema Monday night, November 26. The film chronicles the efforts of the Dole Food Company to shut down Gertten’s earlier documentary on the company’s continued use of DBCP, a pesticide known to cause sterility in men, on banana plantations in Nicaragua, long after the U.S. government outlawed its use in the United States.
Following the film, 100Reporters hosted a brief panel discussion featuring Ken Silverstein, a member of 100Reporters and contributing editor at Harper’s magazine, and Theodore Frank, a partner at Arnold & Porter who has represented PBS in major litigated First Amendment cases. Diana Jean Schemo, co-founder and executive editor of 100Reporters, moderated.
To listen to the discussion, use the player below:
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