Support the independent voice of South Florida and help keep the future of New Times free.
Farmers equate saying goodbye to atrazine to depleting Floridian agriculture. But a growing number of scientists believe atrazine, an herbicide widely used to remove weeds and promote the growth of cash-crop sugar cane, may cause cancer and birth defects in animals and humans. While the EPA met recently to review new scientific findings, "no decision has been made," says spokesman Dale Kemery.
The scientific advisory panel (SAP) has 90 days to submit its findings to the rest of the agency, Kemery said. If they choose to ban atrazine, it will not take effect until after September's SAP meets.
Ryan Weston, executive vice president of the Florida Sugar Cane League, has said that atrazine is "the only cost-effective chemical at this time" to produce sugarcane. "Food production in the U.S. and the world is somewhat dependent on the help of chemicals," Weston told me. "Without enhancements the world would not be able to feed themselves."
In 2008, Florida grew $442 million worth of sugar cane, half the value grown nationwide. Clewiston, in Hendry County, and Belle Glade are the epicenters of the crop.
However, some say atrazine is a menace--one that extends beyond crop fields. Boca resident Cindy Weber says that South Florida Water Management's liberal application of atrazine to canal banks destroyed all natural vegetation, causing the banks to erode.
"It was basically a bird sanctuary. You can name any bird in South Florida and it lived in that area. Because of the pesticide and herbicide usage, nothing is living there," Weber says.
The South Florida Water Management did not return a phone call for comment.
The SAP will meet again on Sept. 14 - 17, where the EPA will evaluate the non-cancer effects of atrazine, based on experimental laboratory studies, according to Kemery.
As April's panel submits its discovery within the 90-day period, this site
will be updated to reflect the latest opinions.
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.