OREGON

Controversy surrounds UO speaker

October 23, 2014 / Phil Lesch

Register Guard
October 23rd, 2014

A controversial biology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, will be in Lane County on Friday and Saturday leading a string of educational and community events centered on the dangers of herbicides.

Tyrone Hayes, a professor of integrative biology, is despised and dismissed by some chemical and agribusiness interests. But he’s a favorite of environmental and anti-herbicide activists, in particular for his reasearch on atrazine, a widely used herbicide that Hayes says damages the sexual functions of frogs and causes hermaphroditisim in them. Partly because of the similarities between amphibian and human hormonal systems, Hayes advocates banning the chemical.

Atrazine is used in the United States to kill weeds in crops, mostly in corn, but also in orchards and cotton and rice fields, and on turf, from golf courses to home lawns. About three-quarters of the atrazine used in the United States is on corn crops, mainly in the Midwest. Its use is banned in the 18 nations of the European Union, including Switzerland, where the maker of atrazine, Syngenta AG, is headquartered.

Published reports list atrazine as the second-most widely used herbicide in the United States, after glyphosate, with 76 million pounds used annually.

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