Think corn prices are high now?

The Madison County Record Jul. 20, 2008, 3:46pm

Our readers need no reminders that food prices are soaring. Their pocketbooks are lighter because of it.

And along comes Third Circuit Judge Dan Stack's decision to stay execution of a class action lawsuit that, if successful, could effectively ban a herbicide vital to Illinois' corn crop. A decision with such implications couldn't have arrived at a worse time.

When he first concocted and filed this suit four years ago, plaintiff's lawyer Stephen Tillery's case against weed-killer atrazine seemed baseless and frivolous. But now, with corn prices hovering at all-time highs--some four times what they were back then-- its consequences look downright dangerous to our economy.

An atrazine ban would dramatically lower corn crop yields (by two-thirds, according to some estimates) and dramatically spike food prices for each and every one of us.

Mega-millionaire Tillery's contention is that the economic chaos would be worth it, because atrazine run-off from farmers' fields is tainting our drinking water. He convinced community leaders in Holiday Shores, a subdivision in unincorporated Madison County, to play lead pawn in his crusade, which aspires to collect damages for (and legal fees from) the 1,800 or so water districts in Illinois.

So why aren't other municipal entities jumping to join him?

Perhaps those agencies believe stringent studies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more than the anti-corporate fantasies of a big money plaintiff's lawyer.

A comprehensive 2006 study on atrazine by the agency reinforced what scientists have concluded since the chemical's first use some fifty years ago: it's safe--humans have nothing to fear.

The EPA found that a 150-pound adult could drink 21,000 gallons of water that include atrazine levels twice as high as they have been found to occur anywhere in Illinois with no bad health effects whatsoever.

Better put, if people tried to poison themselves with atrazine-laced drinking water, they'd have to drink so much that the water would kill them first.

Backing his claims, Tillery offers no similar, scientific proof. His case relies on ready-made-for-a-lawsuit "junk science" perpetuated by enviro-scaremongers like the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C., which once tried to convince America that apples cause cancer.

We should be frightened that our court might consider treating such self-serving make-believe as equal to the science rigorously conducted by the federal government agency charged with protecting us.

To be sure, some cases deserve the benefit of the doubt. But not this one.

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20460

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