Death by a thousand studies

By The Madison County Record | Nov 15, 2009

October was a good month for Stephen Tillery.

The prolific Metro-East plaintiff's lawyer finally had his motion heard in Madison County Court to expand an already huge list of class members to a class action suit against makers of the herbicide atrazine.

In fact, October was a good month for any trial lawyer looking to secure his retirement by shielding people from atrazine.

The Obama Administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was beginning "a new scientific evaluation of atrazine" so it could determine whether or not the popular herbicide, regularly used by corn growers, is associated with causing cancer, birth defects, low birth weight, or premature birth.

Such intent sounds appropriate until one considers the peculiar timing of the study, the results of which are scheduled to be released next fall.

The EPA has already studied this issue and cleared atrazine as safe at least twice before, most recently in 2006. The chemical poses "no harm that would result to the general U.S. population, infants, children or other...consumers," the agency said.

So why study atrazine again?

EPA leaders surely have some answer. But one wonders whether the influence of trial lawyers such as Mr. Tillery had something to do with it.

The trial bar backed Obama in the last election. And now his appointees have control of the levers of federal power-- including the EPA. To the victors, go the studies, apparently. Foiled in previous attempts to soil the reputation of atrazine, the anti-atrazine crowd is ready to try again.

The facts are that sound science and regulatory scrutiny have given consumers good reason to believe atrazine is a highly-effective tool of farmers--helping to kill weeds, reduce soil erosion, and raise crop yields. In addition, its use lowers food costs dramatically by eliminating the need to till fields, thus reducing fuel costs.

Can America live better without atrazine? Maybe a better question is whether we can live better without the legal antics of jackpot justice trial lawyers.

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