Frogs rule, OK!

August 2015

Photo from Creative Commons
Under legal pressure, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to analyse the impacts on endangered plants and animals of some of the most commonly-used pesticides.

This could be the first step in limiting the use of atrazine- and glyphosate-based herbicides.

Atrazine is an endocrine disruptor suspected of causing reproductive harm, birth defects and cancer in humans and has been banned in Europe for some years.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient of 'Roundup' used on GM herbicide-tolerant crops; it is a suspected endocrine disruptor and probable carcinogen.

Atrazine is a common fall-back where glyphosate is failing to control weeds.

Just why "legal pressure" should be needed to make an environmental protection agency protect the environment isn't clear. However, the general ecological impacts of glyphosate haven't been evaluated since 1993 when only 10 million pounds a year were applied: now, some 300 million pounds are used largely due to widespread planting of glyphosate-tolerant GM crops plus the ensuing emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds.

So what has the EPA been doing all this time?

The Agency's job is viewed by some as nigh impossible. After all, "Ensuring the 'safety' of chemicals designed to kill living things is no more feasible than ensuring the safety of guns" with the added problem that "unlike guns, the damage done by pesticides can take weeks, months or even decades to become manifest" (Van Strum). To make its task even more impossible, the EPA made a commitment back in 1978 "not (to) interfere with the ability to control pests and market pesticides". To achieve the impossible, the EPA resorted to industry-crafted pesticide laws and industry-crafted science, and the 'protection' part moved off-stage.

Right at the outset, the EPA's job was made even more impossible because, within a decade of its existence, it emerged that nearly all the 'safety' tests supporting past pesticide registrations were phoney: in perhaps the biggest scientific fraud ever committed, 99% of long-term studies supporting 483 pesticide registrations (including glyphosate) were found to be invalid.

All major chemical and pharmaceutical companies at the time were paying the same company, 'Industrial BioTest Laboratories' (IBTL), to manufacture the required 'science'. And more than half of other testing laboratories were found to have serious deficiencies.

Almost all of the pesticides fake-tested by IBTL, including glyphosate, atrazine and 2,4-D (the latest herbicide to be used with GM crops), are still on the market today. The gaps in the science have never been filled, but successfully covered up by changes in policy and pesticide laws. For example, 'conditional registrations' with no actual time-bar, or 'minor use exemption' for uses in 'unpopulated' areas such as rural communities have provided loopholes through which just about any chemical could slip. Inconvenient evidence can be hidden from scrutiny as 'confidential business information' and by defining pesticide formulation additives as 'inert', even although they may be more toxic than the pesticide itself. 

There are signs the EPA is aware of these deficiencies, but has never manages to get on top of the situation. Indeed, the Agency seems to have a history of attempted initiatives on disclosure rule-making which collapse before achieving anything. For example, three years after agreeing that the public needed to be educated about the hazards of 'inert' ingredients, the EPA dropped the ball because the process would be a "very complex, lengthy and resources intensive activity". 

So, it seems the EPA can't be bothered to do its job, and no one so far has been able to make it.

However, there's a possibility that a frog will kick the EPA out of its lethargy.

Amphibia are 'canaries' for pesticides in the environment: their eggs float in water, their tadpoles live exclusively in water and adult frog skin, through which they 'breathe', is permeable. They are uniquely vulnerable to water-soluble toxins which include all pesticides, especially in conjunction with those 'inert' ingredients added to aid absorption of the active chemical.

Mark Twain's "Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is California's largest native frog and official state amphibian, the red-legged frog, which is known to sing love songs underwater. But the celebrated frog in serious trouble: 90% of its population has died out, more than 70% of its habitat has been destroyed, and since 1996, it has been listed as a gravely threatened species.

All the bans on harmful agrichemicals, including Roundup, which the EPA has managed to evade using layers of industry-friendly regulations and policies, can be forced into place by a frog under the Endangered Species Act.

Conclusion: US frogs are better protected than US citizens.


In light of the above, do you really want European food-, chemical- and environmental-safety laws to be 'harmonised' with US laws as proposed in the TTIP negotiations [1,2]?

Tell your MEP to protect you from TTIP and all it implies.


[1] HERE'S A TTIP - November 2014

[2] TTIP IS ABOUT GM - (coming soon) August 2015


  • Carol Van Strum, Failure to Regulate: Pesticide Data Fraud Comes Home to Roost, Truthout, 9.04.15
  • Rebekah Kearn, Greens give EPA "a swift kick in the butt", Courthouse News Service, 26.05.15
  • Settlement with watchdog groups may be the first step in limiting aplicaitons of harmful chemicals, Summit County Voice, 28.06.15

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