The Endocrine-Disruptors Scare

by James Delingpole
More junk science takes aim at another American industry — agriculture.

The background: As the manufactured global-warming “crisis” runs out of steam, the environmental movement is experiencing severe donor fatigue, so the greenies have begun seeking out new theaters in which to continue their campaign to bring about the end of Western industrial civilization. The latest target is agriculture. This campaign is big and well coordinated. Around 500 activist organizations in the U.S. will in 2014 be spending up to $5 billion targeting the agriculture industry, with potentially devastating effect on the American economy

Below we tell the story of one strand of this campaign: how a kooky Mother Jones–feted young professor from UC Berkeley used bogus science and a plausible, engaging manner to help destroy an industry worth billions.

His name is Tyrone Hayes, poster child for the chemophobic Left, Erin Brockovich with a Ph.D. He’s at the forefront of the pseudoscience of “endocrine-disruptor theory” (as first popularized by the 1996 book Our Stolen Future, with foreword by Al Gore), and the damage he has managed to do is immense.

Hayes has been hailed by the liberal media as a crusading hero thanks to his “discovery” in the late Nineties that even small doses of Atrazine (the second most commonly used herbicide in the U.S.) are capable of causing frogs to change sex.

Problem is, studies that have attempted to replicate Hayes’s findings — one in Japan, one in Germany, and one in Maryland (the last two involving 2,000 frogs) — found no harmful effects even at extremely low doses. Hayes has consistently refused to make his data publicly available and painted himself as a victim of the brutal chemical industry. (Shades of Michael Mann and his multiply discredited Hockey Stick, anyone?)

But who is the real bully here? Hayes’s unverified claims have cost atrazine’s Swiss manufacturer, Syngenta, millions of dollars (because of the various safety trials it has been forced to conduct, at its own expense, by the Environmental Protection Agency). What’s more, Hayes has sent Syngenta’s employees a string of abusive and threatening messages, written in rap style and peppered with expletives.

In a world where the scientific method was still properly valued, Hayes would have been discredited long ago. Yet because Hayes is on the “right” side of the argument, he has continued to enjoy the support of the liberal media (the New York Times as well as Mother Jones), of academe, and of the coterie of activist scientists pushing endocrine-disruptor theory.

Though Hayes continues to enjoy tenure at Berkeley, he claims his research program has been cut out of a “desire to protect a $25 million, five-year research agreement between Berkeley and Novartis, a parent company of Syngenta.” Elsewhere he has gone so far as to suggest that Syngenta and Novartis are engaged in an evil, symbiotic relationship whereby one poisons the water supply with a cancer-causing herbicide and the other manufactures drugs that cure cancer.

None of these claims stands up. Syngenta has been entirely independent of Novartis since 2000. That five-year research grant expired as long ago as 2004. And the idea that atrazine poses any risk to human health has been rebutted in an astonishing 7,000 scientific studies around the world, which have examined — and rejected — its potential to cause everything from birth defects and genetic mutations to cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency concurs, finding that atrazine poses “no harm” to the “general U.S. population, infants, children, or other major identifiable subgroups of children.”

It is an unfortunate measure of the persuasive power of voodoo science, the precautionary principle, and environmental activism that not all regulatory bodies have been quite so robust as the EPA. After years of campaigning by activists such as Hayes, both the United Nations and the EU have now embraced endocrine-disruptor theory.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization issued a joint report earlier this year on the potential health risks of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The European Commission, meanwhile, is finalizing laws that could mandate a Europe-wide ban not only on pesticides but also on fruits, vegetables, and grains bearing even the tiniest trace of alleged endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

This has infuriated and appalled the genuine experts in the field. The editors of eight leading scientific journals specializing in chemical hazards recently signed a joint editorial attacking the Commission’s decision. They accused it of acting “contrary not only to science but to the very principles of enlightened governance and social contract.” Meanwhile, 73 leading scientists have written an open letter protesting that the rules “could rewrite well-accepted scientific and regulatory principles . . . without scientific evidence.” As John Block, former secretary of agriculture to Ronald Reagan, has argued, “Bad science could kill the global trade talks.”

It could do serious damage to American agriculture-commodity exports, too, 40 percent of which would be affected by the new regulations — at a cost to the American economy of $4 billion.

To those of us wearily familiar with the ways of the environmental movement, however, this regulatory assault on the capitalist system — justified by the flimsiest of scientific evidence — will come as no surprise whatsoever.

From anthropogenic global warming to biodiversity to species loss to pesticides and GMOs, the story is the same: The scientific method is being abandoned and the practice of peer review has been grotesquely corrupted, all to advance the dubious causes of environmental activists.

Endocrine-disruptor theory shows all the signs of being yet another pseudoscience pushed by the unscrupulous, championed by the overzealous, and accepted by the credulous in an ongoing campaign that will probably do nothing to save the planet but will most certainly cause enormous harm to Western industrial civilization.

— James Delingpole is a blogger, author, and scourge of junk-science environmentalist doommongers. His latest book, The Little Green Book of Eco-Fascism, has just been published by Regnery.

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