The Endocrine-Disruptors Scare
More junk science takes aim at another American industry — agriculture.

Tyrone Hayes


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.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review