Arquivo da tag: Agrotóxicos

Exposing Monsanto: Herbicide Linked to Birth Defects – the Vitamin A Connection (Truthout)

Monday, 28 July 2014 09:27

By Jeff Ritterman, M.D., Truthout | Op-Ed

Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, with glyphosate as the primary ingredient, has recently been linked to a fatal kidney disease epidemic ravaging parts of Central America, India and Sri Lanka. A leading theory hypothesizes that complexes of glyphosate and heavy metals poison the kidney tubules. El Salvador and Sri Lankahave adopted the precautionary principle and taken action to ban the herbicide. In the United States, glyphosate is coming up for review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in late 2014. Monsanto claims a low risk to human health, but the research is showing something very different. Will these health concerns be enough for the EPA to put restrictions on the herbicide – or to ban it altogether?

Monsanto’s Claims of Safety

Thus far, Monsanto has been successful in portraying Roundup as a safe and effective herbicide. The Monsanto website claims:

Glyphosate binds tightly to most types of soil so it is not available for uptake by roots of nearby plants. It works by disrupting a plant enzyme involved in the production of amino acids that are essential to plant growth. The enzyme, EPSP synthase, is not present in humans or animals, contributing to the low risk to human health from the use of glyphosate according to label directions.

Public Kept in the Dark

Contrary to the company’s claims of safety, a virtual avalanche of scientific studies on animals, including some funded by Monsanto itself, show alarming incidences of fetal deaths and birth defects. The record also shows that Monsanto has known since the 1980s that glyphosate in high doses causes malformations in experimental animals. Since 1993, the company has been aware that even middle and low doses can cause these malformations. These malformations include absent kidneys and lungs, enlarged hearts, extra ribs, and missing and abnormally formed bones of the limbs, ribs, sternum, spine and skull.

These startling revelations can be found in the report Roundup and Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark? The document is authored by eight experts from the fields of molecular genetics, agro-ecology, toxico-pathology, scientific ethics, ecological agriculture, plant genetics, public health and cell biology. This report, written primarily for a European readership, is highly critical of the biotech industry and of the European Union’s failure to evaluate glyphosate based on the science rather than on political concerns. It calls for an immediate withdrawal of Roundup and glyphosate from the European Union until a thorough scientific evaluation is done on the herbicide. From the report:

The public has been kept in the dark by industry and regulators about the ability of glyphosate and Roundup to cause malformations. In addition, the work of independent scientists who have drawn attention to the herbicide’s teratogenic effects has been ignored, denigrated or dismissed. These actions on the part of industry and regulators have endangered public health. (Authors note: Ateratogen is any agent that can disturb the development of an embryo or a fetus. The term stems from the Greek teras, meaning monster).

Monsanto’s Safety Claim Misleads

How is it possible that there are so many adverse health impacts in the test animals, if, as Monsanto claims, “the enzyme, EPSP synthase, is not present in humans or animals”?

The reason is simple. Roundup attacks other enzyme systems, which are indeed present in the animal kingdom.

We owe this knowledge to a group of scientists from Argentina who became concerned about human birth defects in areas of their country where Roundup was being sprayed from airplanes as part of genetically modified (GM) soy production. They decided to do laboratory research to explore whether Roundup would produce similar developmental abnormalities in test animals. Experimenting with frog and chicken embryos, they found that those embryos exposed to the herbicide developedsignificant malformations, including neural defects and craniofacial malformations similar to the birth defects seen in humans.

Not only did this group of scientists demonstrate that Roundup causes birth defects in the animals tested, but they also were able to demonstrate how Roundup caused the fetal abnormalities. The herbicide increased the activity of the Vitamin A (retinoic acid) “signaling pathway.” It’s called a signaling pathway because it turns genes on and off. Roundup causes an abnormal increase in activity of this pathway, which turns off certain genes. Unfortunately, those very genes are needed for normal embryological development. When the Roundup turns off those genes, birth defects result.

This signaling pathway is shared by virtually all vertebrates, including amphibians, birds and mammals. Thus, it seems quite likely that the birth defects seen in frogs, chickens, rats, rabbits and humans all occur because Roundup attacks this pathway. It also seems likely that if we continue to allow glyphosate to accumulate in the environment, we can expect vertebrates of many types to suffer increasing rates of birth defects. This, of course, includes humans.

Roundup and Birth Defects: the Story From Latin America

The Argentinian researchers were motivated by humanitarian concerns. They were aware of the many worrisome reports of increases in birth defects in Argentina and in other parts of Latin America attributed to aerial glyphosate spraying.

A frightening example is a study of birth defects in Argentina, which found that Cordoba, an area of intensive planting of GM soy and heavy glyphosate use, had a higher incidence of spina bifida (spinal cord protrusion in the lower back), microtia(abnormal ear), cleft lip and palate, polycystic kidney, postaxial polydactyly (extra fingers or toes) and Down’s Syndrome than other regions. Many of these defects are of the type associated with disturbances in the Vitamin A signaling system.

Chaco, Argentina is also a region of intensive GM soy production and heavy glyphosate use. In the last decade, coincident with expansion of GM soy production,birth defects have increased threefold and cancer rates have increased fourfold. A court in the adjacent province of Santa Fe, a major GM soy-producing region, banned the spraying of glyphosate and other agrochemicals in populated areas because of concerns about “severe damage to the environment and to the health and quality of life of the residents.”

Itapua, Paraguay is another GM soy dominated area. Here, residents have suffered a similar fate. Women exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy have a high incidence of fetal deformities similar to those seen in Argentina. These deformities, once again, can be explained by glyphosate’s ability to interfere with the Vitamin A signaling pathway.

Rounding Up the Science

Glyphosate has been conclusively proven to cause birth defects in frogs, chickens, rats, rabbits, and also in humans. Monsanto’s claim that Roundup is safe because it kills weeds by attacking one specific enzyme system not found in animals is misleading. Monsanto has a very large investment in maintaining this illusion. Half of Monsanto’s revenue comes from the sale of Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds.

Roundup attacks vital enzyme systems found in animals, including in humans. It is now clear that interference by Roundup with one of these enzyme systems, the Vitamin A signaling system, can result in severe birth defects. This system is shared by most vertebrates, making Roundup capable of inducing devastating birth defects in a wide variety of amphibians, birds and mammals, and possibly reptiles and fish as well. Allowing glyphosate to continue to build up in the environment will likely cause increased rates of birth defects in all vertebrates exposed, including humans. Exposure, of course, includes the digestion of exposed plants and animals.

Policy Recommendation

The science is clear. There is only one rational response. No family should have to tolerate the risk of significant birth defects – in the United States, or in any part of the world. Roundup and other glyphosate formulations should be banned. Thus far, the voices of public health advocates in this country have been drowned out by those promoting biotechnology and its profits, regardless of the health consequences. We can’t let this continue. Our health, the health of our children and the health of our environment must come first. It is the responsibility of our governmental institutions to protect humanity, not corporate profit.

It’s long past time for us to heed Rachel Carson’s warning from Silent Spring:

If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals – eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones – we had better know something about their nature and their power.

Pass this on. Raise your voice.


Silencing the Scientist: Tyrone Hayes on Being Targeted by Herbicide Firm Syngenta (Democracy Now!) – on atrazine & Syngenta (II)

Feb 21, 2014


Tyrone Hayes, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, who has devoted the past 15 years to studying atrazine, a widely used herbicide made by Syngenta. A new article in The New Yorker magazine reveals how the company tried to discredit him after his research showed that atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs and could cause the same problems for humans.

We speak with scientist Tyrone Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley, who discovered a widely used herbicide may have harmful effects on the endocrine system. But when he tried to publish the results, the chemical’s manufacturer launched a campaign to discredit his work. Hayes was first hired in 1997 by a company, which later became agribusiness giant Syngenta, to study their product, atrazine, a pesticide that is applied to more than half the corn crops in the United States, and widely used on golf courses and Christmas tree farms. When Hayes found results Syngenta did not expect — that atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs, and could cause the same problems for humans — it refused to allow him to publish his findings. A new article in The New Yorker magazine uses court documents from a class action lawsuit against Syngenta to show how it sought to smear Hayes’ reputation and prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from banning the profitable chemical, which is already banned by the European Union.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now we turn to the story of a University of California scientist who discovered that a popular herbicide may have harmful effects on the endocrine system. Tyrone Hayes was first hired in 1997 by a company that later became agribusiness giant Syngenta. They asked him to study their product, atrazine, a pesticide that is applied to more than half the corn crops in the United States and widely used on golf courses and Christmas tree farms. But after Hayes found results that the manufacturer did not expect, that atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs and could cause the same problems for humans, Syngenta refused to allow him to publish his work. This was the the start of an epic feud between the scientist and the corporation.

AMY GOODMAN: Now a new article in The New Yorker magazine uses court documents from a class action lawsuit against Syngenta to show how it sought to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from banning the profitable chemical, which is already banned by the European Union. To start with, the company’s public relations team drafted a list of four goals. Reporter Rachel Aviv writes, quote, “The first was [quote] ‘discredit Hayes.’ In a spiral-bound notebook, Syngenta’s communications manager, Sherry Ford, who referred to Hayes by his initials, wrote that the company could ‘prevent citing of TH data by revealing him as noncredible.’ He was a frequent topic of conversation at company meetings. Syngenta looked for ways to ‘exploit Hayes’ faults/problems.’ ‘If TH involved in scandal, enviros will drop him,’ Ford wrote.”

Well, for more, we’re joined by TH himself. That’s right, Tyrone Hayes is with us, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, joining us from the campus TV station right now in Berkeley.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you tell us what happened to you, how you were originally tied to Syngenta, the research you did, and what prevented you from originally publishing it?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, here at Berkeley, I was a new assistant professor. I was already studying the effects of hormones and the effects of chemicals that interfere with hormones on amphibian development. And I was approached by the manufacturer and asked to study the effects of atrazine, the herbicide, on frogs. And after I discovered that it interfered with male development and caused males to turn into females, to develop eggs, the company tried to prevent me from publishing and from discussing that work with other scientists outside of their panel.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What was the process within the company? As you raised your findings, what was their immediate reaction to what you had come across?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, initially they seemed sort of supportive. You know, we designed more studies. We designed more analysis. And they encouraged me to do more analysis. But as the further analysis just supported the original finding, they became less interested in moving forward very quickly, and eventually they moved to asking me to manipulate data or to misrepresent data, and ultimately they told me I could not publish or could not talk about the data outside of their closed panel.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Professor Hayes, talk about exactly what you found. What were the abnormalities you found in frogs, the gender-bending nature of this drug atrazine?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, initially, we found that the larynx, or the voice box, in exposed males didn’t grow properly. And this was an indication that the male hormone testosterone was not being produced at appropriate levels. And eventually we found that not only were these males demasculinized, or chemically castrated, but they also were starting to develop ovaries or starting to develop eggs. And eventually we discovered that these males didn’t breed properly, that some of the males actually completely turned into females. So we had genetic males that were laying eggs and reproducing as females. And now we’re starting to show that some of these males actually show, I guess what we’d call homosexual behavior. They actually prefer to mate with other males.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, where did you go with your research?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, eventually, what happened was the EPA insisted that—the Environmental Protection Agency insisted that the manufacturer release me from the confidentiality contract. And we published our findings in pretty high-ranking journals, such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. We published some work in Nature. We published work in Environmental Health Perspectives, which is a journal sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when did you begin to get a sense that the company was organizing a campaign against you? What were the signs that you saw post the period when you published your findings?

TYRONE HAYES: Before we published the findings and before the EPA became involved, the company tried to purchase the data. They tried to give me a new contract so that they would then control the data and the experiments. They actually tried to get me to come and visit the company to get control of those data. And when I refused, I invited them to the university, I offered to share data, but they wanted to purchase the data. And then they actually—as mentioned in the New Yorkerarticle, they actually hired scientists to try to refute the data or to pick apart the data, and eventually they hired scientists to do experiments that they claim refuted our data.

And then that escalated to the company actually—Tim Pastoor, in particular, and others from the company—coming to presentations that—or lectures that I was giving, to make handouts or to stand up and refute the data, and eventually even led to things like threats of violence. Tim Pastoor, for example, before I would give a talk, would literally threaten, whisper in my ear that he could have me lynched, or he would—quote, said he would “send some of his good ol’ boys to show me what it’s like to be gay,” or at one point he threatened my wife and my daughter with sexual violence. He would whisper things like, “Your wife’s at home alone right now. How do you know I haven’t sent somebody there to take care of her? Isn’t your daughter there?” So, eventually, it really slipped into some, you know, pretty scary tactics.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what did you do? I mean, you’re actually—I mean, this is very serious. You could bring criminal charges if you’re being threatened and stalked in this way.

TYRONE HAYES: Well, initially, I went to my vice chancellor here at the university. I went to my dean. I went to legal counsel here at the university. And I was told by legal counsel that—well, I was told, first of all, by the vice chancellor for research at the time that, “Well, you published the work. It’s over. So I don’t understand what the problem is.” And I tried to impress upon her, Beth Burnside, at the time that—you know, that it wasn’t over, that I was really being pursued by the manufacturer. And eventually, when I spoke with the lawyer here at the University, I was told that, “Well, I represent the university, and I protect the university from liability. You’re kind of on your own.” And I remember I looked at him, and I said, “But the very university, from the Latin universitas, is a collection of scholars, of teachers and students, so who is this entity, the university, that you represent that doesn’t include me?” But clearly there’s some entity that doesn’t really include us, the professors and students, and doesn’t really protect our academic freedom, I think, the way that it should.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about one of your critics, Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health. When The New York Times ran a critical story about the herbicide as part of its toxic water series in 2009, she referred to its reporting as, quote, “all the news that’s fit to scare.” This is a clip of Whelan from an interview on MSNBC.

ELIZABETH WHELAN: I very much disagree with the New York Times story, which is really raising concerns about a totally bogus risk. Atrazine has been used for more than 50 years. It’s very, very tightly regulated. Even the Environmental Protection Agency, which is not known for soft-pedaling about environmental chemicals, even they say it’s safe.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, it turns out that Syngenta has been a long-term financial supporter of Whelan’s organization, the American Council on Science and Health, paying them at least $100,000. Your comments on her remarks?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, again, they’re paid remarks. And one of the most disheartening things in this whole process is that many of my critics—you know, it’s one to be academic, if you come and say, “Well, we interpreted the data this way, and we want to argue about this point,” but these people really didn’t even have an opinion. These opinions were written by the manufacturer, and they were paid to put their names on them, to endorse the opinions of the manufacturer. So, you know, that’s one of the most disheartening things, that they were really just personalities for sale.

And many of the things that she’s saying there is just not true. There are—any independent study, from any scientist that’s not funded by Syngenta, has found similar problems with atrazine, not just my work on frogs. But I’ve just published a paper with 22 scientists from around the world, from 12 different countries, who have shown that atrazine causes sexual problems in mammals, that atrazine causes sexual problems in birds, amphibians, fish. So it’s not just my work in amphibians.

And also, with regards to the EPA, one of the scientific advisory panel members on the EPA that was supposed to review atrazine turns out is paid and works for Syngenta. So the whole process was tainted. And, in fact, the EPA ignored the scientific advisory panel’s opinion and actually decided to keep atrazine on the market and not to do any more studies, when that clearly wasn’t the recommendation of the scientific advisory panel.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to go back just a second to your remarks about your university, because obviously there are many questions about major universities around the country being, in some way or other, supported financially by the pharmaceutical or the drug industry. But you are at a prestigious university, one of the top universities in the country, at Berkeley. Do you have some concerns about how your university responded to your—in your time of need, and the attack on your academic integrity?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, they’re not just my concerns. There are many at the university who fear that the university is just becoming a corporation. You know, we’re a public university that used to get a lot more support from the state. In my lifetime, tuition was free for students. Tuition has been rising. And it’s really an effort to monetize things, and that includes scientific researchers. There’s a lot of pressure on us not just to be scholars and to teach and to do research, but also to bring in funds that will support the university. So there’s some sentiment from the university that if you are raising a concern potentially that might cause the university to lose support or to lose funders, then you won’t necessarily get the support on the campus that you need. And we’ve seen this over and over again. A colleague of mine, Ignacio Chapela, for example, was in a fairly huge battle over the same company, Novartis, and its influences over scientific research at the university.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of Syngenta? First of all, is it a significant presence at the university, at UC Berkeley? But also, the significance of Syngenta as a pesticide company and all that it makes, how powerful is it?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, when they were—when I was originally consulting for the manufacturer, they were Novartis at the time. And Novartis had a big influence on the campus. There was a major deal on the campus. I understand a fifth of the biological sciences’ support was coming from Novartis. And at the time, they both made pesticides, and they made pharmaceuticals.

One of my big concerns is that, as of the year 2000—prior to the year 2000, Novartis not only made atrazine, which is used on corn, of course, which is an herbicide, but it also induces an enzyme called aromatase. It causes you to make too much estrogen. And it’s now been shown that this herbicide, atrazine, and this mechanism, is potentially involved in development of breast cancer, for example. Up until 2000, the company also made a chemical called letrozole, which did exactly the opposite: It blocked aromatase, it blocked this enzyme, it blocked estrogen production. And this chemical, letrozole, is the number one treatment for breast cancer. So this company was simultaneously in 2000 making a chemical that induced estrogen and promoted breast cancer, and making a chemical that blocked estrogen production and was being used to treat breast cancer. So there’s a clear conflict of interest there, a clear problem.

The other problems are that something like 90 percent of the seeds that we use to produce our food right now are owned by the big six pesticide companies. So, again, there’s a conflict of interest where the companies have an interest in, I guess, getting us addicted to the pesticides, to grow the seeds that they also own. And Syngenta, of course, is one of those big six, one of the big pesticide or agribusiness companies.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And a New Yorker that delves into your story also says that you came to find out that the company was also reading your emails. Could you talk about that?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, I originally—I had some suspicion that they had hacked into my email. And originally found out—there was a professor at Minnesota, and I was going there to give a big lecture, and this professor in the School of Public Health, Deb Dubenofsky, said that she happened to be standing in line at the airport, flying back to Minnesota, and just by coincidence she was standing behind somebody who was having a conversation on his cellphone and who identified himself as an employee of Syngenta, and he made the statement, “We have access to his email. We know where he is at all times.” So it wasn’t just paranoia on my part. I had direct evidence that they had access to my email. And at the time, I maintained a second and a third email that I could keep private, and I actually used that information, that they had access to my email, to send them information, and sometimes false information—for example, booking plane tickets through that email, because then I could sent them to the wrong place, so they wouldn’t necessarily be there to follow me when I was going to speak in other places.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Professor Hayes, this is stunning stuff that came out in this class action suit. The suit wasn’t brought by you, but the documents that came out that referenced you, Tyrone Hayes, TH, and trying to discredit you, trying to discredit your family, talk—that was a lawsuit that involved atrazine contaminating water supplies.


AMY GOODMAN: But what was your reaction when you saw this? You suspected this. You felt you were being followed. You felt you were—they were trying to discredit you. But now you had the documents.

TYRONE HAYES: Well, you know, it’s funny. You know, the way the article reads, that I suspected—I mean, I knew. I knew Tim Pastoor. I knew Sherry Ford. I knew many of the individuals who would follow me around. I knew who they were. I knew they had access to my email. You know, so, for me, I knew that these things were happening. This guy would directly come up and make lewd comments to me and threatening comments to me. But it was the kind of thing where, you know, it sounded like something out of a movie. I couldn’t go and tell my colleagues, like, “They’re following me around, and, you know, they’re hacking into my email”—

AMY GOODMAN: Did you record?

TYRONE HAYES: —because I would look crazy.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you put on a tape recorder?

TYRONE HAYES: You know, what I found—here’s how I’ll answer that question. What I found out, that it was much more powerful for me to suggest and have them think that I recorded everything than for them to actually know what I recorded. And that actually became sort of my protection. So, when this guy came up and threatened me and threatened my wife, to then go back and go, “Oh, my god, did he record that or not?” So, it was much more powerful for me to have them think that. But you can see in their handwritten notes that they were very concerned that I was recording conversations. There’s notes that they wanted to trap me, to entice me to sue, and these kinds of things.

And my reaction now, to see it all in The New Yorker and for—you know, all this open for the world to see, is—there are two reactions. One is, I can’t believe they wrote these kinds of things down, right? That you’re plotting to, you know, investigate me and investigate my school and investigate my hometown and all these kinds of things, and you wrote it down. But my other response is, this is quite analogous to, you know, when you hear these stories of somebody who’s been in jail for murder for 10 years, and then the DNA evidence gets them out, you know, and you ask them, “Are you happy?” Well, of course I’m happy, but I’ve also been in jail for 10 years. You know what I mean? So, of course I’m happy now that these documents have all been revealed, but it’s also been a very difficult time for me for the last—and for my family, you know, for the last 10 or 15 years, for my students, as well, for the last 10 or 15 years, to be pursued this way and to be under a microscope this way and to feel threatened this way for so long.

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up, what’s happening with atrazine today? Where does it stand?

TYRONE HAYES: It’s still on the market. We’re still studying it. A number of studies are still coming out from around the world. One recent study has shown that male babies that are exposed in utero to atrazine, their genitals don’t develop properly. Their penis doesn’t develop properly, or they get microphallus. There are studies showing that sperm count goes down when you’re exposed to atrazine. And this is not just laboratory animals or animals in the wild; this is also humans. We use the same hormones that animals do for our reproduction. And it’s a big threat to environmental health and public health.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Tyrone Hayes, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, who’s devoted the past 15 years to studying atrazine, a widely used herbicide made by Syngenta. We’ll link to the article in The New Yorker magazine that reveals how the company tried to discredit Professor Hayes after his research showed atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs and could cause the same problems for humans. The article is called “A Valuable Reputation: After Tyrone Hayes Said That a Chemical was Harmful, Its Maker Pursued Him.” This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

A Valuable Reputation (The New Yorker) – on atrazine & Syngenta


After Tyrone Hayes said that a chemical was harmful, its maker pursued him.


FEBRUARY 10, 2014

Hayes has devoted the past fifteen years to studying atrazine, a widely used herbicide made by Syngenta. The company’s notes reveal that it struggled to make sense of him, and plotted ways to discredit him.

Hayes has devoted the past fifteen years to studying atrazine, a widely used herbicide made by Syngenta. The company’s notes reveal that it struggled to make sense of him, and plotted ways to discredit him. Photograph by Dan Winters.

In 2001, seven years after joining the biology faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, Tyrone Hayes stopped talking about his research with people he didn’t trust. He instructed the students in his lab, where he was raising three thousand frogs, to hang up the phone if they heard a click, a signal that a third party might be on the line. Other scientists seemed to remember events differently, he noticed, so he started carrying an audio recorder to meetings. “The secret to a happy, successful life of paranoia,” he liked to say, “is to keep careful track of your persecutors.”

Three years earlier, Syngenta, one of the largest agribusinesses in the world, had asked Hayes to conduct experiments on the herbicide atrazine, which is applied to more than half the corn in the United States. Hayes was thirty-one, and he had already published twenty papers on the endocrinology of amphibians. David Wake, a professor in Hayes’s department, said that Hayes “may have had the greatest potential of anyone in the field.” But, when Hayes discovered that atrazine might impede the sexual development of frogs, his dealings with Syngenta became strained, and, in November, 2000, he ended his relationship with the company.

Hayes continued studying atrazine on his own, and soon he became convinced that Syngenta representatives were following him to conferences around the world. He worried that the company was orchestrating a campaign to destroy his reputation. He complained that whenever he gave public talks there was a stranger in the back of the room, taking notes. On a trip to Washington, D.C., in 2003, he stayed at a different hotel each night. He was still in touch with a few Syngenta scientists and, after noticing that they knew many details about his work and his schedule, he suspected that they were reading his e-mails. To confuse them, he asked a student to write misleading e-mails from his office computer while he was travelling. He sent backup copies of his data and notes to his parents in sealed boxes. In an e-mail to one Syngenta scientist, he wrote that he had “risked my reputation, my name . . . some say even my life, for what I thought (and now know) is right.” A few scientists had previously done experiments that anticipated Hayes’s work, but no one had observed such extreme effects. In another e-mail to Syngenta, he acknowledged that it might appear that he was suffering from a “Napoleon complex” or “delusions of grandeur.”

For years, despite his achievements, Hayes had felt like an interloper. In academic settings, it seemed to him that his colleagues were operating according to a frivolous code of manners: they spoke so formally, fashioning themselves as detached authorities, and rarely admitted what they didn’t know. He had grown up in Columbia, South Carolina, in a neighborhood where fewer than forty per cent of residents finish high school. Until sixth grade, when he was accepted into a program for the gifted, in a different neighborhood, he had never had a conversation with a white person his age. He and his friends used to tell one another how “white people do this, and white people do that,” pretending that they knew. After he switched schools and took advanced courses, the black kids made fun of him, saying, “Oh, he thinks he’s white.”

He was fascinated by the idea of metamorphosis, and spent much of his adolescence collecting tadpoles and frogs and crossbreeding different species of grasshoppers. He raised frog larvae on his parents’ front porch, and examined how lizards respond to changes in temperature (by using a blow-dryer) and light (by placing them in a doghouse). His father, a carpet layer, used to look at his experiments, shake his head, and say, “There’s a fine line between a genius and a fool.”

Hayes received a scholarship to Harvard, and, in 1985, began what he calls the worst four years of his life. Many of the other black students had gone to private schools and came from affluent families. He felt disconnected and ill-equipped—he was placed on academic probation—until he became close to a biology professor, who encouraged him to work in his lab. Five feet three and thin, Hayes distinguished himself by dressing flamboyantly, like Prince. The Harvard Crimson, in an article about a campus party, wrote that he looked as if he belonged in the “rock-’n’-ready atmosphere of New York’s Danceteria.” He thought about dropping out, but then he started dating a classmate, Katherine Kim, a Korean-American biology major from Kansas. He married her two days after he graduated.

They moved to Berkeley, where Hayes enrolled in the university’s program in integrative biology. He completed his Ph.D. in three and a half years, and was immediately hired by his department. “He was a force of nature—incredibly gifted and hardworking,” Paul Barber, a colleague who is now a professor at U.C.L.A., says. Hayes became one of only a few black tenured biology professors in the country. He won Berkeley’s highest award for teaching, and ran the most racially diverse lab in his department, attracting students who were the first in their families to go to college. Nigel Noriega, a former graduate student, said that the lab was a “comfort zone” for students who were “just suffocating at Berkeley,” because they felt alienated from academic culture.

Hayes had become accustomed to steady praise from his colleagues, but, when Syngenta cast doubt on his work, he became preoccupied by old anxieties. He believed that the company was trying to isolate him from other scientists and “play on my insecurities—the fear that I’m not good enough, that everyone thinks I’m a fraud,” he said. He told colleagues that he suspected that Syngenta held “focus groups” on how to mine his vulnerabilities. Roger Liu, who worked in Hayes’s lab for a decade, both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student, said, “In the beginning, I was really worried for his safety. But then I couldn’t tell where the reality ended and the exaggeration crept in.”

Liu and several other former students said that they had remained skeptical of Hayes’s accusations until last summer, when an article appeared in Environmental Health News (in partnership with 100Reporters)* that drew on Syngenta’s internal records. Hundreds of Syngenta’s memos, notes, and e-mails have been unsealed following the settlement, in 2012, of two class-action suits brought by twenty-three Midwestern cities and towns that accused Syngenta of “concealing atrazine’s true dangerous nature” and contaminating their drinking water. Stephen Tillery, the lawyer who argued the cases, said, “Tyrone’s work gave us the scientific basis for the lawsuit.”

Hayes has devoted the past fifteen years to studying atrazine, and during that time scientists around the world have expanded on his findings, suggesting that the herbicide is associated with birth defects in humans as well as in animals. The company documents show that, while Hayes was studying atrazine, Syngenta was studying him, as he had long suspected. Syngenta’s public-relations team had drafted a list of four goals. The first was “discredit Hayes.” In a spiral-bound notebook, Syngenta’s communications manager, Sherry Ford, who referred to Hayes by his initials, wrote that the company could “prevent citing of TH data by revealing him as noncredible.” He was a frequent topic of conversation at company meetings. Syngenta looked for ways to “exploit Hayes’ faults/problems.” “If TH involved in scandal, enviros will drop him,” Ford wrote. She observed that Hayes “grew up in world (S.C.) that wouldn’t accept him,” “needs adulation,” “doesn’t sleep,” was “scarred for life.” She wrote, “What’s motivating Hayes?—basic question.”

Syngenta, which is based in Basel, sells more than fourteen billion dollars’ worth of seeds and pesticides a year and funds research at some four hundred academic institutions around the world. When Hayes agreed to do experiments for the company (which at that time was part of a larger corporation, Novartis), the students in his lab expressed concern that biotech companies were “buying up universities” and that industry funding would compromise the objectivity of their research. Hayes assured them that his fee, a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, would make their lab more rigorous. He could employ more students, buy new equipment, and raise more frogs. Though his lab was well funded, federal support for research was growing increasingly unstable, and, like many academics and administrators, he felt that he should find new sources of revenue. “I went into it as if I were a painter, performing a service,” Hayes told me. “You commissioned it, and I come up with the results, and you do what you want with them. It’s your responsibility, not mine.”

Atrazine is the second most widely used herbicide in the U.S., where sales are estimated at about three hundred million dollars a year. Introduced in 1958, it is cheap to produce and controls a broad range of weeds. (Glyphosate, which is produced by Monsanto, is the most popular herbicide.) A study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that without atrazine the national corn yield would fall by six per cent, creating an annual loss of nearly two billion dollars. But the herbicide degrades slowly in soil and often washes into streams and lakes, where it doesn’t readily dissolve. Atrazine is one of the most common contaminants of drinking water; an estimated thirty million Americans are exposed to trace amounts of the chemical.

In 1994, the E.P.A., expressing concerns about atrazine’s health effects, announced that it would start a scientific review. Syngenta assembled a panel of scientists and professors, through a consulting firm called EcoRisk, to study the herbicide. Hayes eventually joined the group. His first experiment showed that male tadpoles exposed to atrazine developed less muscle surrounding their vocal cords, and he hypothesized that the chemical had the potential to reduce testosterone levels. “I have been losing lots of sleep over this,” he wrote one EcoRisk panel member, in the summer of 2000. “I realize the implications and of course want to make sure that everything possible has been done and controlled for.” After a conference call, he was surprised by the way the company kept critiquing what seemed to be trivial aspects of the work. Hayes wanted to repeat and validate his experiments, and complained that the company was slowing him down and that independent scientists would publish similar results before he could. He decided to resign from the panel, writing in a letter that he didn’t want to be “scooped.” “I fear that my reputation will be damaged if I continue my relationship and associated low productivity with Novartis,” he wrote. “It will appear to my colleagues that I have been part of a plan to bury important data.”

Hayes repeated the experiments using funds from Berkeley and the National Science Foundation. Afterward, he wrote to the panel, “Although I do not want to make a big deal out of it until I have all of the data analyzed and decoded—I feel I should warn you that I think something very strange is coming up in these animals.” After dissecting the frogs, he noticed that some could not be clearly identified as male or female: they had both testes and ovaries. Others had multiple testes that were deformed.

In January, 2001, Syngenta employees and members of the EcoRisk panel travelled to Berkeley to discuss Hayes’s new findings. Syngenta asked to meet with him privately, but Hayes insisted on the presence of his students, a few colleagues, and his wife. He had previously had an amiable relationship with the panel—he had enjoyed taking long runs with the scientist who supervised it—and he began the meeting, in a large room at Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, as if he were hosting an academic conference. He wore a new suit and brought in catered meals.

After lunch, Syngenta introduced a guest speaker, a statistical consultant, who listed numerous errors in Hayes’s report and concluded that the results were not statistically significant. Hayes’s wife, Katherine Kim, said that the consultant seemed to be trying to “make Tyrone look as foolish as possible.” Wake, the biology professor, said that the men on the EcoRisk panel looked increasingly uncomfortable. “They were experienced enough to know that the issues the statistical consultant was raising were routine and ridiculous,” he said. “A couple of glitches were presented as if they were the end of the world. I’ve been a scientist in academic settings for forty years, and I’ve never experienced anything like that. They were after Tyrone.”

Hayes later e-mailed three of the scientists, telling them, “I was insulted, felt railroaded and, in fact, felt that some dishonest and unethical activity was going on.” When he explained what had happened to Theo Colborn, the scientist who had popularized the theory that industrial chemicals could alter hormones, she advised him, “Don’t go home the same way twice.” Colborn was convinced that her office had been bugged, and that industry representatives followed her. She told Hayes to “keep looking over your shoulder” and to be careful whom he let in his lab. She warned him, “You have got to protect yourself.”

Hayes published his atrazine work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences a year and a half after quitting the panel. He wrote that what he called “hermaphroditism” was induced in frogs by exposure to atrazine at levels thirty times below what the E.P.A. permits in water. He hypothesized that the chemical could be a factor in the decline in amphibian populations, a phenomenon observed all over the world. In an e-mail sent the day before the publication, he congratulated the students in his lab for taking the “ethical stance” by continuing the work on their own. “We (and our principles) have been tested, and I believe we have not only passed but exceeded expectations,” he wrote. “Science is a principle and a process of seeking truth. Truth cannot be purchased and, thus, truth cannot be altered by money. Professorship is not a career, but rather a life’s pursuit. The people with whom I work daily exemplify and remind me of this promise.”

He and his students continued the work, travelling to farming regions throughout the Midwest, collecting frogs in ponds and lakes, and sending three hundred pails of frozen water back to Berkeley. In papers in Nature and in Environmental Health Perspectives, Hayes reported that he had found frogs with sexual abnormalities in atrazine-contaminated sites in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming. “Now that I have realized what we are into, I cannot stop it,” he wrote to a colleague. “It is an entity of its own.” Hayes began arriving at his lab at 3:30 a.m. and staying fourteen hours. He had two young children, who sometimes assisted by color-coding containers.

According to company e-mails, Syngenta was distressed by Hayes’s work. Its public-relations team compiled a database of more than a hundred “supportive third party stakeholders,” including twenty-five professors, who could defend atrazine or act as “spokespeople on Hayes.” The P.R. team suggested that the company “purchase ‘Tyrone Hayes’ as a search word on the internet, so that any time someone searches for Tyrone’s material, the first thing they see is our material.” The proposal was later expanded to include the phrases “amphibian hayes,” “atrazine frogs,” and “frog feminization.” (Searching online for “Tyrone Hayes” now brings up an advertisement that says, “Tyrone Hayes Not Credible.”)

In June, 2002, two months after Hayes’s first atrazine publication, Syngenta announced in a press release that three studies had failed to replicate Hayes’s work. In a letter to the editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, eight scientists on the EcoRisk panel wrote that Hayes’s study had “little regard for assessment of causality,” lacked statistical details, misused the term “dose,” made vague and naïve references, and misspelled a word. They said that Hayes’s claim that his paper had “significant implications for environmental and public health” had not been “scientifically demonstrated.” Steven Milloy, a freelance science columnist who runs a nonprofit organization to which Syngenta has given tens of thousands of dollars, wrote an article for Fox News titled “Freaky-Frog Fraud,” which picked apart Hayes’s paper in Nature, saying that there wasn’t a clear relationship between the concentration of atrazine and the effect on the frog. Milloy characterized Hayes as a “junk scientist” and dismissed his “lame” conclusions as “just another of Hayes’ tricks.”

Fussy critiques of scientific experiments have become integral to what is known as the “sound science” campaign, an effort by interest groups and industries to slow the pace of regulation. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, wrote, in his book “Doubt Is Their Product” (2008), that corporations have developed sophisticated strategies for “manufacturing and magnifying uncertainty.” In the eighties and nineties, the tobacco industry fended off regulations by drawing attention to questions about the science of secondhand smoke. Many companies have adopted this tactic. “Industry has learned that debating the science is much easier and more effective than debating the policy,” Michaels wrote. “In field after field, year after year, conclusions that might support regulation are always disputed. Animal data are deemed not relevant, human data not representative, and exposure data not reliable.”

In the summer of 2002, two scientists from the E.P.A. visited Hayes’s lab and reviewed his atrazine data. Thomas Steeger, one of the scientists, told Hayes, “Your research can potentially affect the balance of risk versus benefit for one of the most controversial pesticides in the U.S.” But an organization called the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness petitioned the E.P.A. to ignore Hayes’s findings. “Hayes has killed and continues to kill thousands of frogs in unvalidated tests that have no proven value,” the petition said. The center argued that Hayes’s studies violated the Data Quality Act, passed in 2000, which requires that regulatory decisions rely on studies that meet high standards for “quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity.” The center is run by an industry lobbyist and consultant for Syngenta, Jim Tozzi, who proposed the language of the Data Quality Act to the congresswoman who sponsored it.

The E.P.A. complied with the Data Quality Act and revised its Environmental Risk Assessment, making it clear that hormone disruption wouldn’t be a legitimate reason for restricting use of the chemical until “appropriate testing protocols have been established.” Steeger told Hayes that he was troubled by the circularity of the center’s critique. In an e-mail, he wrote, “Their position reminds me of the argument put forward by the philosopher Berkeley, who argued against empiricism by noting that reliance on scientific observation is flawed since the link between observations and conclusions is intangible and is thus immeasurable.”

Nonetheless, Steeger seemed resigned to the frustrations of regulatory science and gently punctured Hayes’s idealism. When Hayes complained that Syngenta had not reported his findings on frog hermaphroditism quickly enough, he responded that it was “unfortunate but not uncommon for registrants to ‘sit’ on data that may be considered adverse to the public’s perception of their products.” He wrote that “science can be manipulated to serve certain agendas. All you can do is practice ‘suspended disbelief.’ ” (The E.P.A. says that there is “no indication that information was improperly withheld in this case.”)

After consulting with colleagues at Berkeley, Hayes decided that, rather than watch Syngenta discredit his work, he would make a “preëmptive move.” He appeared in features in Discover and the San Francisco Chronicle, suggesting that Syngenta’s science was not objective. Both articles focussed on his personal biography, leading with his skin color, and moving on to his hair style: at the time, he wore his hair in braids. Hayes made little attempt to appear disinterested. Scientific objectivity requires what the philosopher Thomas Nagel has called a “view from nowhere,” but Hayes kept drawing attention to himself, making blustery comments like “Tyrone can only be Tyrone.” He presented Syngenta as a villain, but he didn’t quite fulfill the role of the hero. He was hyper and a little frantic—he always seemed to be in a rush or on the verge of forgetting to do something—and he approached the idea of taking down the big guys with a kind of juvenile zeal.

Environmental activists praised Hayes’s work and helped him get media attention. But they were concerned by the bluntness of his approach. A co-founder of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research organization, told Hayes to “stop what you are doing and take time to actually construct a plan” or “you will get your ass handed to you on a platter.” Steeger warned him that vigilantism would distract him from his research. “Can you afford the time and money to fight battles where you are clearly outnumbered and, to be candid, outclassed?” he asked. “Most people would prefer to limit their time in purgatory; I don’t know anyone who knowingly enters hell.”

Hayes had worked all his life to build his scientific reputation, and now it seemed on the verge of collapse. “I cannot in reasonable terms explain to you what this means to me,” he told Steeger. He took pains to prove that Syngenta’s experiments had not replicated his studies: they used a different population of animals, which were raised in different types of tanks, in closer quarters, at cooler temperatures, and with a different feeding schedule. On at least three occasions, he proposed to the Syngenta scientists that they trade data. “If we really want to test repeatability, let’s share animals and solutions,” he wrote.

In early 2003, Hayes was considered for a job at the Nicholas School of the Environment, at Duke. He visited the campus three times, and the university arranged for a real-estate agent to show him and his wife potential homes. When Syngenta learned that Hayes might be moving to North Carolina, where its crop-protection headquarters are situated, Gary Dickson—the company’s vice-president of global risk assessment, who a year earlier had established a fifty-thousand-dollar endowment, funded by Syngenta, at the Nicholas School—contacted a dean at Duke. According to documents unsealed in the class-action lawsuits, Dickson informed the dean of the “state of the relationship between Dr. Hayes and Syngenta.” The company “wanted to protect our reputation in our community and among our employees.”

There were several candidates for the job at Duke, and, when Hayes did not get it, he concluded that it was due to Syngenta’s influence. Richard Di Giulio, a Duke professor who had hosted Hayes’s first visit, said that he was irritated by Hayes’s suggestion: “A little gift of fifty thousand dollars would not influence a tenure hire. That’s not going to happen.” He added, “I’m not surprised that Syngenta would not have liked Hayes to be at Duke, since we’re an hour down the road from them.” He said that Hayes’s conflict with Syngenta was an extreme example of the kind of dispute that is not uncommon in environmental science. The difference, he said, was that the “scientific debate spilled into Hayes’s emotional life.”

In June, 2003, Hayes paid his own way to Washington so that he could present his work at an E.P.A. hearing on atrazine. The agency had evaluated seventeen studies. Twelve experiments had been funded by Syngenta, and all but two showed that atrazine had no effect on the sexual development of frogs. The rest of the experiments, by Hayes and researchers at two other universities, indicated the opposite. In a PowerPoint presentation at the hearing, Hayes disclosed a private e-mail sent to him by one of the scientists on the EcoRisk panel, a professor at Texas Tech, who wrote, “I agree with you that the important issue is for everyone involved to come to grips with (and stop minimizing) the fact that independent laboratories have demonstrated an effect of atrazine on gonadal differentiation in frogs. There is no denying this.”

The E.P.A. found that all seventeen atrazine studies, including Hayes’s, suffered from methodological flaws—contamination of controls, variability in measurement end points, poor animal husbandry—and asked Syngenta to fund a comprehensive experiment that would produce more definitive results. Darcy Kelley, a member of the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel and a biology professor at Columbia, said that, at the time, “I did not think the E.P.A. made the right decision.” The studies by Syngenta scientists had flaws that “really cast into doubt their ability to carry out their experiments. They couldn’t replicate effects that are as easy as falling off a log.” She thought that Hayes’s experiments were more respectable, but she wasn’t persuaded by Hayes’s explanation of the biological mechanism causing the deformities.

The E.P.A. approved the continued use of atrazine in October, the same month that the European Commission chose to remove it from the market. The European Union generally takes a precautionary approach to environmental risks, choosing restraint in the face of uncertainty. In the U.S., lingering scientific questions justify delays in regulatory decisions. Since the mid-seventies, the E.P.A. has issued regulations restricting the use of only five industrial chemicals out of more than eighty thousand in the environment. Industries have a greater role in the American regulatory process—they may sue regulators if there are errors in the scientific record—and cost-benefit analyses are integral to decisions: a monetary value is assigned to disease, impairments, and shortened lives and weighed against the benefits of keeping a chemical in use. Lisa Heinzerling, the senior climate-policy counsel at the E.P.A. in 2009 and the associate administrator of the office of policy in 2009 and 2010, said that cost-benefit models appear “objective and neutral, a way to free ourselves from the chaos of politics.” But the complex algorithms “quietly condone a tremendous amount of risk.” She added that the influence of the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees major regulatory decisions, has deepened in recent years. “A rule will go through years of scientific reviews and cost-benefit analyses, and then at the final stage it doesn’t pass,” she said. “It has a terrible, demoralizing effect on the culture at the E.P.A.”

In 2003, a Syngenta development committee in Basel approved a strategy to keep atrazine on the market “until at least 2010.” A PowerPoint presentation assembled by Syngenta’s global product manager explained that “we need atrazine to secure our position in the corn marketplace. Without atrazine we cannot defend and grow our business in the USA.” Sherry Ford, the communications manager, wrote in her notebook that the company “should not phase out atz until we know about” the Syngenta herbicide paraquat, which has also been controversial, because of studies showing that it might be associated with Parkinson’s disease. She noted that atrazine “focuses attention away from other products.”

Syngenta began holding weekly “atrazine meetings” after the first class-action suit was filed, in 2004. The meetings were attended by toxicologists, the company’s counsel, communications staff, and the head of regulatory affairs. To dampen negative publicity from the lawsuit, the group discussed how it could invalidate Hayes’s research. Ford documented peculiar things he had done (“kept coat on”) or phrases he had used (“Is this line clean?”). “If TH wanted to win the day, and he had the goods,” she wrote, “he would have produced them when asked.” She noted that Hayes was “getting in too deep w/ enviros,” and searched for ways to get him to “show his true colors.”

In 2005, Ford made a long list of methods for discrediting him: “have his work audited by 3rd party,” “ask journals to retract,” “set trap to entice him to sue,” “investigate funding,” “investigate wife.” The initials of different employees were written in the margins beside entries, presumably because they had been assigned to look into the task. Another set of ideas, discussed at several meetings, was to conduct “systematic rebuttals of all TH appearances.” One of the company’s communications consultants said in an e-mail that she wanted to obtain Hayes’s calendar of speaking engagements, so that Syngenta could “start reaching out to the potential audiences with the Error vs. Truth Sheet,” which would provide “irrefutable evidence of his polluted messages.” (Syngenta says that many of the documents unsealed in the lawsuits refer to ideas that were never implemented.)

To redirect attention to the financial benefits of atrazine, the company paid Don Coursey, a tenured economist at the Harris School of Public Policy, at the University of Chicago, five hundred dollars an hour to study how a ban on the herbicide would affect the economy. In 2006, Syngenta supplied Coursey with data and a “bundle of studies,” and edited his paper, which was labelled as a Harris School Working Paper. (He disclosed that Syngenta had funded it.) After submitting a draft, Coursey had been warned in an e-mail that he needed to work harder to articulate a “clear statement of your conclusions flowing from this analysis.” Coursey later announced his findings at a National Press Club event in Washington and told the audience that there was one “basic takeaway point: a ban on atrazine at the national level will have a devastating, devastating effect upon the U.S. corn economy.”

Hayes had been promoted from associate to full professor in 2003, an achievement that had sent him into a mild depression. He had spent the previous decade understanding his self-worth in reference to a series of academic milestones, and he had reached each one. Now he felt aimless. His wife said she could have seen him settling into the life of a “normal, run-of-the-mill, successful scientist.” But he wasn’t motivated by the idea of “writing papers and books that we all just trade with each other.”

He began giving more than fifty lectures a year, not just to scientific audiences but to policy institutes, history departments, women’s health clinics, food preparers, farmers, and high schools. He almost never declined an invitation, despite the distance. He told his audiences that he was defying the instructions of his Ph.D. adviser, who had told him, “Let the science speak for itself.” He had a flair for sensational stories—he chose phrases like “crime scene” and “chemically castrated”—and he seemed to revel in details about Syngenta’s conflicts of interest, presenting theories as if he were relating gossip to friends. (Syngenta wrote a letter to Hayes and his dean, pointing out inaccuracies: “As we discover additional errors in your presentations, you can expect us to be in touch with you again.”)

At his talks, Hayes noticed that one or two men in the audience were dressed more sharply than the other scientists. They asked questions that seemed to have been designed to embarrass him: Why can’t anyone replicate your research? Why won’t you share your data? One former student, Ali Stuart, said that “everywhere Tyrone went there was this guy asking questions that made a mockery of him. We called him the Axe Man.”

Hayes had once considered a few of the scientists working with Syngenta friends, and he approached them in a nerdy style of defiance. He wrote them mass e-mails, informing them of presentations he was giving and offering tips on how to discredit him. “You can’t approach your prey thinking like a predator,” he wrote. “You have to become your quarry.” He described a recent trip to South Carolina and his sense of displacement when “my old childhood friend came by to update me on who got killed, who’s on crack, who went to jail.” He wrote, “I have learned to talk like you (better than you . . . by your own admission), write like you (again better) . . . you however don’t know anyone like me . . . you have yet to spend a day in my world.” After seeing an e-mail in which a lobbyist characterized him as “black and quite articulate,” he began signing his e-mails, “Tyrone B. Hayes, Ph.D., A.B.M.,” for “articulate black man.”

Syngenta was concerned by Hayes’s e-mails and commissioned an outside contractor to do a “psychological profile” of Hayes. In her notes, Sherry Ford described him as “bipolar/manic-depressive” and “paranoid schizo & narcissistic.” Roger Liu, Hayes’s student, said that he thought Hayes wrote the e-mails to relieve his anxiety. Hayes often showed the e-mails to his students, who appreciated his rebellious sense of humor. Liu said, “Tyrone had all these groupies in the lab cheering him on. I was the one in the background saying, you know, ‘Man, don’t egg them on. Don’t poke that beast.’ ”

Syngenta intensified its public-relations campaign in 2009, as it became concerned that activists, touting “new science,” had developed a “new line of attack.” That year, a paper in Acta Paediatrica, reviewing national records for thirty million births, found that children conceived between April and July, when the concentration of atrazine (mixed with other pesticides) in water is highest, were more likely to have genital birth defects. The author of the paper, Paul Winchester, a professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, received a subpoena from Syngenta, which requested that he turn over every e-mail he had written about atrazine in the past decade. The company’s media talking points described his study as “so-called science” that didn’t meet the “guffaw test.” Winchester said, “We don’t have to argue that I haven’t proved the point. Of course I haven’t proved the point! Epidemiologists don’t try to prove points—they look for problems.”

A few months after Winchester’s paper appeared, the Times published an investigation suggesting that atrazine levels frequently surpass the maximum threshold allowed in drinking water. The article referred to recent studies inEnvironmental Health Perspectives and the Journal of Pediatric Surgery that found that mothers living close to water sources containing atrazine were more likely to have babies who were underweight or had a defect in which the intestines and other organs protrude from the body.

The day the article appeared, Syngenta planned to “go through the article line by line and find all 1) inaccuracies and 2) misrepresentations. Turn that into a simple chart.” The company would have “a credible third party do the same.” Elizabeth Whelan, the president of the American Council on Science and Health, which asked Syngenta for a hundred thousand dollars that year, appeared on MSNBC and declared that the Timesarticle was not based on science. “I’m a public-health professional,” she said. “It really bothers me very much to see the New York Times front-page Sunday edition featuring an article about a bogus risk.”

Syngenta’s public-relations team wrote editorials about the benefits of atrazine and about the flimsy science of its critics, and then sent them to “third-party allies,” who agreed to “byline” the articles, which appeared in the Washington Times, the Rochester Post-Bulletin, the Des Moines Register, and the St. Cloud Times. When a few articles in the “op-ed pipeline” sounded too aggressive, a Syngenta consultant warned that “some of the language of these pieces is suggestive of their source, which suggestion should be avoided at all costs.”

After the Times article, Syngenta hired a communications consultancy, the White House Writers Group, which has represented more than sixty Fortune 500 companies. In an e-mail to Syngenta, Josh Gilder, a director of the firm and a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, wrote, “We need to start fighting our own war.” By warning that a ban on atrazine would “devastate the economies” of rural regions, the firm tried to create a “state of affairs in which the new political leadership at E.P.A. finds itself increasingly isolated.” The firm held “elite dinners with Washington influentials” and tried to “prompt members of Congress” to challenge the scientific rationale for an upcoming E.P.A. review of atrazine. In a memo describing its strategy, the White House Writers Group wrote that, “regarding science, it is important to keep in mind that the major players in Washington do not understand science.”

In 2010, Hayes told the EcoRisk panel in an e-mail, “I have just initiated what will be the most extraordinary academic event in this battle!” He had another paper coming out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which described how male tadpoles exposed to atrazine grew up to be functional females with impaired fertility. He advised the company that it would want to get its P.R. campaign up to speed. “It’s nice to know that in this economy I can keep so many people employed,” he wrote. He quoted both Tupac Shakur and the South African king Shaka Zulu: “Never leave an enemy behind or it will rise again to fly at your throat.”

Syngenta’s head of global product safety wrote a letter to the editor of theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and to the president of the National Academy of Sciences, expressing concern that a “publication with so many obvious weaknesses could achieve publication in such a reputable scientific journal.” A month later, Syngenta filed an ethics complaint with the chancellor of Berkeley, claiming that Hayes’s e-mails violated the university’s Standards of Ethical Conduct, particularly Respect for Others. Syngenta posted more than eighty of Hayes’s e-mails on its Web site and enclosed a few in its letter to the chancellor. In one, with the subject line “Are y’all ready for it,” Hayes wrote, “Ya fulla my j*z right now!” In another, he told the Syngenta scientists that he’d had a drink after a conference with their “republican buddies,” who wanted to know about a figure he had used in his paper. “As long as you followin me around, I know I’m da sh*t,” he wrote. “By the way, yo boy left his pre-written questions at the table!”

Berkeley declined to take disciplinary action against Hayes. The university’s lawyer reminded Syngenta in a letter that “all parties have an equal responsibility to act professionally.” David Wake said that he read many of the e-mails and found them “quite hilarious.” “He’s treating them like street punks, and they view themselves as captains of industry,” he said. “When he gets tapped, he goes right back at them.”

Michelle Boone, a professor of aquatic ecology at Miami University, who served on the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel, said, “We all follow the Tyrone Hayes drama, and some people will say, ‘He should just do the science.’ But the science doesn’t speak for itself. Industry has unlimited resources and bully power. Tyrone is the only one calling them out on what they’re doing.” However, she added, “I do think some people feel he has lost his objectivity.”

Keith Solomon, a professor emeritus at the University of Guelph, Ontario, who has received funding from Syngenta and served on the EcoRisk panel, noted that academics who refuse industry money are not immune from biases; they’re under pressure to produce papers, in order to get tenure and promotions. “If I do an experiment, look at the data every which way, and find nothing, it will not be easy to publish,” he said. “Journals want excitement. They want bad things to happen.”

Hayes, who had gained more than fifty pounds since becoming tenured, wore bright scarves draped over his suit and silver earrings from Tibet. At the end of his lectures, he broke into rhyme: “I see a ruse / intentionally constructed to confuse the news / well, I’ve taken it upon myself to defuse the clues / so that you can choose / and to demonstrate the objectivity of the methods I use.” At some of his lectures, Hayes warned that the consequences of atrazine use were disproportionately felt by people of color. “If you’re black or Hispanic, you’re more likely to live or work in areas where you’re exposed to crap,” he said. He explained that “on the one side I’m trying to play by the ivory-tower rules, and on the other side people are playing by a different set of rules.” Syngenta was speaking directly to the public, whereas scientists were publishing their research in “magazines that you can’t buy in Barnes and Noble.”

Hayes was confident that at the next E.P.A. hearing there would be enough evidence to ban atrazine, but in 2010 the agency found that the studies indicating risk to humans were too limited. Two years later, during another review, the E.P.A. determined that atrazine does not affect the sexual development of frogs. By that point, there were seventy-five published studies on the subject, but the E.P.A. excluded the majority of them from consideration, because they did not meet the requirements for quality that the agency had set in 2003. The conclusion was based largely on a set of studies funded by Syngenta and led by Werner Kloas, a professor of endocrinology at Humboldt University, in Berlin. One of the co-authors was Alan Hosmer, a Syngenta scientist whose job, according to a 2004 performance evaluation, included “atrazine defence” and “influencing EPA.”

After the hearing, two of the independent experts who had served on the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel, along with fifteen other scientists, wrote a paper (not yet published) complaining that the agency had repeatedly ignored the panel’s recommendations and that it placed “human health and the environment at the mercy of industry.” “The EPA works with industry to set up the methodology for such studies with the outcome often that industry is the only institution that can afford to conduct the research,” they wrote. The Kloas study was the most comprehensive of its kind: its researchers had been scrutinized by an outside auditor, and their raw data turned over to the E.P.A. But the scientists wrote that one set of studies on a single species was “not a sufficient edifice on which to build a regulary assessment.” Citing a paper by Hayes, who had done an analysis of sixteen atrazine studies, they wrote that “the single best predictor of whether or not the herbicide atrazine had a significant effect in a study was the funding source.”

In another paper, in Policy Perspective, Jason Rohr, an ecologist at the University of South Florida, who served on an E.P.A. panel, criticized the “lucrative ‘science for hire’ industry, where scientists are employed to dispute data.” He wrote that a Syngenta-funded review of the atrazine literature had arguably misrepresented more than fifty studies and made a hundred and forty-four inaccurate or misleading statements, of which “96.5% appeared to be beneficial for Syngenta.” Rohr, who has conducted several experiments involving atrazine, said that, at conferences, “I regularly get peppered with questions from Syngenta cronies trying to discount my research. They try to poke holes in the research rather than appreciate the adverse effects of the chemicals.” He said, “I have colleagues whom I’ve tried to recruit, and they’ve told me that they’re not willing to delve into this sort of research, because they don’t want the headache of having to defend their credibility.”

Deborah Cory-Slechta, a former member of the E.P.A.’s science advisory board, said that she, too, felt that Syngenta was trying to undermine her work. A professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Cory-Slechta studies how the herbicide paraquat may contribute to diseases of the nervous system. “The folks from Syngenta used to follow me to my talks and tell me I wasn’t using ‘human-relevant doses,’ ” she said. “They would go up to my students and try to intimidate them. There was this sustained campaign to make it look like my science wasn’t legitimate.”

Syngenta denied repeated requests for interviews, but Ann Bryan, its senior manager for external communications, told me in an e-mail that some of the studies I was citing were unreliable or unsound. When I mentioned a recent paper in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, which showed associations between a mother’s exposure to atrazine and the likelihood that her son will have an abnormally small penis, undescended testes, or a deformity of the urethra—defects that have increased in the past several decades—she said that the study had been “reviewed by independent scientists, who found numerous flaws.” She recommended that I speak with the author of the review, David Schwartz, a neuroscientist, who works for Innovative Science Solutions, a consulting firm that specializes in “product defense” and strategies that “give you the power to put your best data forward.” Schwartz told me that epidemiological studies can’t eliminate confounding variables or make claims about causation. “We’ve been incredibly misled by this type of study,” he said.

In 2012, in its settlement of the class-action suits, Syngenta agreed to pay a hundred and five million dollars to reimburse more than a thousand water systems for the cost of filtering atrazine from drinking water, but the company denies all wrongdoing. Bryan told me that “atrazine does not and, in fact, cannot cause adverse health effects at any level that people would ever be exposed to in the real-world environment.” She wrote that she was “troubled by a suggestion that we have ever tried to discredit anyone. Our focus has always been on communicating the science and setting the record straight.” She noted that “virtually every well-known brand, or even well-known issue, has a communications program behind it. Atrazine’s no different.”

Last August, Hayes put his experiments on hold. He said that his fees for animal care had risen eightfold in a decade, and that he couldn’t afford to maintain his research program. He accused the university of charging him more than other researchers in his department; in response, the director of the office of laboratory-animal care sent detailed charts illustrating that he is charged according to standard campus-wide rates, which have increased for most researchers in recent years. In an online Forbes op-ed, Jon Entine, a journalist who is listed in Syngenta’s records as a supportive “third party,” accused Hayes of being attached to conspiracy theories, and of leading the “international regulatory community on a wild goose chase,” which “borders on criminal.”

By late November, Hayes’s lab had resumed work. He was using private grants to support his students rather than to pay outstanding fees, and the lab was accumulating debt. Two days before Thanksgiving, Hayes and his students discussed their holiday plans. He was wearing an oversized orange sweatshirt, gym shorts, and running shoes, and a former student, Diana Salazar Guerrero, was eating fries that another student had left on the table. Hayes encouraged her to come to his Thanksgiving dinner and to move into the bedroom of his son, who is now a student at Oberlin. Guerrero had just put down half the deposit on a new apartment, but Hayes was disturbed by her description of her new roommate. “Are you sure you can trust him?” he asked.

Hayes had just returned from Mar del Plata, Argentina. He had flown fifteen hours and driven two hundred and fifty miles to give a thirty-minute lecture on atrazine. Guerrero said, “Sometimes I’m just, like, ‘Why don’t you let it go, Tyrone? It’s been fifteen years! How do you have the energy for this?’ ” With more scientists documenting the risks of atrazine, she assumed he’d be inclined to move on. “Originally, it was just this crazy guy at Berkeley, and you can throw the Berserkley thing at anyone,” she said. “But now the tide is turning.”

In a recent paper in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Hayes and twenty-one other scientists applied the criteria of Sir Austin Bradford Hill, who, in 1965, outlined the conditions necessary for a causal relationship, to atrazine studies across different vertebrate classes. They argued that independent lines of evidence consistently showed that atrazine disrupts male reproductive development. Hayes’s lab was working on two more studies that explore how atrazine affects the sexual behavior of frogs. When I asked him what he would do if the E.P.A., which is conducting another review of the safety of atrazine this year, were to ban the herbicide, he joked, “I’d probably get depressed again.”

Not long ago, Hayes saw a description of himself on Wikipedia that he found disrespectful, and he wasn’t sure whether it was an attack by Syngenta or whether there were simply members of the public who thought poorly of him. He felt deflated when he remembered the arguments he’d had with Syngenta-funded pundits. “It’s one thing if you go after me because you have a philosophical disagreement with my science or if you think I’m raising alarm where there shouldn’t be any,” he said. “But they didn’t even have their own opinions. Someone was paying them to take a position.” He wondered if there was something inherently insane about the act of whistle-blowing; maybe only crazy people persisted. He was ready for a fight, but he seemed to be searching for his opponent.

One of his first graduate students, Nigel Noriega, who runs an organization devoted to conserving tropical forests, told me that he was still recovering from the experience of his atrazine research, a decade before. He had come to see science as a rigid culture, “its own club, an élite society,” Noriega said. “And Tyrone didn’t conform to the social aspects of being a scientist.” Noriega worried that the public had little understanding of the context that gives rise to scientific findings. “It is not helpful to anyone to assume that scientists are authoritative,” he said. “A good scientist spends his whole career questioning his own facts. One of the most dangerous things you can do is believe.” ♦

*An earlier version of this article did not properly credit the organization that produced and co-published the report with Environmental Health News; it was 100Reporters.

Brasil consome 14 agrotóxicos proibidos no mundo (Portal IG)

JC e-mail 4901, de 24 de fevereiro de 2014

Especialista indica que pelo menos 30% de 20 alimentos analisados não poderiam estar na mesa do brasileiro

Os indicadores que apontam o pujante agronegócio como a galinha dos ovos de ouro da economia não incluem um dado relevante para a saúde: o Brasil é maior importador de agrotóxicos do planeta. Consome pelo menos 14 tipos de venenos proibidos no mundo, dos quais quatro, pelos riscos à saúde humana, foram banidos no ano passado, embora pesquisadores suspeitem que ainda estejam em uso na agricultura.

Em 2013 foram consumidos um bilhão de litros de agrotóxicos no País – uma cota per capita de 5 litros por habitante e movimento de cerca de R$ 8 bilhões no ascendente mercado dos venenos.

Assita Agrotóxicos afetam a saúde de 12 milhões na Argentina

Dos agrotóxicos banidos, pelo menos um, o Endosulfan, prejudicial aos sistemas reprodutivo e endócrino, aparece em 44% das 62 amostras de leite materno analisadas por um grupo de pesquisadores da Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso (UFMT) no município de Lucas do Rio Verde, cidade que vive o paradoxo de ícone do agronegócio e campeã nacional das contaminações por agrotóxicos. Lá se despeja anualmente, em média, 136 litros de venenos por habitante.

Na pesquisa coordenada pelo médico professor da UFMT Wanderlei Pignati, os agrotóxicos aparecem em todas as 62 amostras do leite materno de mães que pariram entre 2007 e 2010, onde se destacam, além do Endosulfan, outros dois venenos ainda não banidos, o Deltametrina, com 37%, e o DDE, versão modificada do potente DDT, com 100% dos casos. Em Lucas do Rio Verde, aparecem ainda pelo menos outros três produtos banidos, o Paraquat, que provocou um surto de intoxicação aguda em crianças e idosos na cidade, em 2007, o Metamidofóis, e o Glifosato, este, presente em 70 das 79 amostras de sangue e urina de professores da área rural junto com outro veneno ainda não proibido, o Piretroides.

Veja também: Agrotóxico contamina leite materno

Na lista dos proibidos em outros países estão ainda em uso no Brasil estão o Tricolfon, Cihexatina, Abamectina, Acefato, Carbofuran, Forato, Fosmete, Lactofen, Parationa Metílica e Thiram.

Chuva de lixo tóxico
“São lixos tóxicos na União Europeia e nos Estados Unidos. O Brasil lamentavelmente os aceita”, diz a toxicologista Márcia Sarpa de Campos Mello, da Unidade Técnica de Exposição Ocupacional e Ambiental do Instituto Nacional do Câncer (Inca), vinculado ao Ministério da Saúde. Conforme aponta a pesquisa feita em Lucas do Rio Verde, os agrotóxicos cancerígenos aparecem no corpo humano pela ingestão de água, pelo ar, pelo manuseio dos produtos e até pelos alimentos contaminados.

Mais:Estudante morre após tomar agrotóxico vendido como emagrecedor

Venenos como o Glifosato são despejados por pulverização aérea ou com o uso de trator, contaminam solo, lençóis freáticos, hortas, áreas urbanas e depois sobem para atmosfera. Com as precipitações pluviométricas, retornam em forma de “chuva de agrotóxico”, fenômeno que ocorre em todas as regiões agrícolas mato-grossenses estudadas. Os efeitos no organismo humano são confirmados por pesquisas também em outros municípios e regiões do país.

O Programa de Análise de Resíduos de Agrotóxicos em Alimentos (Para), da Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (Anvisa), segundo a pesquisadora do Inca, mostrou níveis fortes de contaminação em produtos como o arroz, alface, mamão, pepino, uva e pimentão, este, o vilão, em 90% das amostras coletadas. Mas estão também em praticamente toda a cadeia alimentar, como soja, leite e carne, que ainda não foram incluídas nas análises.

O professor Pignati diz que os resultados preliminares apontam que pelo menos 30% dos 20 alimentos até agora analisados não poderiam sequer estar na mesa do brasileiro. Experiências de laboratórios feitas em animais demonstram que os agrotóxicos proibidos na União Europeia e Estados Unidos são associados ao câncer e a outras doenças de fundo neurológico, hepático, respiratórios, renais e má formação genética.

Câncer em alta
A pesquisadora do Inca lembra que os agrotóxicos podem não ser o vilão, mas fazem parte do conjunto de fatores que implicam no aumento de câncer no Brasil cuja estimativa, que era de 518 mil novos casos no período 2012/2013, foi elevada para 576 mil casos em 2014 e 2015. Entre os tipos de câncer, os mais suscetíveis aos efeitos de agrotóxicos no sistema hormonal são os de mama e de próstata. No mesmo período, segundo Márcia, o Inca avaliou que o câncer de mama aumentou de 52.680 casos para 57.129.

Na mesma pesquisa sobre o leite materno, a equipe de Pignati chegou a um dado alarmante, discrepante de qualquer padrão: num espaço de dez anos, os casos de câncer por 10 mil habitantes, em Lucas do Rio Verde, saltaram de três para 40. Os problemas de malformação por mil nascidos saltaram de cinco para 20. Os dados, naturalmente, reforçam as suspeitas sobre o papel dos agrotóxicos.

Pingati afirma que os grandes produtores desdenham da proibição dos venenos aqui usados largamente, com uma irresponsável ironia: “Eles dizem que não exportam seus produtos para a União Europeia ou Estados Unidos, e sim para mercados africanos e asiáticos.”

Apesar dos resultados alarmantes das pesquisas em Lucas do Rio Verde, o governo mato-grossense deu um passo atrás na prevenção, flexibilizando por decreto, no ano passado, a legislação que limitava a pulverização por trator a 300 metros de rios, nascentes, córregos e residências. “O novo decreto é um retrocesso. O limite agora é de 90 metros”, lamenta o professor.

“Não há um único brasileiro que não esteja consumindo agrotóxico. Viramos mercado de escoamento do veneno recusado pelo resto do mundo”, diz o médico Guilherme Franco Netto, assessor de saúde ambiental da Fundação Osvaldo Cruz (Fiocruz). Na sexta-feira, diante da probabilidade de agravamento do cenário com o afrouxamento legal, a Fiocruz emitiu um documento chamado de “carta aberta”, em que convoca outras instituições de pesquisa e os movimentos sociais do campo ligados à agricultura familiar para uma ofensiva contra o poder (econômico e político) do agronegócio e seu forte lobby em toda a estrutura do governo federal.

Reação da Ciência
A primeira trincheira dessa batalha mira justamente o Palácio do Planalto e um decreto assinado, no final do ano passado, pela presidente Dilma Rousseff. Regulamentado por portaria, a medida é inspirada numa lei específica e dá exclusividade ao Ministério da Agricultura _ histórico reduto da influente bancada ruralista no Congresso _ para declarar estado de emergência fitossanitária ou zoossanitária diante do surgimento de doenças ou pragas que possam afetar a agropecuária e sua economia.

Essa decisão, até então era tripartite, com a participação do Ministério da Saúde, através da Anvisa, e do Ministério do Meio Ambiente, pelo Ibama. O decreto foi publicado em 28 de outubro. Três dias depois, o Ministério da Agricultura editou portaria declarando estado de emergência diante do surgimento de uma lagarta nas plantações, a Helicoverpaarmigera, permitindo, então, para o combate, a importação de Benzoato de Emamectina, agrotóxico que a multinacional Syngenta havia tentado, sem sucesso, registrar em 2007, mas que foi proibido pela Anvisa por conter substâncias tóxicas ao sistema neurológico.

Na carta, assinada por todo o conselho deliberativo, a Fiocruz denuncia “a tendência de supressão da função reguladora do Estado”, a pressão dos conglomerados que produzem os agroquímicos, alerta para os inequívocos “riscos, perigos e danos provocados à saúde pelas exposições agudas e crônicas aos agrotóxicos” e diz que com prerrogativa exclusiva à Agricultura, a população está desprotegida.

A entidade denunciou também os constantes ataques diretos dos representantes do agronegócio às instituições e seus pesquisadores, mas afirma que com continuará zelando pela prevenção e proteção da saúde da população. A entidade pede a “revogação imediata” da lei e do decreto presidencial e, depois de colocar-se à disposição do governo para discutir um marco regulatório para os agrotóxicos, fez um alerta dramático:

“A Fiocruz convoca a sociedade brasileira a tomar conhecimento sobre essas inaceitáveis mudanças na lei dos agrotóxicos e suas repercussões para a saúde e a vida.”

Para colocar um contraponto às alegações da bancada ruralista no Congresso, que foca seu lobby sob o argumento de que não há nexo comprovado de contaminação humana pelo uso de veneno nos alimentos e no ambiente, a Fiocruz anunciou, em entrevista ao iG, a criação de um grupo de trabalho que, ao longo dos próximos dois anos e meio, deverá desenvolver a mais profunda pesquisa já realizada no país sobre os efeitos dos agrotóxicos – e de suas inseparáveis parceiras, as sementes transgênicas – na saúde pública.

O cenário que se desenha no coração do poder, em Brasília, deve ampliar o abismo entre os ministérios da Agricultura, da Fazenda e do Planejamento, de um lado, e da Saúde, do Meio Ambiente e do Desenvolvimento Agrário, de outro. Reflexo da heterogênea coalizão de governo, esta será também uma guerra ideológica em torno do modelo agropecuário. “Não se trata de esquerdismo desvairado e nem de implicância com o agronegócio. Defendemos sua importância para o país, mas não podemos apenas assistir à expansão aguda do consumo de agrotóxicos e seus riscos com a exponencial curva ascendente nos últimos seis anos”, diz Guilherme Franco Netto. A queda de braços é, na verdade, para reduzir danos do modelo agrícola de exportação e aumentar o plantio sem agrotóxicos.

Caso de Polícia
“A ciência coloca os parâmetros que já foram seguidos em outros países. O problema é que a regulação dos agrotóxicos está subordinada a um conjunto de interesses políticos e econômicos. A saúde e o ambiente perderam suas prerrogativas”, afirma o pesquisador Luiz Cláudio Meirelles, da Fiocruz. Até novembro de 2012, durante 11 anos, ele foi o organizador gerente de toxicologia da Anvisa, setor responsável por analisar e validar os agrotóxicos que podem ser usados no mercado.

Meirelles foi exonerado uma semana depois de denunciar complexas falcatruas, com fraude, falsificação e suspeitas de corrupção em processos para liberação de seis agrotóxicos. Num deles, um funcionário do mesmo setor, afastado por ele no mesmo instante em que o caso foi comunicado ao Ministério Público Federal, chegou a falsificar sua assinatura.

“Meirelles tinha a função de banir os agrotóxicos nocivos à saúde e acabou sendo banido do setor de toxicologia”, diz sua colega do Inca, Márcia Sarpa de Campos Mello. A denúncia resultou em dois inquéritos, um na Polícia Federal, que apura suposto favorecimento a empresas e suspeitas de corrupção, e outro cível, no MPF. Nesse, uma das linhas a serem esclarecidas são as razões que levaram o órgão a afastar Meirelles.

As investigações estão longe de terminar, mas forçaram já a Anvisa – pressionada pelas suspeitas -, a executar a maior devassa já feita em seu setor de toxicologia, passando um pente fino em 796 processos de liberação avaliados desde 2008. A PF e o MPF, por sua vez, estão debruçados no órgão regulador que funciona como o coração do agronegócio e do mercado de venenos.

(Vasconcelo Quadros/Portal IG)