The story of an environmental scientist in the crosshairs of an herbicide manufacturer

The New Yorker has a fascinating story about a scientist who has spent his career studying the link between the herbicide atrazine and hormonal changes in humans and animals. Tyrone Hayes was one of the first scientists to find evidence of feminization in frogs linked to atrazine and the findings kicked off two decades of conflict between himself and Syngenta, the herbicide's manufacturer. At various points, Hayes felt like he was being watched and that there was attack campaign directed solely at him — both his professional life and his personal one. Turns out, he was right.

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  1. Aside from being horrified, corporate-ruled dystopia is supposed to be for Shadowrun, man, I am left wondering about what it is like to be one of the scientists who work in 'product defense' and various other industry-hatchetman-euphemism roles.

    While unfortunate, the fact that you can get lawyers and private investigators and the like of any moral fiber or none is not a surprise; but given the rigor (and, at least until you break through your, often protracted, training lack of reward) I'm a bit surprised that there's a supply of people who somehow decided to go into the sciences, made it through to the point of being suitably credentialed and all; but apparently now are sufficiently indifferent to doing science that they are willing to spend their time manufacturing FUD and nitpicking methods sections.

    What makes somebody like that tick?

  2. snig says:

    Someone should write a book about it. And possibly a movie.

    I wonder if we can lure a product defense hack into displaying their plumage.

    Boy, that Tyrone Hayes research certainly proved Syngenta is bad people!

    *readies binoculars

  3. From the article:

    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.

    from yesterdays news on an unrelated topic, for scale:

    "In its announcement, [CVS] management warned that it will lose around $2 billion in annual revenues from this decision [to stop selling tobacco in its stores]"

    $2 billion is a lot, but apparently it is the sort of money that can be walked away from, even by a corporate behemoth.

    and 2 billion is about the amount the US Gov't already subsidizes the corn industry, per: http://farm.ewg.org/progdetail.php?fips=00000&progcode=corn

  4. Salgak says:

    It's not that they're walking away from it, as much as changing revenue streams. They are expanding their MinitClinic operations in-store, and reportedly will be doing smoking-cessation training, etc. Because they get a nice fee for the clinics, and bonuses from the Feds for each person they wean off tobacco.

    Or: the short version: NOT selling tobacco, they'll make significantly more than selling it.

    Or the ultra-short version: if the question is "why", the answer is invariably "money".

    And I'm quite sure the same holds for corporate scientists defending atrazine, glyphosphate, etc. . .

  5. snig says:

    You could also argue they're doing it for the money, that liberal ass suckers like myself will feel better about them, and because they're doing some whitewashing of their image and the suckers will spend more lucre there. My response is still "good, and good for them". As a liberal ass sucker, I do feel better about spending my money there. Some shows of corporate responsibility should be rewarded.

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