American biologist and University of California Berkley professor, Dr. Tyrone Hayes, recently sat down with WDRT Community Radio in Viroqua, Wisconsin, to discuss his research findings on the herbicide atrazine. While working for the agrochemical corporation, Syngenta, Hayes discovered atrazine causes adverse health effects on male frogs. He found that atrazine is an endocrine disruptor that emasculates and feminizes frogs. Facing considerable opposition from his employers at Syngenta, Hayes fought to have his voice heard. As government-funded research decreases, Hayes worries his students will share a similar fate in the private sector. He says, “There’s an inherent conflict of interest when you’re funding people to study a product that you’re making money on.”

The interview also sheds light on social issues surrounding food health, including the number of health disparities in our country. Hayes argues that the differences can be attributed to low-income and minority communities who are more likely to live and work in areas with a greater risk of exposure. Hayes criticizes the industry’s cost-benefit approach to making decisions on food health. He states, “A monetary value is assigned to disease, impairments and shortened lives are weighed against the benefits of keeping a chemical in use.” Hayes believes these issues need to be addressed by the public, but has doubts given the public’s limited access to scientific research and academic journals.

Now an advocate for regulating pesticides and other chemicals, Hayes travels around the U.S. to discuss priorities in the agribusiness and why the public needs to get involved.

Listen to WDRT’s Eddy Nix and Organic Valley’s Theresa Marquez interview Dr. Tyrone Hayes on “Atrazine’s Impact on Frogs.”

Tyrone Hayes

Photo by Peg Skorpinski