Ethics in Medicine

Why We Have Cancer

Kristen Sparrow • February 07, 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.
Tyrone Hayes and his battle against Big Chemical for public health

This is the hair raising story of a biology researcher, scientist, and UC Berkeley professor Tyrone Hayes, who tried to sound the alarm about a fertilizer called “atrazine.”  He found atrazine was a hormone disruptor and lead to genital malformations in frogs.  Further epidemiological studies showed that children born during fertilizing season in the midwest where  atrazine was used were more likely to have genital malformations also.  This New Yorker outlines the great lengths that Syngenta, the company that makes the fertilizer went to to discredit Hayes and to bully the E.P.A.(Environmental Protection Agency.) One learns in reading the article that this is standard operating procedure for these mega companies.  Why do we have so much cancer?  Read on.

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.”……

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… But the complex algorithms “quietly condone a tremendous amount of risk.” … “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.”…
…some people will say, ‘He [Tyrone Hayes] 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.”