EPA foe Stenholm lobbies for maker of toxic chemical

In a March 23 letter to The Hill, former Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-Texas) asserts that the weed killer atrazine is “an invaluable herbicide.” He goes on to accuse the Environmental Protection Agency of “bureaucratic overreach” because the EPA is fulfilling its statutory obligation to assess the health risks of this toxic chemical.

What the former congressman doesn’t mention is that the $11 billion Swiss company Syngenta — which sells atrazine to American farmers — paid Stenholm’s Washington law firm, Olsson Frank Weeda, $190,000 in lobbying fees last year alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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Stenholm’s letter to The Hill, moreover, comes fresh on the heels of Syngenta’s latest press release, March 2, hailing atrazine as “safe to use.” Stenholm’s letter is largely a condensation of Syngenta’s own PR material.

Atrazine, in fact, is a known endocrine disruptor. It has been tied to poor sperm quality in humans, birth defects in humans and lab animals, and even sex change in lab frogs. An estimated 33 million Americans drink atrazine in their water, according to The New York Times.

This chemical can’t even be used in Syngenta’s backyard; the European Union has banned it. Instead, the company pays lobbyists like Stenholm to protect its use here in our country.

The NRDC has no financial interest in atrazine but has litigated on the EPA review process and has publicly advocated for phasing out atrazine use.

The EPA has an obligation to protect the American people from this hazardous chemical. And The Hill has a responsibility to inform its readers when we are being exposed to corporate propaganda of a Swiss chemical company.

From Jennifer Sass, Ph.D., senior scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington

I received threats after voter study

I have been on the receiving end of threats and, believe me, they truly are upending. In 1975, I founded the California Voter Group, a nonprofit, educational organization created to increase voter turnout among 18- to 20-year-olds. Reps. Barry Goldwater Jr. (a Republican) and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (a Democrat) were among the 20 or so members of CVG’s advisory board. Because I wanted to maintain absolute neutrality, I did not attend any GOP or Democratic functions during the five years I ran the organization.

Then, the unspeakable happened. Days after Parade magazine published the results of a voter group study, I began receiving threats in the mail. Even though the study focused solely on California, I received hate-filled letters from people in at least 10 other states. The “J” and “N” words were not masked or implied. I had the overwhelming sense that, if I lived closer to the author’s home, I really would be at risk.

In the run-up to the recent healthcare reform vote and its subsequent passage, I can appreciate how passionate people have differences of opinion.

What I do not understand is the morphing of one’s opinion into a bold-faced threat. This has nothing to do with party affiliation. It’s about the rule of law and our unique brand of American culture. Having lived through this once before, threats of any kind simply cannot be tolerated in our society.

From Denny Freidenrich, First Strategies LLC, Laguna Beach, Calif.
 
Obama inconsistent on health, education

President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform bill expressed his firm belief that private insurance companies had corrupted Americans’ healthcare by putting profit over compassion for sick people. The healthcare bill sends to all of us the strong message that government intervention ensures equality in healthcare access.

President Obama’s education reforms, meanwhile, express his firm belief that public education has been corrupted by tenure, bureaucratic organization and the favoring of autocracy instead of meritocracy, amounting to a failure to offer a quality curriculum to all students. The president’s “Race to the Top” reforms seek to remove education from government’s control and privatize it by outsourcing education to private companies that run charter schools.

President Obama’s belief that government control of health insurance is needed to ensure healthcare for all of us and his belief that government control of education has ruined the quality of education for our children begs the question: Which one of his beliefs is wrong?

From Helen Tackett, Fullerton, Calif.