Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Leaders Under Construction

I spent yesterday in a sea of blue.

Blue FFA jackets that is.
I was in Decatur for the YEA! Youth Conference put on by the Illinois Farm Bureau and affiliates, where more than 450 FFA members from across the state came together to be “Leaders Under Construction.” Many great agriculture industry representatives were present to help the students discover the tools necessary for being a successful leader in agriculture. They had 10 different sessions to choose from, ranging from communication to career development.

I spent most of my time in the career fair representing Illinois Corn, but did sneak away for a few minutes to watch Tricia Braid Terry lead a session on social media. She did a wonderful job getting the kids motivated to get on the social media bandwagon!

It was great to meet with so many wonderful kids and see what the future of ag holds. I think it says a lot when over 400 high school students come together and have the maturity and respect these young people had. It is not only a testament to FFA and what a great program it is, but I think it is goes to show what great farming/agricultural families these kids come from.

You can see coverage on the Illinois Farm Bureau Youth Education facebook page.

By: Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Thoughts on an Atrazine Lecture by Tyrone Hayes

After more than 6,000 studies have been presented to the EPA indicating its safety and after its approval (once again) by the EPA in 2006, atrazine is undergoing yet another EPA review.

I felt priviledged to attend a lecture by one of the scientists in the EPA’s back pocket on this issue, Tyrone Hayes of University of California Berkeley, last week as he presented his research on the Illinois State University campus. The lecture was attended by what seemed to be mostly professors on campus with quite a few college students thrown in. Together, we all learned why Hayes believes atrazine causes chemical castration, homosexuality, and hermaphroditism.

His claims seemed far fetched to this farm girl. But who am I to argue with science, right?

Except experts agree that this isn’t really science. In 2002, eight American, Canadian and South African researchers essentially discredited Hayes’ methology, concluding, “Like the laboratory work, the field studies suffer from major inadequacies.” And in 2005, the EPA’s own Deputy Director of Office of Pesticide Programs testified that “all of the available information was scientifically flawed. None of his laboratory studies on atrazine were conducted in accordance with standard protocols.”

Knowing this ahead of the lecture left me wondering while he spoke:

• Why is Illinois State University interested in one person’s laboratory work that no other scientist can reproduce?

• Farmers have been using atrazine for over 50 years. If castration and hermaphroditism are real, substantiated problems, wouldn’t we know that by now? Wouldn’t that work be verified by other scientists or a theme of rural dwellers having these issues be noticed over the past 50 years?

• Why isn’t Dr. Hayes conducting this research on some species that actually live in Illinois or even North America? To date, his research focuses only on African reed frogs which are not found in our area. Also, what about research on other animals? Some researchers have reported that frog hermaphroditism has been found around the world for decades – long before the introduction of atrazine.

And then, I have to wonder that if I can question these things during a fifty minute lecture based only on my limited science facilities, what else could be lacking when a qualified scientific researcher reviews the work?

Sadly, we’ll never know. As we’ve noticed a bit too much lately, EPA bureaucrats don’t care much for qualified scientific review.

By: Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Project Coordinator