Syngenta Wants Reasons for Cali Chemical Blacklisting

By Nick Cahill, Courthouse News

SACRAMENTO (CN) – California officials refuse to issue documents on a decision to add a group of agricultural chemicals to its list of known carcinogens, Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta claims in court.

Syngenta claims the state withheld hundreds of pages from a public-records request regarding a decision to list the chemical group referred to as “triazines” under the California Safe Drinking Water & Toxic Enforcement Act.

The biotech giant says the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s reasons for listing triazines under Proposition 65 remain “shrouded” and is potentially withholding public records in order to hide agreements with third parties.

According to a complaint filed July 16 in Sacramento County Superior Court, OEHHA has failed to include correspondence between it and third parties – particularly the Sierra Club – regarding reasons and agreements to reclassify triazines as carcinogens.

While the state officially decided to list triazines under Proposition 65 in 2014, officials were having conversations with environmental groups years in advance, Syngenta alleges.

“Importantly, it appears that these documents were generated during the period from 2007 through 2012, before OEHHA announced the Sierra Club agreement and its decision to initiate the listing process for the triazines,” the complaint states.

Syngenta says the state settled a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club in 2013 and agreed to consider certain chemicals for listing under Proposition 65. But officials didn’t publicize certain aspects of the deal to consider listing triazine and other chemicals, the complaint says.

According to its website, OEHHA says the listing of triazines, a group of six chemicals used largely in pesticides, was based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency criteria and studies proving the chemicals cause reproductive harm to humans.

The federal government has been studying the link between triazine herbicides and ground water contamination since the 1990s, with studies revealing triazine degradation products were commonly found in Midwestern aquifers due to heavy use by farmers.

In 2012, Syngenta settled with several Midwest water districts for $105 million over claims its herbicides entered public-water supplies.
Syngenta is one the world’s largest producers of agricultural chemicals and seed products, with U.S. revenue topping $15 billion in 2014. Syngenta’s competitors include Monsanto, who has tried on several occasions to acquire the Swiss company.

Some of Syngenta’s pesticides include the active ingredient atrazine, which has been banned in the European Union and several other countries. Atrazine is part of the triazine class of chemicals that will be listed as a “known carcinogen” under Proposition 65 this October.
Last month, the EPA reached a settlement in a case with the Center for Biological Diversity and will begin analyzing the impacts of atrazine and glyphosate, the two most commonly used pesticides in the United States. The study will focus on the impacts of the pesticides on over 1,500 plant and animal species OEHHA Deputy Director for External and Legislative Affairs Sam Delson told Courthouse News that it is “confident that we have fully complied with the requirements of the California Public Records Act and are reviewing the lawsuit and have not yet determined our legal response.”

Syngenta is suing for a writ of mandate directing OEHHA to release all records it has exempted from the records request.

The company is represented by Dentons US of San Francisco and did not return messages for an interview request.

The photo “pesticde use” is copyrighted by Michelle Tribe on Flickr, under Creative Commons

This article first appeared at Courthouse News

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