And you thought frogs were slimy. They're nothing next to government officials whose allegiances lie with corporations over citizens.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is supposed to protect the environment and support the free flow of good scientific information. Instead, the head of the agency, a Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointee, seems more interested in quashing debate if it might offend corporate agribusiness.
The MPCA "uninvited" a scientist from the University of California, Berkeley, who was to give the keynote address at an upcoming conference. Professor Tyrone Hayes' topic was to be the possible link between farm chemicals and deformed frogs. That was too much for MPCA officials.
The topic couldn't be more important for Minnesota. It was students in Henderson who first found and brought to light the problem of deformed frogs. They discovered dozens of frogs with missing, extra and badly deformed legs in a pond near Henderson. The discovery set off an urgent search for causes. Researchers across the nation began looking for and finding similar problems.
Farm chemicals in ponds and lakes have always been considered one probable cause. Hayes' research suggests ways pesticides, including the widely used atrazine, may cause development problems in amphibians.
The discussion is even more important in light of a recent report on the extinction of amphibians worldwide. Of the 5,700 types of amphibians, 150 have become extinct and a third of the rest are at risk of disappearing.
We humans should want to know why. Chemicals are suspected in everything from increased breast cancer to more asthma cases. Because of their sensitivity, frogs are often the first indications that something is terribly wrong.
MPCA Commissioner Sheryl Corrigan, in an explanation that was harder to get your hands around than a slippery frog, claimed the professor was uninvited because she didn't think his research was new enough or worthy of a keynote address.
-- The Free Press (Mankato)
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