Monday, October 27, 2003

Syngenta/Ecorisk Atrazine Dispute?

Erin O'Connor points out a "creeping corporatism" scare story about a Berkeley researcher who ran afoul of a no-independent-publishing clause in a contract with Ecorisk, Inc., a research company doing work on the effects of atrazine (popular American herbicide) on amphibians. An examination of their projects page shows that this extensive survey is Ecorisk's only current project of note, and that they've been working on it for several years.

This article gives some idea of the controversy. Here is a press release that Syngenta released last year.

My feeling is that the Berkeley member of this particular research project decided to bail on the project when it became clear that the rest of the panel showed little inclination to run with the most alarming interpretation of their collective data. He apparently pulled out of the project in 2000. It's hard to tell who has their thumb on the scales in the scientific dispute - I've been involved in similar situations in which the activists were the malefactors. The contractual dispute, on the other hand, stinks. Hayes's publications seem to be several years after his 2000 resignation from the Ecorisk project. Exercising contractual restraint upon a research scientist who has resigned from your project is a damned ugly way to run a business. It's as bad as AccuWeather's noncompetition clauses, in its own way.

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