Why this Berkley professor raps about transgender frogs

Written by Annalise May
Posted July 31, 2018

Let's start at the beginning…

Dr. Tyrone Hayes loves frogs.

In 1997, the agribusiness giant, Novartis (now known as Syngenta), approached Dr. Hayes to research the herbicide atrazine.

Atrazine, first introduced in 1958, is an essential component of the United States' agriculture business.

Today, sales of atrazine in the United States reach about $300 million a year, making it the second most widely used herbicide.

Without atrazine, the national corn harvest would lose approximately a 6% yield. This loss is equal to about two million dollars.

Syngenta, alarmed at recent accusations of atrazine toxicity, invested in a panel called EcoRisk, hiring various university scientists to secure the future of their lucrative chemical.

They certainly chose the right man for the job.

Dr. Hayes explains how the chemical works:

“So you would spray atrazine all over the soil so that nothing grows up. And when you plant the corn…there's no weeds to compete with the corn…”

“It's also used in forestry. It's also used on golf courses. And in some states, it can be used on your lawn.”[1]

To the detriment of Syngenta, the results of Dr. Hayes’ initial research revealed that atrazine infiltrated the nearby water supply.

This chemical was present in the ground water and poisoning the animals of the surrounding ecosystem.

Syngenta was not expecting these results...

So, they cut his funding, he left EcoRisk, and pursued his research elsewhere.

Dr. Hayes needed to find out what this poison may be doing to his beloved frogs.

Frogs: M to F

In 2002, Dr. Hayes co-authored a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which expanded on the findings of his initial research.

Shockingly, it revealed that exposure to the herbicide caused male frogs to grow eggs!

That's right… a widely-used chemical that transforms male frogs to females.

Did we stumble upon a compound that induces a transgender identity?

…not quite.

Chemical Castration

First, Dr. Hayes noticed that the larynx of atrazine-exposed male frogs did not develop properly.

He suspected a link between atrazine exposure and dysfunctional hormone production.

It is now understood that atrazine triggers the release of the enzyme aromatase, which increases estrogen production.

Dr. Hayes explains:

“But what atrazine does is it turns on an enzyme - the machinery if you will - aromatase, that converts testosterone into estrogen...

“And as a result, these exposed males lose their testosterone - they're chemically castrated - and they're subsequently feminized because now they're making the female hormone.”[1]

This extra estrogen fueled the development of ovaries in male frogs.

His research also revealed that exposure to atrazine and the following hormone imbalanced caused homosexual mating behavior.

Dr. Hayes explains the above image:

“…So these are actually two brothers consummating a relationship. And not only do these genetic males mate with other males, they actually have the capacity to lay eggs even though they're genetic males.”[1]

Frogs & Beyond

It’s scary, but…this finding generalizes beyond frogs.

To start, the European Union, far more cautious than the United States, banned the use of atrazine due to its insidious toxicity in response to Hayes’ 2002 results.[2]

It is too dangerous for human exposure.

The United States did not make the same changes.

Not only is our delicate ecosystem continuously laced with atrazine, the herbicide also builds up in our groundwater.

The frogs in Dr. Hayes’ research were not “drenched” in the chemical.

They were only exposed to the amount of atrazine present in the rainwater, 0.01 parts per billion.

This amount is thirty times below what the EPA permits in water![1]

In fact, it is likely that just about everybody has some level of atrazine in their system.

Unlike the simplicity of cutting out GMO’s from your diet, atrazine builds up in the body over time and its exposure is inevitable.

Atrazine is heavily applied in the agricultural fields of California, which provides 50% of the agricultural sales for the United States.[3]

For example, one California county alone grows 95% of the country’s lettuce.

We can’t all simply give up lettuce!

It is also necessary for corn production… the product that has found its way into almost everything we eat (corn syrup anyone?)

Atrazine use by year and crop, USGS 2015

Whistleblower Scientist

Dr. Hayes became the face of gender-flipping frogs to spread the warning about atrazine.

After his initial study in 2002, he replicated his research with different animals and produced the same results.

Once he replicated this result in rats, he became concerned about the risk of exposure for humans.

Dr. Hayes explains one hypothesized risk, that atrazine could contribute to the development of breast cancer and birth defects:

“So what we see in rats, for example, is that atrazine increases estrogen… And so if you get breast cancer - which is estrogen-dependent - estrogen drives the cancer so to speak - atrazine itself may not be causing the cancer. But by causing this hormone imbalance, it creates a physiological environment that's conducive to breast cancer, that promotes breast cancer.[1]

…atrazine is associated with at least three birth defects in humans.

Gastroschisis, where the intestines grow on the outside of the body.

Choanal atresia, where there's a hole in the baby's face.

And malformed male genitals.

So when you're exposed to a chemical that decreases testosterone and increases estrogen, in every animal that has been studied you get a baby that looks like it has too little testosterone and too much estrogen.”[1]

Atrazine compound

So why haven’t you heard about this yet?

The company Syngenta has tried to silence Dr. Hayes since his first study 15 years ago.[iv]

“Discredit Hayes”

When Dr. Hayes revealed his results to Syngenta, they asked him to replicate his results.

He did, over and over… still revealing the dangers of atrazine.

So, they asked him to alter his results to fit their agenda![2]

Dr. Hayes refused, and began his 15-year journey to spread the truth.

He would tell the students that worked in his lab:

“Truth cannot be purchased and, this, truth cannot be altered by money.”[5]

As Hayes continued his research after cutting ties with Syngenta, he began to feel paranoid that the company was watching his every move.

He feared that the company would ruin his reputation, threaten his job, and undermine his research efforts.

Dr. Hayes’ wife and students noted his unusual behavior, such as audio recording any conversation related to his work and backing up all of his emails on separate hard drives.

One student remembers:

“In the beginning, I was really worried for his safety. But then I couldn’t tell where the reality ended and the exaggeration crept in.”[5]

Hayes was soon convinced that he was being followed by Syngenta representatives.

When he presented his research at conferences, he noted strangers that stood in the back, vigorously taking notes, and asking him questions such as, “why can’t anyone replicate your research?”[5]

Although on the outside it may have been easy to think that Dr. Hayes was paranoid, the fear was real for him.

He felt that he was not only being stalked, but also threatened with violence.

The professor remembers a stranger whispering to him right before a presentation at a conference that he would be lynched and his family would be killed if he did not stop pursuing his research on atrazine.[2]

Luckily, Hayes did not give up, and soon his validation would come.

Finally, when one of two class-action lawsuits against Syngenta in 2012 forced them to unseal hundreds of memos, notes, and e-mails, Dr. Hayes’ suspicions were proven correct.[5]

In the notes of Syngenta’s strategy meetings, their first goal is clearly written…

“discredit Hayes!”

These unsealed documents also revealed that Syngenta had been monitoring the scientist’s emails, phone calls, lectures, presentations, students, and family life.

The P.R. team of the agriculture giant even proposed that Syngenta purchase “Tyrone Hayes” as a search word on Google so that the first thing that comes up when someone tries to find his research is an advertisement that says: “Tyrone Hayes Not Credible.” [5]

Other methods of discrediting included:

“Have his word audited by 3rd party,”

“Ask journals to retract,”

“Set trap to entice him to sue,”

“Investigate funding,” and…

“Investigate wife.”[5]

What we can learn from these unsealed documents is…

A company would only go to such lengths to discredit someone if they had truthful as well as damaging scientific results!

The Underdog: A Frog’s Hero

Dr. Hayes is a unique researcher, unlike the usual “elite” of academia.

He grew up in South Carolina, in a family and community in which he was one of the only to graduate high school.

He followed his amphibian passion that led to a full scholarship at Harvard and his research position, still to this day, at Berkley.

He never gave up his research on atrazine despite all of the blocks that were put in place by the monetary giants of the agriculture industry.

“The secret to a happy, successful life of paranoia,” he liked to say, “is to keep careful track of your persecutors.”[5]

Not only was Dr. Hayes unphased by the silencing tactics of the industry, he also has attempted to find ways to communicate his research results to beyond academia.

Unlike conventional scientists, he tries to get the message to people outside of the scientific community.

He has appeared on numerous news interviews, magazine articles, and recently a TED talk.

One of his more unconventional methods is his…


“The Atrazine Rap”
By Dr. Tyrone Hayes

So let me remind you
don't put this behind you
Atrazine ain't a good thing
it causes male frogs to grow eggs
contributes to extra legs
and exposed males don't want to sing
If that ain't enough
when you combine the stuff
with a few other pesticides
It causes greater than additive effects
unpredictable defects
exposed larvae don't grow
and they develop slow
and they contract diseases that otherwise could be beaten
you see this exposure effects their composure and determines who gonna eat and who gonna be eaten

…how will it affect you?
you may never know
because if the EPA
has their way
it may take 40 years or more
so if you're sitting there thinking
that the water you're drinking
is fine well that ain't the case
because you see this endocrine disruption that leads to biological disruption is relevant to all species
including the human race
so what? you might say
who cares anyway?
if somehow you still don't see the connection to you
I'm here to remind you that your son or daughter will develop in water
just like my tadpoles do
and so as we approach the hour I want to remind you that you've got the power
and that the whole world is waiting on your stance.

*mic drop*

That’s Dr. Hayes, our hero!

To find more information about how to protest the use of atrazine in the United States agriculture industry, check out the links below:

To your health,


Annalise May
Contributing Editor, Clear Health Now

[1] https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=497844694
[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mP-6Gp5RbjQ
[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu0IXMTFY9Q
[4] https://www.stltoday.com/business/local/syngenta-pays-million-to-settle-herbicide-lawsuit/article_34461902-a681-11e1-8baf-001a4bcf6878.html
[5] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/02/10/a-valuable-reputation


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