For all we know, this sort of thing goes on all the time. But it’s not often stories like this break out into the media:
“Tyrone Hayes, a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, was hired by agribusiness giant Syngenta to study the herbicide atrazine, which is used on half the corn crops in the US, as well as Christmas tree farms and golf courses. What Hayes found was exactly what Syngenta didn’t want to hear: in studying atrazine’s effects on frogs, he discovered that the pesticide has a disruptive effect on the endocrine system.
Ready for this? According to Hayes, it apparently interferes with male development, causes males to switch gender to female and develop ovaries and eggs, drops testosterone production, “chemically castrates” male frogs and later leads to development of homosexual behavior as the gender-altered frogs begin to prefer same-sex mating.
Hayes’ research suggests that atrazine has the same effects on humans—however, before a thousand headlines like “Shocker: Corn Makes You Gay” are launched into the blogosphere, I’ll note that while researchers can often switch sexual orientation in animals by altering hormone levels, there aren’t significant differences in hormone levels between gay and straight humans. (In fact, gay men often have higher testosterone levels than straight men, not lower.) Yet I’ll also note that a 2007 study found that testosterone levels have massively dropped in American males since the early twentieth century, for reasons unknown. Chemical and pesticide tampering with the food supply would be an obvious place to begin experimental inquiry.
Also according to Hayes, Syngenta was allegedly so displeased with the results that they began asking him to change or misrepresent data, eventually telling him not to publish his findings. They also hired new scientists to discredit the data, attempted to discredit Hayes and, according to the Berkeley scientist, began stalking him and making threats of violence, including threats of lynching (Hayes is black), sexual violence and even threats of sexual violence against his wife and children. Also according to Hayes, the University of California, Berkeley offered little aid or protection, expressing far more concern about the financial bottom line than any kind of truth or responsibility to its academics….”