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The Djinn is Out

“Argentina’s agricultural industry was dramatically transformed by the introduction of genetically modified plants in 1996. A country once known for its grass-fed beef is now dominated by genetically engineered soy, corn and cotton. Farmers in the Latin American country use twice as much pesticide per acre as farmers in the US, and those agrotoxins are applied by many farmers not wearing any protective gear and then drift into homes and schools. Since the introduction of these practices in Argentina by agrichemical companies such as Monsanto, cancer rates have skyrocketed and the number of birth defects has quadrupled.


Argentina was an early adopter of GMO technology when it was billed as the silver bullet to solve world hunger with increased crop productivity, and improved human and environmental health resulting from decreased pesticide use. The most widely used GMO crops, such as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready line of corn and soybeans, allow farmers to apply the herbicide glyphosate during and after seed plantings in order to kill weeds without risk of the main crop dying off. Today, almost all the corn, soy, and cottonproduced in the country are GMO.

Both the United States and Argentina produce almost exclusively GM soybeans. In these countries, GM soybeans are approved without restrictions and are treated just like conventional soybeans. Producers and government officials in the US and Argentina do not see a reason to keep GM and conventionally bred cultivars separate — whether during harvest, shipment, storage or processing. Soybean imports from these countries generally contain a high amount of GM content.

No Official Concern

Doctors warn that the rise in cancer and birth defects in Argentina may be attributable to the growing use of these pesticides.

This summer the non-profit organization GRAIN highlighted the “neocolonialist fervor” with which transnational agribusinesses were transforming parts of Latin America, including Argentina, into “The United Republic of Soybeans,” pushing genetically modified crops and sparking “a social and environmental catastrophe settling like a plague over the entire region.”

There has been no official concern about the problems caused by the widespread planting of transgenic soybeans and the high levels of agrotoxins this requires On the contrary, this model continues to be consolidated and defended by all of the region’s governments, which have adopted it as government policy in every case. At best — and only when societal pressure becomes too great — they have given slapdash consideration to the problems of agrotoxin poisoning, displacement of peasants and first peoples, land concentration, and loss of local production. But these are considered  “collateral impacts.”

GRAIN wrote:

Researchers in the U.S. have corroborated, GMO technology only decreases pesticide use for a short period of time. After the brief decline in Argentina, pesticide use soared from 9 million gallons in 1990 to 84 million gallons today as weed resistance developed to glyphosate. In response, agrichemical companies have encouraged the use of more hazardous and toxic chemicals to kill weeds. Argentinian farmers are now mixing in and applying herbicides such as 2,4-D, a chlorophenoxy herbicide that made up half of Agent Orange, the chemical mixture used to defoliate forests and croplands in the Vietnam War. 2,4-D has also been linked to kidney/liver damage, neurotoxicity, and birth defects. Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) delayed the introduction of a new generation of GMO crops resistant to 2,4-D.

Widespread Health Problems 

Aixa Cano, a shy 5-year-old who lives in Chaco, Argentina’s poorest province, was born with hairy moles all over her body. Her mother believes the skin condition was caused by contaminated water. Her neighbour, 2-year-old Camila Veron, was born with multiple organ problems and is severely disabled. Doctors told their mothers that agrochemicals may be to blame.

“They told me that the water made this happen because they spray a lot of poison here,” said Camila’s mother, Silvia Achaval.

“People who say spraying poison has no effect, I don’t know what sense that has because here you have the proof,” she added, pointing at her daughter.

Fabian Tomasi, 47, never wore any protective gear in the years he spent pumping poisons into crop-dusting planes. Today, he is near death from polyneuropathy, a neurological disorder that has left him emaciated.

“I prepared millions of liters of poison without any kind of protection, no gloves, masks or special clothing. I didn’t know anything. I only learned later what it did to me, after contacting scientists,” he said.

Now, at 47, he’s a living skeleton, so weak he can hardly swallow or go to the bathroom on his own.

Schoolteacher Andrea Druetta lives in Santa Fe Province, the heart of Argentina’s soy country, where agrochemical spraying is banned within 500 meters (550 yards) of populated areas. But soy is planted just 30 meters (33 yards) from her back door. Her boys were showered in chemicals recently while swimming in the backyard pool.

After Sofia Gatica lost her newborn to kidney failure, she filed a complaint that led to Argentina’s first criminal convictions for illegal spraying….”

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