Monsanto’s pesticides poisoning Argentina – report

Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
Pesticides sold by Monsanto are behind health problems ranging from birth defects to elevated rates of cancer in Argentina, a report has revealed. A lack of regulations has led to widespread misuse of Monsanto’s products in the Latin American nation.

The Associated Press carried out a report that found a clear link between the use of pesticides sold by Monsanto and growing health problems in Argentina. Absence of regulations and their enforcement has led to widespread misuse of Monsanto’s chemicals across the country. In turn, this has caused multiple health problems in the rural population.

AP documented a number of occasions when toxic pesticides were used close to populated areas and consequently contaminated the water supply and caused health problems.

Santa Fe Province, which is Argentina’s number one producer of cereals, forbids the use of pesticides less than 500 meters from populated areas. However, AF uncovered evidence that toxic chemicals were used as little as 30 meters from people’s homes.

Schoolteacher Andrea Druetta who lives in Santa Fe told AP that her children had been covered in pesticides recently while swimming in the garden pool.

In addition, studies show that cancer rates in the province are two to four times higher than the rest of the country, while in the neighboring province of Chaco birth defects have quadrupled since the introduction of biotechnology in the agricultural industry around a decade ago.

Researchers also found high rates of thyroid disorders and chronic respiratory illness in Santa Fe.

Deadly cocktails

Monsanto’s chemical pesticide, Roundup, contains a substance called glyphosate. While the substance has been deemed harmless, AP found that it is being used in a number of ways in Argentina that are “unanticipated by regulatory science or specifically banned by existing law.”

Doctor Damian Vernassi from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Rosario told RT’s Spanish channel, Actualidad RT, that these chemical mixes could be responsible for the drastic increase in health problems.

“It could be linked to pesticides,” he said. “There has been analysis of the primary ingredient, but we have never investigated the interactions between the different chemicals that are being mixed.”

AP interviewed Argentine farmhand, Fabian Tomassi, who worked preparing a cocktail of chemicals to spray crops for three years. He now suffers from the debilitating neurological disorder, polyneuropathy, and is near death.

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

In response to the study, Monsanto issued a statement saying that it “does not condone the misuse of pesticides or the violation of any pesticide law, regulation, or court ruling."

"Monsanto takes the stewardship of products seriously and we communicate regularly with our customers regarding proper use of our products," said spokesperson Thomas Helscher in a written statement.

Argentina was one of the first countries to adopt Monsanto’s biotechnology to increase its agricultural output. The multinational’s products transformed Argentina into the world’s third largest producer of soy.

At present Argentina’s entire soy crop is genetically modified, as is most of its corn and cotton. In addition, AP found that Argentine farmers use about 4.5 pounds of pesticide concentrate per acre, which is over double the amount used in the US.