Monsanto's agrochemicals are poisoning Argentines, but Monsanto blames victims for misusing products

Monsanto glyphosate spraying
CC BY 1.0 IRRI Images

Michael Warren and Natacha Pisarenko from The Associated Press have a blockbuster piece of reporting on the dozens of ways Monsanto's chemical fertilizers and pesticides are poisoning the people of Argentina:

BASAVILBASO, Argentina (AP) — Argentine farmworker Fabian Tomasi was never trained to handle pesticides. His job was to keep the crop-dusters flying by filling their tanks as quickly as possible, although it often meant getting drenched in poison.

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. But last year's verdict came too late for many of her 5,300 neighbors in Ituzaingo Annex. A government study there found alarming levels of agrochemical contamination in the soil and drinking water, and 80 percent of the children surveyed carried traces of pesticide in their blood.

American biotechnology has turned Argentina into the world's third-largest soybean producer, but the chemicals powering the boom aren't confined to soy and cotton and corn fields.

The Associated Press documented dozens of cases around the country where poisons are applied in ways unanticipated by regulatory science or specifically banned by existing law. The spray drifts into schools and homes and settles over water sources; farmworkers mix poisons with no protective gear; villagers store water in pesticide containers that should have been destroyed.

Now doctors are warning that uncontrolled pesticide applications could be the cause of growing health problems among the 12 million people who live in the South American nation's vast farm belt.

Read the rest.

Following that report, Monsanto responded by saying that their Roundup line of glyphosate-based weed-killers are safe, but did call for more controls on agrochemicals.

"If pesticides are being misused in Argentina, then it is in everyone's best interests - the public, the government, farmers, industry, and Monsanto - that the misuse be stopped," the St. Louis, Missouri-based company said after the AP report was published Monday.

This is the same tired response you hear from manufacturers of guns or tobacco or junk food. When faced with the realities of the problems they are contributing to, they respond by blaming the victims for either using it wrong or consuming too much of it, while at the same time continuing to spend millions of dollars on marketing to sell as much as possible to anyone that is willing to buy.

The fact is that shifting to a method of monoculture agriculture with genetically-modified seeds has hooked farmers to an unsustainable method of farming. The monoculture disrupts the natural cycle of nutrient replenishment in soil, so chemical fertilizers are needed and as these weed-resistant seeds are sprayed with chemicals, the weeds adapt and then Monsanto is there to sell a stronger, more toxic chemical to kill the "super weeds." This has been a dangerous experiment for the past 50 years and it's clear we need to return to sustainable agriculture that works with nature, instead of always trying to fight against it to disastrous results for the environment and human health

Tags: Agriculture | Argentina | Monsanto

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