Argentina: GMO Soy Brings Wealth and Crippled Children


B. McPherson
Dried soybeans


On the surface the financial turnaround in Argentina is nothing short of miraculous but dig a little deeper and the true costs become apparent. A decade ago Argentina was bankrupt and defaulted on its international debts. Today it is solvent. Gone are the gauchos and cattle on the pampas. Here is huge industrial production of soy beans. 95% of the crop is exported for animal feed and for humans, a cheap source of protein.

98% or more of the vast soy plantations are made up of Monsanto’s genetically modified plants. The juggernaut of soy conversion has grown since the first introduction of the GM seeds in 1996. The current Argentine government, led by President Cristina Kirchner, is in full support of the cultivation of the cash crop. Currently over half the arable land in the north of the country is devoted to growing soy. Argentina is now the number one exporter of soybeans in the world. For each tonne of soybeans sold, the government gets a cut.

While many have concerns about the spread of GMOs, local people in the area around Cordoba express misgivings about the use of aerial spraying of pesticides over the vast fields. The modified plants are resistant to damage done by glyphosate, a weedkiller first introduced by Monsanto as Roundup. Glyphosate, in addition to being a known cancer causing agent and a suspected teratogen, kills normal broad leafed plants – the kind people grow for food in their gardens. People in small villages report that when the big corporations are spraying, the water that they drink is contaminated with the poison and spray falls on them like soft rain.

While a direct link with the alarming rise in birth defects among the campasinos has not been proven, the rate of birth defects has risen steeply since the industrial farming of GM soya and now hovers around 100 times that of the rest of the country.

The minister of agriculture has admitted that “misunderstandings” have taken place where small farmers have been forced off their land. Those that have refused to budge have been murdered, kidnapped, had their wells poisoned, crops set afire. There’s big money in soy to the tune of about $20 billion/year and ruthless exploitation is the norm.

In addition to the human tragedy playing out in the soy boom, is the environmental damage as more land is cleared, biodiversity is reduced and the land is gradually poisoned. Glyphosate as a plant hormone which forces broad leafed plants to outgrow their roots. Unfortunately, plant hormones can also affect people.

“Argentinian children were consuming so much genetically engineered soy that they began developing breasts from the estrogenic effects, before authorities stepped in with warnings.”Health Impact News

 
While authorities seek to assure the public that glyphosate resistant(Roundup Ready) plants are safe, health experts caution that the chemical used to kill weeds is suspected of litany of serious health issues.

·         Endocrine disruption
·         DNA  damage
·         Developmental toxicity
·         Neurotoxicity
·         Reproductive toxicity
·         Cancer
Argentina has not been growing these GM crops long enough for SuperWeeds to become a problem. In the US and Canada, a growing problem of weeds resistant to glyphosate is emerging.


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