A recent AP investigation might change your mind if you think the Haitian farmers acted brashly when they destroyed the seeds Monsanto donated to them as relief from an earthquake.
Argentina is, today, the world’s third-largest soy producer, and the thanks in no small part go to American biotechnology firms like Monsanto. But decades of genetically-modified growth accompanied by special insecticides and agrochemicals are taking a terrible toll on the Argentinian population.
The AP noted dozens of individual cases of people using agrochemicals in illegal ways. Santa Fe has cancer rates that are between two and four times higher than Argentina’s national average, and the state of Chaco (the nation’s poorest) sees four times as many children born with birth defects since biotechnology took over.
A pediatrician and co-founder of Argentina’s Doctors of Fumigated Towns, Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, said “The change in how agriculture is produced has brought, frankly, a change in the profile of diseases. We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects, and illnesses seldom seen before.”
Argentina was once famous for its grass-fed cattle, but in 1996, Monsanto marketed a model of higher crop yields through less pesticides, mostly because the seeds were genetically modified to include the pesticide, and then sprayed with accompanying agrochemicals produced by Monsanto.
The campaign worked well for Monsanto: 100 percent of Argentina’s soy and almost all the corn, wheat, and cotton are grown from GM seeds. Soy farming now occupies 47 million acres, and now Argentinian cattle are fed in feedlots, just like the United States.
Unfortunately for the farmers, insects evolve much more rapidly than Monsanto’s chemical formulas due to their short lives. Put simply, as more chemicals were sprayed on the bugs, more chemicals were needed to kill them.
The 1990 figures show 9 million gallons of agrochemical concentrate were sprayed in Argentina per acre; by 2013, 84 million gallons of concentrate were sprayed, an amount that is more than double that utilized by farmers in the United States.
In 2009, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez ordered a commission to study the impact of frequent agrochemical spraying on human health. It published an initial report that demanded “systematic controls over concentrations of herbicides and their compounds” but the commission hasn’t met since 2010.
Monsanto spokesperson Thomas Helscher said in a written statement that his company “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.”
If you want to watch a full-length documentary about the effects, physical and legal, of Monsanto’s work, Seeds of Death is sure to be a highly informative experience:
[Image via Seeds of Death