Apart from the United States, Argentina has been a world showcase for Chemical/GMO giant Monsanto's one-two punch for establishing industrial agriculture dominance, the pairing of its glyphosate weed-killer "Roundup" and crop seeds genetically engineered to resist glyphosate poisoning. Known as "Roundup Ready," Monsanto has engineered a number of staple food/feed crops including corn, soybeans, sorghum, canola, alfalfa and cotton.
The Roundup Ready cultivars became immediately popular in the U.S. due to a food production model relying on extensive monocropping on an industrial scale and a Big-Ag supporting EPA that regulates agricultural chemicals based on cost-benefit analysis. This means the potential of harm to farm workers and other rural dwellers (including deaths, miscarriages, stillbirths and birth defects) is weighed against the presumed benefits to farmers of those chemicals, and routinely comes down on the side of Big-Ag against the health of farmers, farm workers and assorted 'other' rural dwellers. (including all their families).
The Associated Press reported Monday on findings from Argentine records of health impacts compiled by that country's Auditor General's Office that include glyphosate herbicides in increasingly toxic stews applied by farmers to crop fields now that glyphosate resistance is showing up in more and more weeds that affect the cash crops. The health effects are serious, and include a 90% rise in cancer rates since 1997.
Now doctors are warning that uncontrolled pesticide use could be the cause of growing health problems among the 12 million people who live in the South American nation's vast farm belt.
In Santa Fe province, the heart of Argentina's soy industry, cancer rates are two times to four times higher than the national average. In Chaco, the nation's poorest province, children became four times more likely to be born with devastating birth defects in the decade since biotechnology dramatically expanded industrial agriculture.
Monsanto introduced its Roundup Ready crops - soy, corn, wheat and cotton - to Argentina in 1996, promising higher crop yields and fewer pesticides. As resistance spread, that promise has fallen far short of reality. Farmers in Argentina, like those here in the U.S., have taken to mixing much more dangerous chemicals (like 2,4,D) with the glyphosate and spraying indiscriminately against often confusing or non-existent regulations.
So today the AP is reporting Monsanto's response to the issue, Monsanto Co. Calls for better controls on agrochemicals including Roundup after AP report. As usual, accepting exactly zero responsibility for educating farmers using its patented 'system' to grow food crops for people and livestock...
"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 commpany said after the AP report was published Monday.
Heh. In truth, glyphosate is indeed a relatively less-harmful herbicide than the worst of 'em, often used by groups and governments to control invasive weeds, grass and such in public spaces or along highways and railroad tracks. The problem is that it quickly loses its ability to kill weeds when the transgenes spread to non-crop wild cultivars. New York State's attorney general sued Monsanto in 1996 for false advertising in its claims that glyphosate is inherently "safe" just because it managed to get EPA approval to market the stuff. As a result, Monsanto paid a $50,000 fine.
Argentina doesn't base its regulation of chemicals on cost-benefit analysis, but insists that if there is a chance of serious and/or irreversible harm, users of a chemical must make sure they protect human health and the environment "no matter the costs and consequences." Unfortunately, the Argentine government hasn't been enforcing those rules. In fact, not a single person or corporate concern has been punished in that country for violating spraying rules from 2008 through 2011. With Monsanto among the players, who is surprised?
The AP report cited data from CASAFE, Argentina's pesticide industry chamber, showing a ninefold increase in the overall amount of formulated agrochemicals sold annually, from 9 million gallons (34 million liters) in 1990 to more than 84 million gallons (317 million liters) in 2012.
Agrochemical use declined at first, then jumped after 100 percent of Argentina's soy came from genetically modified plants and farmers stopped tilling the soil to kill weeds. As resistant pests exploded, farmers found themselves with little choice but to mix in much more toxic chemicals.
For more information on the true toxicity of glyphosate from reports worldwide, see this article
, and this one