Pesticide consumption in soy production has exploded in Argentina over the past few decades. Great earnings opportunities have, according to Argentine researchers, neglected the health concerns of a soy industry they call “out of control”.
Today, over 300 million liters of pesticides are used in Argentine agriculture, according to the researcher Walter Pengue, professor of agriculture and ecology at the National University of Buenos Aires. This corresponds to about 6 liters of pesticides are used per Argentinian a year.
Damian Verzenassi, Professor and Head of the Department of Public Health and Environment, Faculty of Medicine at the National University, has initiated 35 so-called health camps since December 2010. Health camps is where research teams of medical students in Argentinean cities have examined the connection of glyphosate-based spray agents for diseases in smaller cities surrounded by soybean fields. In the cities, the students have interviewed 65 percent of the inhabitants, which corresponds to over 150.000 people. They have found that the cancer rates in areas around soybean fields are 2-4 times higher than the national average.
“We have interviewed more people than any other study in Argentina on this subject. Nobody can deny that the diseases are related to genetically modified soybeans and the use of glyphosate”, says Damian Verzenassi.
“We found a greater gene-harmful and cell-killing effect among the children who were exposed to pesticides compared to those who were not. There is greater DNA damage among children who are exposed to pesticides compared to those who are not”, says dr. Steal Benitez-Leite about the results. She is a professor of childhood diseases in Paraguay and is a researcher at the University of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion: “These differences in cell markers cannot be explained by the demographic or societal factors we have investigated”.
If soy production has such a negative health impact, why has there not been taking any safety measures. Well one thing: Income. Since 1993, the export revenue of soy producers has almost quadrupled, according to figures from the UN COMTRADE database. This corresponds to an additional earnings of 81.5 billion DKK for Argentina’s soy producers during that period.
So what´s the solution? “The solution is that other countries stop importing genetically modified soy”, says Damian Verzenassi and is backed by Medardo Avila Vazquez, medical pediatrician at the National University Hospital in Cordoba.
“Almost all soybeans in Argentina are genetically modified, so it is no use just to look to certified soy. It doesn’t solve the whole problem”, says Medardo Avila Vazquez.
This post has the purpose to inform you about the circumstances of how our production food is today, and what the, in this case, the human cost is for many Argentinians.
Note: This piece is a translated version of article series by Danwatch, link here for the original article (in Danish).