By Darío Aranda
Soy monoculture has been a State policy for fifteen years. It was also a State policy, of all governments, to allow the social and environmental consequences of the agribusiness model. Environmental pollution and health disasters are not new. it causes the current agricultural model, where glyphosate (or Roundup, a trademark of the multinational Monsanto) is only its most famous face.
Soy monoculture has been a State policy for fifteen years. All governments, regardless of political sign, endorsed and promoted that Argentina today is the third world producer of soybean and the first world exporter of oil from the oilseed. It was also a state policy, of all governments, to allow the social and environmental consequences that the agribusiness model entails. The compulsory evictions of peasants and native peoples did not begin with Resolution 125. The indiscriminate judicialization and repression that is suffered daily in rural ranches was not born last March. Nor is the violent expulsion of large families new, always at the hands of soybean entrepreneurs (many of them members of the Liaison Board). And much less is new environmental pollution and health disasters caused by the current agricultural model, where glyphosate (or Roundup, trademark of the multinational Monsanto) is only its most famous face.
It is not necessary to be a scientist to verify the toxic effect of agrochemicals. In Chaco, Santiago del Estero, Córdoba, Formosa and in all the peasant ranches the effects of the pesticide can be observed. It can be in the red and watery eyes of a girl, in the raw skin of a grandmother, in the prenatal malformations, in the pregnancies that do not arrive to term or in the death of sprayed boys. The Indigenous Peasant National Movement summed it up in three words: "A sanitary disaster."
During the last five years, the hectares dedicated to transgenic soy have not stopped growing, as has the use of glyphosate and also the complaints from native peoples and peasant families. No government (neither provincial nor national) took note. The Ministry of Health never agreed to speak on the subject. Last May, this editor detected a health survey on the portfolio's website. The conclusions confirmed acute effects such as allergies, headache, dizziness, respiratory, skin and eye irritation. It was targeting glyphosate. Before the journalistic query, the Ministry of Health did not accept to speak and withdrew the study from the official site. Nor did SENASA, INTA and the Ministry of Agriculture, all state agencies, want to refer to the issue. For this reason, the President's request for studies cannot but provoke skepticism.
Nor should it be believed that glyphosate and Monsanto are the only evils in the country. The recent presidential veto to the Glaciers Law and the long-delayed regulation of the Law that Forests confirm that - no matter how many studies are carried out - agribusiness, grazing plants, agrofuels and mining obey the same extractive model that is today State policy.
To stop pesticides
The Rural Reflection Group (GRR), an organization that has been promoting a campaign for three years to stop spraying with pesticides, made a judicial presentation to suspend the sale and use of agrochemicals throughout the country. Filed in the Courts of Comodoro Py, the complaint takes as one of its foundations the “health emergency” of the Ituzaingó Annex neighborhood of Cordoba - saturated with cases of cancer, respiratory diseases and malformations -, requests sentences of up to 25 years in prison and points against the agribusiness model, personified in companies (Monsanto), academic areas (Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA and Conicet) and official organizations (INTA, Secretariat of Agriculture and Senasa). The Mothers of Ituzaingó entity, which organized itself as diseases multiplied in its neighborhood, already had its first meeting with the investigative commission of the Ministry of Health, created by order of the President. "We want to believe what they tell us, but we are afraid that everything will come to nothing," they warned.
The complaint legally frames the use of pesticides in the "aggravated mode" of Article 200 of the Penal Code: "Anyone who poison or adulterate in a dangerous way to health, drinking water or substances will be punished with seclusion or prison from three to ten years food. If the act is followed by the death of a person, the penalty will be from ten to twenty-five years in prison ”. The Rural Reflection Group (GRR) cites the death of three children in Entre Ríos (a case known as “Los primitos Portillo”) and points out accusations from a dozen provinces.
“Public health has been inexorably affected. And given the very serious situation of massive contamination, a precautionary measure is requested to suspend and / or limit the sale and use of pesticides that affect people's lives, ”the presentation highlights. Jorge Rulli, founder of the GRR, gave the chemist their first and last names: “The Monsanto Roundup is one of the obligatory references of this model. At a minimum, it is necessary to urgently change the toxicological graduation, even today it is considered innocuous, which is a crime ”, he stated. Roundup is the trade name for glyphosate, an agrochemical mainstay of the soy industry. Only in the 2007/2008 campaign, Argentine fields were sprayed with 168 million liters of the pesticide.
The demand also points against the different links of the agricultural model. “It is essential that the possible criminal responsibility of those who produce agrochemicals and the officials who have authorized and released the use of these substances be investigated. It is essential to inquire into the areas that have promoted the model and whether these actors have acted with guilt or intent ”, they claim through the six pages of the presentation, held on Thursday, January 15 and extended last Monday, based in the Court Federal Criminal and Correctional Matters N8, in charge of Jorge Alejandro Urso, and in the prosecution N12, directed by Oscar Ricardo Amirante.
The complainants request that the responsibility of what they call "promoters and / or supporters" of agribusiness be determined: National Service of Agrifood Health and Quality (Senasa), National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) and Secretariat of Agriculture. "It would be important to determine on the basis of which scientific evidence the enforcement authorities have relied on the approval of pesticides," he claims and accuses: "The serious acts for which agrochemicals are denounced would not have been possible without the participation of officials state ”.
He also blames the Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA and Conicet as the "academic, scientific and technological areas from which this criminal model of agricultural production has been promoted." As for the responsible companies, it indicates that "there are serious, precise and consistent indications that indicate that the corporations have used false or misleading advertising to market their products."
After an investigation by this newspaper, on Wednesday the 14th the President ordered the Ministry of Health to create an investigative commission to deal with complaints of contamination and health effects that exist in all soybean areas, with a starting point in the neighborhood. Ituzaingó de Córdoba. Last Monday, Decree 21/2009 gave it administrative support.
On the same Monday, the 15th, the commission arrived by surprise in the Ituzaingó neighborhood and met with the Mothers. “We emphasize two points: our neighborhood is only one of the large number that there are, which have to take care of everyone. And, the second point, that we urgently need medical help and, in specific cases, also social help for families that have been prostrated by glyphosate ”, explained Sofía Gatica, of the organization.
The witness case was that of the Olariaga family, who suffered permanent fumigations. Yolanda, 64, has two tumors on her head and suffers from a motor disability. Débora is 26 years old, with three head tumors and they have not yet been able to operate on her. Ezequiel Olariaga is 25 years old and has 22 tumors distributed in the head and stomach. He is deaf, a product of the disease, and waits for his turn to be treated. “Their health is directly related to the fumigations. And that destroyed their job prospects. From the Nation they promised to help them ”, explained Gatica.
The meeting between the commission of the Ministry of Health and the Mothers of Ituzaingó lasted two hours. The local Ministry of Health also intervened and it was agreed to carry out environmental studies and a sanitary survey. The undersecretary of Health Prevention, Humberto Jure, an acquaintance of the neighborhood, was part of the national delegation. “He was a provincial health official, he knew about our complaints and he never listened to us. We want to believe that the same will not happen with this commission, ”warned the Mothers of Ituzaingó.
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