33% of the agrochemicals used in Argentina are considered "highly dangerous" by the WHO. They pollute natural resources and cause silent deaths.
“Today you can buy pesticides in a hardware store, in places where they sell pet food, even in supermarkets. We have a very flexible sale and people make use of them without awareness of the effects ”, says Ing. Agr. Javier Souza Casadinho, professor at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and president of the Latin American Pesticide Action Network (Rapal) that brings together institutions, associations and universities from 11 countries in the region that investigate, train and report the effects harmful of these products in the socio-environmental health.
“The access and use of pesticides is so naturalized that they are also used on a daily basis in squares, on animals and even on children's hair with piojicides”, adds Souza Casadinho.
The engineer recently published an investigation on the use in Argentina of highly dangerous pesticides. The report indicates that 107 products that are used in the country are prohibited or not authorized in the rest of the world. And of that total, 36 - that is, 33% - are highly dangerous pesticides (HHP) according to the criteria established by the WHO and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Among the highly harmful pesticides are herbicides based on "Atrazine", banned in other regions of the world due to their danger and the possibility of generating chronic deterioration in people's health. Also the "Paraquat", applied both in the cultivation of tobacco and vegetables. The liter of these products is obtained in Mercado Libre (online sales portal) at a value of between $ 600 and $ 700 Argentine pesos.
A pint of Roundup brand glyphosate is also readily available online for $ 850, and the “potent all-remover” is shipped at the buyer's expense. As is known, this brand belongs to the Monsanto-Bayer company, the same company for which a jury of the Oakland state court, in California, United States, ruled this week that the chemical giant should compensate a couple with the payment of 2,045 million dollars for causing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after repeated exposure to the product. The jury found that the company had acted negligently by failing to warn of the risks associated with this herbicide.
State policies that resist
Souza Casadinho has been working with rural producers for more than 33 years and says that for many of them the idea that they "can handle" pesticides is very well established. “There is a kind of resistance. Especially in the more extensive productions, many times the producer does not live on the property and then he does not even take a dimension of what is happening and naturalizes the use of pesticides ”, explains the agronomist.
Unfortunately, in many cases, people exposed to these agrochemicals "do not become aware because they have used the products for a long time," others, even if they know it, argue that they have no choice because it is the only job they can access. Others accuse as "fatalists" those who say that continuous contact with these chemicals affects health. “There is a social ignorance about the characteristics of pesticides and their degrees of toxicity. The work involves raising awareness and for the State to make decisions in favor of people's health, ”says the president of Rapal.
"What is not natural is naturalized"
“Then there is the naturalization of something that is not natural. In Misiones, for example, it is naturalized that a family, in turn, naturalizes that of so many children one is going to have a disability. It is naturalized that women, in areas exposed to fumigations, have spontaneous abortions, it is also naturalized that a person dies young ", says the UBA teacher and adds:" What is not natural is naturalized and that is what is outrageous ”.
There are many reasons why this situation was reached; on the one hand, the increased dependence on pesticides together with the expansion of monocultures and in this context of the established system, Argentina ranks third in the world regarding the use of transgenic seeds. On the other hand, it has to do with situations in which dependence is created on chemicals "that permeated both soybeans, tobacco and also fruit trees and vegetables," says Souza Casadinho. In addition to the lack of regulation on pesticides, which are prohibited elsewhere, is the inaction to implement state policies that put people's health before profit.
- Is there a way to reverse this situation?
- First, the safe distance, putting barriers between pesticides and people, which is not a panacea but already marks something, that is a first step. Then it is important to determine how highly dangerous pesticides are banned and how sustainable productions can be turned. Those of us who work on this say that barriers can be put up, use can be restricted, but the issue is how we change the model, that is the great challenge.
- Is the agroecological experience profitable?
- Yes, in fact in Córdoba there are many experiences of family producers, businesses that are showing that it is profitable, because production costs are lowered and consequently the income is better. Also becauselProducers are weaving the entire cycle, from self-production of seeds, production, industrialization and marketing, So we see experiences from half a hectare to 400 hectares with very high profitability. As many producers say, they improve their living conditions without the use of pesticides and this leads to wanting to produce in a different way, to have more free time, there are many interesting things in this process. People are also happy because they do not pollute the environment, they relate to natural assets in a different way. It is important to pay attention to what you eat because the effects of the pesticide are progressive.
- What does the case of the struggle of the Ituzaingó neighborhood residents represent?
- This case is the original one. The complaint was made in 2002 and presented by the Foundation for the Defense of the Environment (Funam), where is the biologist Raúl Montenegro. He, along with many residents of the neighborhood, who several have already died, put this issue on their shoulders. In 2008, working as a chamber prosecutor, I had another complaint that was made at that time by the undersecretary of the Municipality of Córdoba, informing thatOn February 1, 2008, they had fumigated in that area. I began to investigate and in a year we took the case to trial, the process was carried out and we obtained the conviction. There, Francisco Parra, an agricultural producer, and Edgardo Pancillo, who was the aerial fumigator, were sentenced. Both were sentenced to two years of suspended prison, with community tasks in centers with people with cancer. The Superior Court confirmed the conviction and established jurisprudence.The appeal reached the Supreme Court and there, too, the conviction was upheld, the appeal was rejected and the ruling was final. That pilgrimage set a precedent. That trial was an appendix to the claim that he has been waiting for 17 years to this day.
- What do you think would be the most urgent measures to stop uncontrolled spraying?
- The first thing is that from the provincial prosecutor's office there should be an impulse to the investigating prosecutors to investigate this, especially in the interior because the largest number of cases are in those locations. In Marcos Juárez, for example, the death rate from cancer is double that in Córdoba.
There is a lot of inefficiency on the part of Justice, it is not a sensation, it is real.The Ituzaingó case is an example of judicial inaction.
The effects are harmful and must be investigated and regulated. For example, the registry of tumors in the province of Córdoba is very convincing, there it is seen that in the interior departments death from cancer disease doubles. All that is the provincial southeastern pampas, there, the cancer mortality rate is higher. The records show that hThere are 135 cases of cancer in the city of Córdoba for every 100,000 inhabitants and in the interior of the province, in Marcos Juárez, San Justo, the entire southeast, there are 269 cases of cancer deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants. And Canals is a very notorious case, from March 1, 2017 to March 1, 2018, that is, in one year, 111 people died in total, of which 75 were from cancer.Justice watches indifferently as the pesticides harvest these silent deaths.