By Sorka Copa Romero and Jordi Menéndez
The alarming impacts on the health of the neighbors in both neighborhoods are clear evidence of the irreversible damage caused by these agricultural models that only protect the economic interests of the companies that own the entire structure; ignoring the terrible damage they cause to the well-being and coexistence that citizens have by right.
“The globalization process imposed on Argentina in the 90s a model of a country that produces transgenics and an exporter of fodder. The consequences are now easy to see: vast territories emptied of their rural populations, four hundred thousand small producers ruined and populations affected by serious diseases. This agro-exporter model expressed the abdication of the State in the face of market policies. "
During the Social Forum of Resistance to Agribusiness organized by the Rural Reflection Group, Center for Public Policies for Socialism, Ecological Action, GRAIN, BaseIS, Terra de Direitos, FOBOMADE and the Network for a Transgenics-Free Latin America, with the purpose of coordinating strategies of resistance and exchange of experiences between the different organizations of the southern cone that fight against the agribusiness model.
In this context, a visit was made to the soy fields in Córdoba together with different organizations and institutions, the National Coordinator of Campesino Organizations, Vía Campesina of Ecuador, Terra de Direitos of Brazil, the Bolivian Forum on Environment and Development, RALLT- Bolivia, National Federation of Peasant Women of Bolivia "Bartolina Sisa" (FNMCB-BS), Veterinarians without Borders Bolivia and peasant leaders from Bolivia and Ecuador, with the aim of knowing the damage caused by the use of agrochemicals in the cultivation of transgenic soy , the environmental impacts (air, soil, water pollution) and the impacts on the health of people living in neighborhoods near the plantations.
- Visit to the Ituzaingo Neighborhood Annex of the City of Córdoba. Argentina.
In the company of the Organization of Mothers of Ituzaingo, we visited the Ituzaingo Annex neighborhood located to the southeast of the city of Córdoba Argentina in the urban periphery, in whose streets the great expansion of transgenic soybean crops was observed a few meters from the According to what the mothers reported, homes are constantly affected by the incessant fumigations carried out in the place with glyphosate, endosulfan, 2-4D, paraquat and others, becoming a persistent threat.
Later, the dispensary (health center) was visited, which only provides first-level care through consultations. They spoke with the staff and doctors, some of them relatively new, due to frequent changes being made for fear of contamination and contracting a disease. The new medical personnel have some information about the problem that the neighborhood is facing and they inform that they will just elaborate a work plan where the subject will be addressed.
According to the group of Mothers, the dispensary was a measure used by local authorities to "silence" the voices that exposed the health situation in the neighborhood. "Medical care is offered but the origin of the diseases is not questioned"
In an interview with the Social Worker, a former official at the dispensary, she reported that before, a lot of information was provided to the residents of the neighborhood, but nowadays this type of work no longer exists due to the constant change of personnel. He also pointed out that there are cases of leukemias, all types of cancer, malformations and others. Because of this, the neighborhood is already marked by the antecedents and consequences that the cultivation of transgenic soy brought with it, in addition to this there is no measure by the authorities, because they simply prefer to deny the problem.
The mothers' organization points out that the results of the blood tests carried out on the children reported the presence of up to 5 agrochemicals; one of them expressed concerned "our children have a mixture of agrochemicals."
The most surprising thing was to see the report that the mothers' organization made personally about the health problems in the neighborhood, some of the diseases found were: lupus, hemolytic anemia, thyroid, leukemia, lymphoma, sarcoma, head tumor and eye, cancer of the uterus, breast, pancreas, stomach, testicle, bladder, among others. They also informed us that they have registered more than 200 cases of cancer; They point out that many of their neighbors, women, youth and children died due to the pathologies found without being able to do anything about it. There are also problems of malformations in newborns, women are afraid of getting pregnant because there have been cases of spontaneous abortions, so they fear that their babies will be born with some problem. They also made a map of the neighborhood where you can clearly identify the places where people with the types of pathologies are.
They say that they have soy in the east, north and south of the neighborhood, that is, they live surrounded by soybean crops, and during the fumigation season the planes pass over all the people who inhabit the neighborhood.
The neighborhood has streets that look deserted with very little vegetation, the local trees are dry and some are dead; and even their land and homes were devalued because people identify the area as "high risk to health" so they cannot sell their properties and go to live in other places where they are not exposed to high concentrations of pesticides .
These mothers longing for a better living environment for their family. What is valuable about this group of women is that they fight and resist, putting their own lives at risk in the face of the constant physical and verbal threats they receive.
All these are the consequences of a model of agriculture imposed by companies like Monsanto that look out only for their own interests, clearly economic, without taking into account the great damage they cause to people and the environment.
- Visit to the Montecristo neighborhood of the city of Córdoba. Argentina.
Together with the Organization for Life, a visit was made to the neighborhood where the neighbors expressed the presence of all kinds of diseases, including lupus, different types of cancer, children born with malformations, etc. They also point out that many of their neighbors have already died from different types of cancer and other types of pathologies. Even when walking the streets of the neighborhood, local dogs and cats with tumors could be observed; the trees in the streets and in the main square are dry and are dying little by little just as the vegetation is disappearing at an accelerated rate.
The neighborhood is surrounded by transgenic soybean crops and these are very close to the houses (in front of them), but what caught our attention was finding the silos settled in the center of the neighborhood on one of the main avenues, one of the neighbors pointed out in this regard "the silos also poison us with their toxic gases and their particles, this added to the agrochemicals make a very dangerous cocktail of pollutants". Neighbors express that those responsible for managing crops and silos "do not comply with the ordinance or provincial law" and that "living in Montecristo has become a time bomb." It was also possible to evidence the presence of an agrochemical packaging company and next to it a cookie factory and on the other side the houses of the neighbors.
Another aspect that drew attention from the moment they entered the neighborhood was the presence in the supermarket and in the silos of signs with the name of Miguel Gazzoni, owner of large areas of soybean crops. Neighbors report that it is as if he is the owner of the neighborhood and because of this, he has dominion over the people, since many work for him. There is fear of the neighbors to claim their rights before the authorities, since the people who work for Gazzoni receive tickets to stock up on supermarket products, which is why they are afraid to report the irregularities they are suffering in the neighborhood, so they prefer to stay quiet and live as if nothing happened.
The alarming impacts on the health of the neighbors in both neighborhoods are clear evidence of the irreversible damage caused by these agricultural models that only protect the economic interests of the companies that own the entire structure; ignoring the terrible damage they cause to the well-being and coexistence that citizens have by right. It is evident that the monocultures of transgenic soybean expanded without respecting any ordinance, as one of the mothers of Ituzaingo pointed out, “the only thing missing is that in the backyards of the houses they want to plant transgenic soybean”.
The constant spraying and high concentrations required by transgenic soybeans irreversibly affect health, damage the environment, snatching and devastating everything in its path.
Sharing with the residents of these neighborhoods and knowing directly the problems to which they were subjected was a great experience for the visitors, especially for the producers who are closer to the crops; who through this visit reaffirmed their condition to carry out a production that does not become a threat to human beings and the environment. Based on these experiences, we are committed to continue working to prevent these types of devastating models from threatening the biological and cultural diversity of Latin America; attacking and devastating the production of our small producers who would be directly affected with this type of production that is handled in few hands.
Remember that this soy production model violates the human right of neighbors to a healthy, balanced environment, suitable for development, the right to health and the right to environmental information.
The results of the meetings of the organizations with the neighbors and organizations that oppose the use of agro-toxins were socialized at the Social Forum of Resistance to Agro-businesses that took place on June 23 and 24 in the City of Buenos Aires. Aires with the participation of more than 90 referents of organizations from Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina.
Finally, we would like to thank the mothers of Ituzangó and the organizations of Montecrísto for their welcome and convey our sincere support and commitment to them.
Thank you very much
Sorka Romero Cup. FOBOMADE - Bolivia
Jordi Menéndez. Veterinarians without Borders - Catalonia
Network for a GMO-free Latin America
Experiences of the Soy Tour, June 20 and 21, 2006
GMO Free Bolivia Network
The “Soja Tour” was organized by Grupo Reflexión Rural (GRR), Las Madres del Barrio Ituzaingó, Córdoba, and Por la Vida Monte Cristo from Argentina. This experience consisted of two days of visiting the Ituzaingó neighborhood (near the city of Córdoba) and Monte Cristo located 25 kilometers from the city of Córdoba. Both cities, highly affected by the monoculture of transgenic soy.
As a delegation from the GMO-Free Bolivia Network, Idelma Zambrana from the National Federation of Peasant Women participated - Bartolina Sisa, Eufronio Herrera, President of the Municipal Council of San Pedro, Santa Cruz, and Ivo Syndicus from the GMO-Free Bolivia Network.
Other participants in the event were FOBOMADE, Veterinarians without Borders, Single Trade Union Federation of Peasant Workers of the Northern Provinces of Santa Cruz (all from Bolivia), Terra de Direitos (Brazil), National Coordinator of Peasant Organizations and the Fernán Sánchez Defense Front Castaño (both from Ecuador).
On the first day, Mrs. Sofia Gatica from the Mothers of the Ituzaingó neighborhood led a visit to her neighborhood showing the reality of its inhabitants. The Ituzaingó-annex neighborhood is part of the city of Córdoba where no farmers live. But the urban sector of Ituzaingó-annex is surrounded by soybean crops in its north, east and south, as it is highly affected by the fumigations of pesticides, especially the herbicide Glyphosate, applied to transgenic soy monocultures. Soil and water analysis carried out in the neighborhood showed high concentrations of toxic agrochemicals, such as DDT and Endosulfan, among others, which are highly toxic and prohibited in some countries. Due to this, the water supply was suspended and the neighborhood was declared “uninhabitable”; however, this declaration was annulled by the local authorities.
The high levels of contamination by agrochemicals in Ituzaingó explains the enormous incidence of various types of cancer and malformations suffered by its inhabitants. The Grupo de Madres del Barrio Ituzaingó has documented the cases of cancer and other typical illnesses caused by the contamination of pesticides throughout the neighborhood with a map that indicates the location of each of those affected. The number of people detected with cancer exceeded two hundred with a tendency to continue growing.
Although this type of documentation is the responsibility of the government health authorities, there is no official record of the incidence of these diseases due to contamination by agrochemicals since the staff of the neighborhood Health Center seems to work with the “eyes covered ". The employees with whom it was possible to talk said they were new to their jobs and did not know the reality of the neighborhood in terms of public health.
The existing diseases in Ituzaingó-annex, such as blood diseases to different types of cancer, hormonal alterations and typical spontaneous abortions in people exposed to Glyphosate and other pesticides, seem to be unknown by the doctors of the place. The Health Center does not seem to realize this abnormal situation.
During the visit to the soybean fields adjacent to the neighborhood, it was noticed that strong winds are blowing over the wide, flat and unprotected land in a direction towards the urban area. The fields are fumigated with light aircraft and on the ground with "Mosquitoes". Between the fields and the urban area there is a strip of only 250 meters, despite the provincial regulation imposing a curtain of 500 meters without fumigation and a municipal ordinance prohibits spraying in a distance less than 2500 meters. Unfortunately, this legal framework exists only on paper, soy producers do not respect it.
The case of the town of Monte Cristo is similar to that of Ituzaigó. Soybean producers spray only 150 meters from the urban area and in some fields without any strip separating the houses. Fumigations are mostly aerial (by plane) and at night. This prevents villagers from documenting fumigations. The impact of glyphosate is such on human settlements that even in the main square of Monte Cristo you can see tree trunks cut and dried by the effect of glyphosate. The same diseases as in the Ituzaingó-annex neighborhood have a high incidence in the inhabitants of Monte Cristo.
Juan Palacio from Por la Vida Monte Cristo, states that the claims made to the Ministries of Health and Environment of Argentina were not received with the excuse that the Province of Córdoba is responsible for dealing with these types of complaints. The provincial authorities for their part transfer responsibility to the Municipality, which has never given any response. Juan Palacio commented that the poisonings of the place are legally accepted diseases and deaths.
Sadly, it was evident that Monte Cristo is a town covered by discouragement, the local population has broken their self-esteem due to the reality that surrounds them. The silence of the community is a wait for the next affected by cancer or other disease caused by continuous exposure to this to Glyphosate. In this "pesticide rains" growing vegetables for self-consumption is almost impossible.
In the center of the Monte Cristo urbanization there is a large complex of Silos that dominates the landscape. Silos are used to dry and store soybeans. The transformation of this grain constitutes the only source of work for its inhabitants, creating dependence on the soybean production model. Due to this, no inhabitant has enough value to claim for the contamination that the town suffers, since the price would be the loss of their employment.
In Monte Cristo there are no farmers either. The soy fields are rented by entrepreneurs who hire workers to plant and harvest the grain, and pilots to fumigate. The people behind the lethal side of soybean crops are actually unknown. The culprits seem diffuse, which makes it more difficult for the population to resist their cultivation.
The authorities' denial of these problems and, in any case, their support for soy cultivation, is poorly justified in the role of soy in the Argentine economy. Soy is the main source of foreign exchange for the Argentine State. Almost all soybeans are destined for export to the United States or Europe in the form of animal feed, thus ensuring cheap access for the American and European populations to cheap meat. For the Argentine State, the income generated by soy has priority over the implications of its cultivation on local public health.
In Ituzaingó-annex and Monte Cristo it was observed how the soybean production model affects public health, the quality of soils and waters, and the permanence of natural forests. Soy has severe effects on Argentina's natural resources and also threatens local and national food sovereignty.
Faced with this productive and political context, it remains to defend the public health of the affected communities by disseminating the experiences lived in order to expand knowledge, awareness and resistance to this agro-industrial model. The Córdoba region is not an isolated case, although an extreme manifestation that shows the development trend of the soybean sector in the Southern Cone.