A group of biologists found in the blood of mothers and children in the fruit-growing area of Alto Valle that pesticides have an impact on babies born to mothers who, during the third trimester of their pregnancy, were exposed to spraying.
Natalia Guiñazú is the one who describes the valley of apples and poisons to APe. She is a biologist and scientist and, together with María Gabriela Rovedatti, María Martha Quintana, Berta Vera and Gladis Magnarelli (researchers at the UBA and Universidad del Comahue), they confirmed that the Alto Valle mode of production requires the pulverization of hundreds of tons per year of pesticides. Which determine unpredictable traces in the birth and future development of children.
The Alto Valle is a sea of apples that used to be paradise. Between Río Negro and Neuquén there are small towns surrounded by farms. With rural schools and everyday children attached to those farms. Life and poison melt under the sun and cultivation. Mothers conceive and give birth, drifts reach them when the wind comes from there, children grow up in a natural game among crops and around agrochemicals, their families live where they work.
Poisonous clouds intensify in the summer months, coinciding with the time of the strongest winds, explained one of the authors of the study that was published in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research.
“There are very small cities all surrounded by farms. Some rural schools are attached to these farms. The caregivers live there, it is not that they go back and forth. They live with the whole family. And the same caregiver is usually the one who applies the poisons, ”says Guiñazú. But also, “the urban barrier, with the growth of cities, is invading the farms. So there are new developments attached to those farms. " She herself lives with a productive farm 200 meters from her house. “The drifts come and you realize. Sometimes I'm the crazy woman in the neighborhood: when I smell the smell or see the tractor, I start with the messages, to keep the boys because they are spraying.
The biologist reacts from experience and knowledge: "For more than fifteen years we have studied what happens with populations, with vulnerable groups, with women and children." But the consequences are usually minimized from the need to multiply profitability in a production model for whose development the indiscriminate use of poisons is essential. Then the laws - whether they exist or not - are relegated and replaced by the concept of "good agricultural practices". That depend on the good will of the producer. And it is known that these good wills depend on how far the implementation of a good practice hurts the expected profit.
Natalia Guiñazú is very clear when she talks about practices and wills: “what forces them not to use agrochemicals so indiscriminately are the restrictions in the foreign market. When the fruit arrives with a lot of residue, they cannot sell it outside. So they lose money and control themselves. That decision has to do exclusively with profitability and only about what is exported. What we eat in the domestic market is not so controlled ”. In the central market of Neuquén "from time to time pesticides appear that are not allowed for vegetables."
The scientist explained to APe that "we study the mother - placenta - fetus triad, to see what barrier function the placenta fulfilled and, at the same time, see what happens in the newborn's cord blood." What they were able to observe is that “mothers are impacted, the placenta is also impacted, but it fulfills a certain part of the barrier function. Not all of the pesticide reaches the fetus. We did not find the modification of the biomarker that we did see in the placenta and in the mother. Other alterations are found in the fetus, such as changes in the blood. But the pesticide itself is short-lived ”.
Guiñazú clarifies that “we can study the cord blood, which is not invasive. Children are healthy at birth. They are a little smaller, with less weight. But we don't know what consequences they will have a posteriori ”. In the United States it has been proven that "these children may have cognitive deficits or behavioral disturbances." That is why “you have to follow up and compare with children of unexposed mothers. Even in childhood they can have a normal development but the consequences appear in adult life ”.
The agrochemicals used are carbamates, organophosphates, neonicotinoids, "which are neurotoxic and in the insect alter the nervous system." Glyphosate “is used but closer to the ground because it controls weeds. The problem is that mothers are exposed to mixtures ”, which is the most dangerous. “Generally, what is produced by the active principle alone is studied, a molecule with certain effects. But in the field a mixture is applied, much more toxic than the active principle alone. That is what we are studying ”.
Guiñazú introduced a debate that has appeared timidly when it comes to judicially questioning the consequences of poisons on their victims. “It is a self-criticism that must be made from toxicology: companies are asked for the active principle only to analyze the consequences. And the mix? Which is what is thrown into the environment in large quantities ”. Another key question is the amount of toxins that is applied. "Argentina is a very shocking consumer," says the scientist to APe. How much is being applied per hectare? "
The subsequent consequences of the chemical rains under which children play in the fields and in the infinite patios of rural schools, are not precisely known. “We have not done research on that. The evidence for now is not conclusive ", clarifies Guiñazú. But it is indisputable that “there has been an exponential increase in recent years in autistic syndrome, celiac disease, and attention deficit. There are indications that the problem may have an environmental origin, but without anything conclusive ”.
All last summer in that area of Neuquén the spa was closed due to sewage contamination, "which is municipal, free and safe." Where do the boys go then? “To the ditches contaminated with pesticides. Is there a way to avoid it? We have our childhood in danger ”.
The moms pick fruit from the trees in that natural enjoyment of eating the apple just detached from its habitat. They and their children eat them, too, freshly contaminated. In normal conditions, “you wash the apple, you peel it and you can avoid the poison. In citrus the peel is more porous and the chemical enters. And in vegetables, there are pesticides that are systemic: the plant absorbs it through the root and remains inside ”.
Natalia Guiñazú studies it and lives it. Aware that his own life runs against drifts. And their own children escape the summers to the refreshment of the chemical ditches.
In the Upper Valley, which is an apple paradise. Without more discord than profitability. Without more snake than the market.
By Silvana Melo