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Published October 20, 2013, 07:27 PM

Argentines blame birth defects, cancer, on agrochemicals for biotech crops

BASAVILBASO, Argentina — Argentine farmworker Fabian Tomasi was never trained to handle pesticides. His job was to keep the crop-dusters flying by filling their tanks as quickly as possible, although it often meant getting drenched in poison.

By: Associated Press, INFORUM

BASAVILBASO, Argentina — Argentine farmworker Fabian Tomasi was never trained to handle pesticides. His job was to keep the crop-dusters flying by filling their tanks as quickly as possible, although it often meant getting drenched in poison.

Now, at 47, he's a living skeleton, so weak he can hardly leave his house in Entre Rios province.

Schoolteacher Andrea Druetta lives in Santa Fe Province, the heart of Argentina's soy country, where agrochemical spraying is banned within 500 meters (550 yards) of populated areas. But soy is planted just 30 meters (33 yards) from her back door. Her boys were showered in chemicals recently while swimming in the backyard pool.

After Sofia Gatica lost her newborn to kidney failure, she filed a complaint that led to Argentina's first criminal convictions for illegal spraying. But last year's verdict came too late for many of her 5,300 neighbors in Ituzaingo Annex. A government study there found alarming levels of agrochemical contamination in the soil and drinking water, and 80 percent of the children surveyed carried traces of pesticide in their blood.

American biotechnology has turned Argentina into the world's third-largest soybean producer, but the chemicals powering the boom aren't confined to soy and cotton and corn fields.

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