Monsanto Pesticides are Making Argentinian Kids Very Sick

Farmers in Argentina have been using Monsanto‘s genetically engineered soybean seeds and pesticides since the 1990s. They’ve increased crop yields so much that Argentina is now the third largest soy producer in the world and the country’s farmers are convinced that GMOs and pesticides like Monsanto’s glyphosate are the key to their economic stability and to future food security.

But high crop yields have come at a price. A report from the Associated Press has found that Monsanto’s pesticides, and glyphosate in particular, are causing birth defects and cancer among Argentinians.

The Gatica family, who live only fifty meters away from fields planted with genetically modified soy, has had one young child fall mysteriously ill and a baby die after three days from kidney failure. After this tragedy, Sofía Gatica started asking other residents of Ituzaingó, a Córdoba suburb, if they also had unexplained health problems. So many did that she and other women formed a group, the Mothers of Ituzaingó, and demanded that the government investigate.

The government did so in 2002 and learned that 80 percent of children in Gatica’s neighborhood had agrotoxins in their blood and that the area’s water was polluted. At the same time, Andrés Carrasco, a doctor at the University of Buenos Aires, made a link between glyphosate and birth deformities, finding that “in most cases, the fetus dies before birth because of its deformities.”

The Associated Press’s report suggests that similar cases of birth deformities and illness are now being found throughout Argentina, as revealed from a review of many sources: hospital birth records, court records, peer-reviewed studies, continuing epidemiological surveys, pesticide industry and government data, and a comprehensive audit of agrochemical use in 2008-11 put together by Argentina’s bipartisan Auditor General’s Office.

Doctors interviewed by the Associated Press also say that their caseloads suggest “an apparent correlation between the arrival of intensive industrial agriculture and rising rates of cancer and birth defects in rural communities.” With cancer rates in Santa Fe reportedly two times higher than the national average and birth defects having increased fourfold in Chaco, doctors are calling for longer-time studies about agrochemical exposure.

Even more, farmers are using agrochemicals improperly, by failing to don protective gear and using the discarded pesticide containers to store water and other materials, according to the Associated Press.

Argentinians Environmentalists Take Up Fight Against Monsanto

Gatica’s efforts to protest about the use of Monsanto products have not been welcomed. She has been harassed by other people (once by a woman who “insulted her” for the 40 minutes of her trip to work) and says she’s received threatening phone calls. One time she was told that “I had three children and that I would end up with two.”

With the support of other environmental activists, Gatica is carrying on the fight for pesticide-free borders to ensure that agrotoxins are not sprayed near people. These efforts are meeting with success. At the start of October, Monsanto stopped work on a corn processing plant after protests by environmentalists disrupted the delivery of work supplies. Last year, a soy farmer and the pilot of a fumigation plane were found guilty of spraying harmful herbicides near residential areas.

Enrique Viale, the president of the Argentine Association of Environmentalist Lawyers, says that “the verdict is the product of the struggle by citizens, by women like Sofía Gatica, by the Mothers of Ituzaingó. It’s helpful and valuable as a precedent, but it’s not widespread yet.”

About ten percent of the Argentinian government’s budget comes from soy and “many farmers remain convinced” that using Monsanto products is necessary to continue their fields’ productivity, Deustche Welle says.

Even as evidence about the dangers to people’s health grows, getting farmers not to use glyphosate and GMOs is not going to be an easy task. But clearly, Gatica and the Mothers of Ituzaingó are up to the fight.

Photo from Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

Pablo B.
.about a year ago


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Mark Donner
Mark Donner3 years ago

The death penalty should apply to anyone involved in Monsanto crimes, right up to their top "executives". Monsanto is a terrorist organization and must be treated as such.

Howard Crosse
Howard Crosse3 years ago

One day, possibly in the not too distant future, we will find out exactly what the long term effects of genetic modification are. My only hope is that by then it will not be too late to do something about it.

Tammy D.
Tammy D3 years ago

I have yet to see data that shows that GMO crops have higher actual yields. This article is misleading in a dangerous way, by implying that the use of Monsanto products has increased Argentina's crop yields. I would be very curious to see if it is actually due to a huge push toward growing only one crop, and more land being sown, etc. Please be very careful about spewing back Monsanto's propaganda.

David H.
David H3 years ago

no pesticide or antibiotic is 100% effective and both are producing natural plants and germs that are becoming totally immune

Susan T.
Susan T3 years ago

Kyle N - You are bucking the trend. There's an increase in farmers growing non-GMO soybeans. The costs for GMO seeds & Roundup has gone up greatly, while non-GMO soybeans & corn command a premium price.

"Roundup Ready" GMOs result in an increase in "super weeds" (in Argentina as elsewhere), which resist glyphosate.

The supposed "increased yield" of the GMOs is part of a boom & bust cycle; a boom until the super weeds take over, or the land or water gets so poisoned it can't be farmed. Meanwhile everyone gets sick from the pesticides.

"When it introduced RR soya, Monsanto promised a dramatic decline in herbicide use. As RR soya had been genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate, Monsanto argued that it would be possible to kill all weeds by applying the herbicide just once, early on in the planting season...Instead of falling, national consumption of glyphosate has risen dramatically: Argentina is estimated to have used 200 million litres of glyphosate in 2008, compared with 13.9 million litres in 1996. In other words, while the Argentine soya harvest has increased fivefold during the period, consumption of glyphosate has increased fourteen fold."

Anne F.
Anne F3 years ago

GMO plants allow for application of dangerous pesticides. Forcing the worl'd seed supply into the commercial market is not a good idea.

Ronan Pettit
.3 years ago