Argentina's "Roundup" Human Tragedy

Wednesday, October 6, 2010 9:15 AM
The Institute of Science in Society - Science Society Sustainability

This article can be found on the I-SIS website at
ISIS Report 06/10/10

Argentina's Roundup Human Tragedy

Ten years of GM soy and glyphosate poisoning have escalated the rates of cancer and birth defects.
Claire Robinson

GM soy a death sentence for humans and the environment

Argentina has become a giant experiment in farming genetically modified (GM) Roundup Ready (RR) soy, engineered to be tolerant to Roundup, Monsanto’s formulation of the herbicide glyphosate. The Argentine government, eager to pull the country out of a deep economic recession in the 1990s, restructured its economy around GM soy grown for export, most of which goes to feed livestock in Europe. In 2009, GM soy was planted on 19 million hectares - over half of Argentina’s cultivated land - and sprayed with 200 million litres of glyphosate herbicide [1]. Spraying is often carried out from the air, causing problems of drift.

In 2002, two years after the first big harvests of RR soy in the country, residents and doctors in soy producing areas began reporting serious health effects from glyphosate spraying, including high rates of birth defects as well as infertility, stillbirths, miscarriages, and cancers [2]. Environmental effects include killed food crops and livestock and streams strewn with dead
fish [2, 3].

One of the first medical doctors to report problems from glyphosate spraying of GM soy was Dr Darío Gianfelici, from Cerrito, Entre Ríos, Argentina. According to Gianfelici, there are two levels of toxic effects from glyphosate: acute effects, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, respiratory problems, and skin rashes; and chronic effects, which take 10–20 years to show up. These include infertility
and cancer [4].

Gianfelici said [4]: “Our town experienced drastic changes before and after soy. I’ve seen people die from cancer at age 30. I have witnessed pregnancy problems and a significant increase in fertility problems. I have seen an increase in respiratory diseases, as has never been seen before.

“GM soy has been a death sentence for humans and for the environment. No money can compensate for the damage that has been caused – the contamination, the deaths, the cases of cancer and malformations.”

Scientists corroborate birth defects & threatened by organised mob

Reports of birth defects in glyphosate-sprayed areas of Argentina gained scientific credibility in 2009, when senior Argentine government scientist Prof. Andrés Carrasco went public with his research findings, fully published a year later [1], that glyphosate causes malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses far lower than those used in agricultural spraying (see [5] Lab Study Establishes Glyphosate Link to Birth Defects, SiS 48). “The findings in the lab are compatible with malformations observed in humans exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy,” said Carrasco [6], “I suspect the toxicity classification of glyphosate is too low ... in some cases this can be a powerful poison.”

At a recent conference, Carrasco, professor and director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology, University of Buenos Aires Medical School and lead researcher of the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), said a frequent result of malformations in human embryos is miscarriage. He said that it was now not unusual for women in GM soy producing regions of Argentina to have up to five miscarriages in a row [7].

The research findings of Carrasco and his colleagues were not welcomed by some sectors of government and industry. After he announced them, four people from Argentina’s crop protection trade association CASAFE were sent to try to search his laboratory and he was “seriously told off” by Lino Barrañao, Argentina’s science and technology minister [6].

Things took a violent turn in 2010, when an organized mob of thugs attacked people who gathered to hear Carrasco talk in La Leonesa, an agricultural town that has become a centre for activism against agrochemical spraying of soy and rice crops. Three people were seriously injured. Carrasco and a colleague shut themselves in a car and were surrounded by people making violent threats and beating the car for two hours [8]. Witnesses said the attack was organized by local officials and a local rice producer to protect the economic interests behind local agro-industry. Amnesty International has called for an investigation.

Revolutionary ruling bans agrochemical sprays

Based on Carrasco’s findings and other reports of health problems from spraying, the Environmental Lawyers Association of Argentina petitioned the Supreme Court of Argentina to ban the use of glyphosate (see [9] Glyphosate Herbicide Could Cause Birth Defects, SiS 43). But such is Argentina’s dependence on the GM soy farming model that Guillermo Cal, executive director of CASAFE, said [6] a ban would mean “we couldn’t do agriculture in Argentina”. In addition, the cash-strapped Argentine government relies heavily on tariffs levied on soy exports
and is protective of the industry.

No national ban on glyphosate has yet been implemented. But in March 2010, just months after the release of Carrasco’s findings, a lawsuit brought by sprayed residents resulted in a regional court banning the spraying of agrochemicals near populated areas of Santa Fe province [10]. The ruling was revolutionary in that it implemented the precautionary principle and reversed the burden of proof [11]. No longer do residents have to prove that agrochemical spraying causes
harm, but the government and soy producers have to prove it is safe.

Viviana Peralta, a housewife, instigated the lawsuit. She and her family were hospitalized following aerial spraying near her home. Her newborn baby had turned blue and Peralta herself suffered respiratory problems. Peralta said, “When I saw my baby like that, I said [11], “Enough. This cannot go on.” ”

State commission reports birth defects up fourfold in ten years

Shortly after the residents’ court victory, a commission of the provincial government of Chaco state reported that between 2000 and 2009, the rate of childhood cancers tripled in La Leonesa and the birth defects increased nearly fourfold over the entire province [12]. These staggering rises in disease coincided with the expansion of the agricultural frontier into Chaco province
and the resulting rise in agrochemical use. The commission identified the main problem as glyphosate and other agrochemicals applied to “transgenic crops, which require aerial and ground spraying (dusting) with agrochemicals”.

A member of the Chaco commission, who did not want to be identified due to the “tremendous pressures” they were under, said [13], “all those who signed the report are very experienced in the subject under study, but rice and soy planters are strongly pressuring the government. We don’t know how this will end, as there are many interests involved.”

Read the rest of this report here

Or read other articles about Glyphosate here
This article can be found on the I-SIS website at

All new articles are also announced on our RSS feed

ISIS website is now archived by the British Library as part of UK national
documentary heritage

If you like this original article from the Institute of
Science in Society, and would like to continue receiving
articles of this calibre, please consider making a donation
or purchase on our website

ISIS is an independent, not-for-profitorganisation dedicated to providing critical public
information on cutting edge science, and to promoting socialaccountability and ecological sustainability in science.
Please see



Popular posts from this blog

Conservative MP Absent From a Child Poverty Forum in Southwestern Manitoba.

A Candidate's Forum on Child Poverty Touches a Nerve in Manitoba.

The Bio of Larry Powell - publisher of this blog.