ISIS Report 06/10/10
Argentina's Roundup Human Tragedy
years of GM soy and glyphosate poisoning have escalated the rates of cancer and
birth defects. Claire
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GM soy a death sentence for humans and the environment
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 .
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 . 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 .
Gianfelici said : “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
corroborate birth defects & threatened by organised mob
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 ,
that glyphosate causes malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses far
lower than those used in agricultural spraying (see  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 , “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 .
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 .
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 . 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
Revolutionary ruling ban agrochemical sprays
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  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 
a ban would mean “we couldn’t do agriculture in Argentina”. In addition, the
government relies heavily on tariffs levied on soy exports and is protective of
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 . The ruling was revolutionary in that it implemented the
precautionary principle and reversed the burden of proof . 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 , “Enough. This cannot go on.” ”
State commission reports birth defects up
fourfold in ten years
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 . 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
A member of the Chaco commission, who did
not want to be identified due to the “tremendous pressures” they were under,
said , “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
Embryonic defects at well below legal exposure
Speaking at a conference, Carrasco noted the irony that
Argentina’s people are suffering from the production of a commodity (GM soy) destined
for Europe, which European consumers do not want . Europe imports around 38
million tonnes of soy per year , much of which is GM soy sprayed with
glyphosate. Because of consumer resistance to GM, most of it ends up hidden in
Carrasco found malformations
in frog and chicken embryos injected with 2.03 mg/kg glyphosate – nearly ten
times lower than the maximum residue limit (MRL) for glyphosate allowed in soy
in the EU (20 mg/kg) . Soybeans have been found to contain glyphosate residues at levels up
to 17mg/kg .
Defenders of glyphosate may
say that these figures do not show a risk to consumers, because embryos are
designed to keep toxins out. However, studies show that the added ingredients
(adjuvants) in Roundup make cell membranes more permeable to glyphosate, increasing
its toxicity to cells [17, 18].
Even without soy, glyphosate
is all around us. Apart from its use in agriculture, Roundup is marketed to
home gardeners as safe to use around children and pets. It is sprayed on
schoolyards and verges by local authorities. The myth of Roundup’s safety
persists despite two court rulings forcing Monsanto to withdraw advertising
claims that Roundup is biodegradable and environmentally friendly [19, 20].
Long list of peer-reviewed studies document
In reality, the research of Carrasco’s team is the latest in a long
list of peer-reviewed studies showing dangers to health and the environment
from glyphosate. Many of these studies are collected in a new report
co-authored by nine
international scientists , “GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible”. The report
challenges claims of sustainability for GM soy and the glyphosate herbicide on
which it relies. Published by GLS
Bank, Germany and ARGE Gentechnik-frei,
Austria’s GM-free industry association, the report has been released together
with the powerful testimonies of Argentine people affected by glyphosate
spraying on GM soy .
remains humble about his study, saying , “The origin of my work is my
contact with the communities victimized by agrochemical use. They are the
irrefutable proof of my research.”
So the final word on the
claimed safety of glyphosate and other agrochemicals sprayed on GM soy must go
to Peralta. She said :
“I do not know about chemistry, I did not go to university, but I know what my
whole family has suffered. To people who are not familiar with this model of
agriculture, I say: Do not trust these companies. Reject agrochemicals. Do it
for the life of your children.”
A, Gnazzo V, Acosta H, Lopez SL and Carrasco AD. Glyphosate-based herbicides
produce teratogenic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid
signalling. Chem Res Toxicol, August 9. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx1001749
2009. La Soja, La Salud y La Gente.
Branford, S. 2004.
Argentina’s Bitter Harvest. New Scientist, April 17, 40-43.
Dr Darío Gianfelici, Interview by Darío Aranda, August
Ho MW. Lab study
establishes link to birth defects. Science in
Society 48 (to appear).
Webber, J., Weitzman,
H. 2009. Argentina pressed to ban crop chemical after health concerns.
Financial Times, May 29. http://www.gene.ch/genet/2009/Jun/msg00006.html
Andrés Carrasco, speaking at the GMO-Free Regions Conference at the European
Parliament, Brussels (September 16–18, 2010)
International. 2010. Argentina: Threats deny community access to research. 12
August 2010. http://bit.ly/cJsqUR
Glyphosate herbicide could cause birth defects. Science in Society 43,
Romig, S. 2010.
Argentina court blocks agrochemical spraying near rural town. Dow Jones
Newswires, March 17. http://bit.ly/cg2AgG
Aranda, Interview with Viviana Peralta, instigator of the lawsuit, August 2010.
de Investigación de Contaminantes del Agua. 2010. Primer informe. Resistencia,
Chaco. April. Report available in original Spanish: http://www.gmwatch.eu/files/Chaco_Government_Report_Spanish.pdf
or in English translation: http://www.gmwatch.eu/files/Chaco_Government_Report_English.pdf
Aranda, D. 2010. La
salud no es lo primero en el modelo agroindustrial. Pagina12, June 14.
Cert ID Certified ‘Non-GMO’ Soy Meal and Other Soy Products: Volumes Available
from South America. Porto Alegre, Brazil, July 14, 2008.
Pesticide residues in
food – 1997: Report. Report of the Joint Meeting of the FAO Panel of Experts on
Pesticide Residues in Food and the Environment and the WHO Core Assessment
Group on Pesticide Residues. Lyons, France, 22 September – 1 October 1997.
Pesticide residues in
food – 2005. Report of the Joint Meeting of the FAO Panel of Experts on
Pesticide Residues in Food and the Environment and the WHO Core Assessment
Group on Pesticide Residues, Geneva, Switzerland, 20–29 September. FAO Plant
Production and Protection Paper 183, 7.
Schmitz-Eiberger M, Mainx HG, Mittelstaedt W, Noga G. Studies on a new group of
biodegradable surfactants for glyphosate. Pest Manag. Sci. 2002. 58,
Mulner-Lorillon O, Boulben S, Hureau D, Durand G, Bellé R. Pesticide Roundup
provokes cell division dysfunction at the level of CDK1/cyclin B activation. Chem
Res Toxicol. 2002, 15, 326–31.
Attorney General of
the State of New York, Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, Environmental
Protection Bureau. 1996. In the matter of Monsanto Company, respondent.
Assurance of discontinuance pursuant to executive law §63(15). New York, NY,
Nov. False advertising by Monsanto regarding the safety of Roundup herbicide
Monsanto fined in
France for “false” herbicide ads. Agence France Presse, 26 Jan 2007. http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_4114.cfm
M., Brack P, Carrasco, A., Fagan, J., Habib, M., Kageyama, P., Leifert, C.,
Nodari, R., Pengue, W. 2010. GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible? GLS
Gemeinschaftsbank and ARGE Gentechnik-frei. Download full report and summary
from: http://bit.ly/9D9J2k. At the time of writing, the full report
is available in English or Portuguese, but will soon be available in French,
German, and Spanish translations.
with Argentine people affected by glyphosate spraying, conducted in August 2010
by journalist Dario Aranda, are available here: http://www.gmwatch.eu/component/content/article/12479-reports-reports
There are 8 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
|steven Comment left 7th November 2010 21:09:31|
Have you not heard? Soy is poisionous
Read: Soy...the dark cinderella
25 years ago the only place you could find soy is in the hardware store in paint thinner
|Eve Galati Comment left 5th November 2010 09:09:55|
Phlip Dawes expresses my opinion better than I ever could have. It is very unfortunate tgat Argentina was "used" as a guineapig It is a beautiful country and if I ever wanted to travel antwhere Buenos Aires would be ine of my first chice destinations...I was there for 5 weeks and it was one of the best times in my life. My heart goes out to all those who have been and are to be effected by the Agro-cheical companies. God Bless and save us from these Monsters that are out to profit at the expence of a toxic world-wide epidemic of disease ...which in fact the pharmeceutical companies would love so their pockets get fatter as well!
|Ann Comment left 17th October 2010 19:07:49|
Philip Dawes, I really really hopes so. But, for this occur we must do more than merely dream.
|Cheryl Comment left 24th October 2010 20:08:15|
I keep asking San Francisco, California's city council to pass a law banning the use of Monsanto's RoundUp on city-owned lands. I can't see why they don't take it up.
|Philip Dawes Comment left 9th October 2010 21:09:09|
The time will come when the criminal scientists who created GM crops and the various toxic chemicals to assist their growth, will be brought to justice and charged with crimes against humanity, genocide and crimes against wildlife and the environment, and with them, the psychopathic heads of the GM seed producing and agro-chemical companies will be imprisoned for life. The world is fast changing, with people finally awakening. No longer must we tolerate the criminality of our leaders and heads of multinationals whose sole interests are power and profits. The world needs honest and ethical leaders, not the present morons that rule the roost…
|ron Comment left 9th October 2010 18:06:41|
Great article. I suggest you add a "share" link so readers can post to FaceBook or other social media.
|John Bowen Comment left 1st April 2013 10:10:55|
The governments and legislators are the ones who heed to read and understand this information then act on behalf of their citizenry and BAN the use these chemicals and pesticides. Then the GMO's could not be used.
|Bob Wahler Comment left 14th April 2013 22:10:58|
I have T2A 3+4 prostate cancer. I farm Macadamias in Hawaii. I use Roundup every year.