Fighting against glyphosate on Argentina’s soybean fields: the Mothers of Ituzaingó
Do genetically modified crops reduce pesticide use? In Argentina, GM soybeans are grown on 21 million hectares, mostly for export to China and Europe. In 2012, the last year for which official figures are available to the public, 335 million liters of pesticides were sprayed on Argentinean fields, almost nine times as much as in 1990. Although the level of pesticide use remained fairly constant after GM soya was initially introduced in 1996, it has increased dramatically since 2002. Glyphosate, a herbicide marketed by biotech giant Monsanto under the trade name Roundup, is the most widely used agrochemical in Argentina. While the average amount of glyphosate applied per hectare was three liters in 1996, this figure is now closer to an average of 12 liters per year; in some areas an even greater amount is used. Due to the constant spraying, more and more weeds are becoming resistant.
Today, the neighborhood of Ituzaingó Anexo on the outskirts of Córdoba is almost completely surrounded by soy fields. And it is here that the community has started to take action.
Ever since her daughter died from kidney malformation in 1998, just three days after birth, Sofía Gatica has suspected that the aerial spraying of glyphosate right in front of her doorstep could have been linked to her daughter’s death. When Sofía started talking to her neighbors, she discovered that more and more people were suffering from cancer, respiratory and skin diseases, and that women were increasingly giving birth to children with deformities. In 2001, she founded the activist group Mothers of Ituzaingó. Together with other women who were affected she went door to door to systematically document the diseases in the neighborhood.
Amongst the 5,000 inhabitants of Ituzaingó, more than 200 cases of cancer occurred, a rate many times higher than the national average.
A report commissioned by Argentina’s former president Cristina Kirchner found that 33 percent of the inhabitants of Ituzaingó die from tumors and that 80 percent of local children have several agrochemicals in their blood.
Many babies are born with a cleft lip, without a jawbone, without a thumb or with extra fingers. This coincides with findings of the late Argentinean scientist Andrés Carrasco, who provided evidence that glyphosate causes malformations in the embryos of frogs and chickens.