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October 21, 2013

Potential effects of agrochemicals in Argentina

Agrochemical spraying in Argentina has increased ninefold, from 9 million gallons in 1990 to 84 million gallons today. Yet the South American nation has a hodgepodge of widely ignored regulations that leave people dangerously exposed, and chemicals contaminate homes, classrooms, and drinking water. Doctors and scientists are warning that uncontrolled spraying could be causing health problems across the nation. ( 17 photos )

Soybeans ready for harvest are bathed in afternoon light near Rawson, in Buenos Aires province, Argentina on April 16. American biotechnology has turned Argentina into the world's third-largest soybean producer, but the chemicals powering the boom aren't confined to soy, cotton, and corn fields. They routinely contaminate homes and classrooms and drinking water. A growing chorus of doctors and scientists is warning that their uncontrolled use could be responsible for the increasing number of health problems turning up in hospitals across the South American nation. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press)

Empty agrochemical containers including Monsanto's Round Up products lay discarded at a recycling center in Quimili, Santiago del Estero province, Argentina on May 2. Instead of a lighter chemical burden in Argentina, agrochemical spraying has increased ninefold, from 9 million gallons in 1990 to 84 million gallons today. Glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's Round Up products, is used roughly eight to ten times more per acre than in the United States. Yet Argentina doesn't apply national standards for farm chemicals, leaving rule-making to the provinces and enforcement to the municipalities. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Girls use slingshots next to a biotech soybean plantation in Avia Terai, in Chaco province, Argentina on May 31. The country's entire soybean crop and nearly all its corn and cotton have become genetically modified in the 17 years since St. Louis-based Monsanto Company promised huge yields with fewer pesticides using its patented seeds and chemicals. Instead, the agriculture ministry says agrochemical spraying has increased ninefold, from 9 million gallons in 1990 to 84 million gallons today. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Camila Veron, 2, born with multiple organ problems and severely disabled, stands outside her home in Avia Terai, in Chaco province, Argentina on March 31. Doctors told Camila's mother, Silvia Achaval, that agrochemicals may be to blame. It's nearly impossible to prove that exposure to a specific chemical caused an individual's cancer or birth defect, but doctors say these cases merit a rigorous government investigation. "They told me that the water made this happen, because they spray a lot of poison here," said Achaval. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Activist Oscar Alfredo Di Vincensi talks on a cell phone inside his tent during his one-man hunger strike demanding that agrochemical spraying not be allowed within 1,000 meters of homes, in the main square of Alberti, in Buenos Aires province, Argentina on April 16. Earlier this year, Di Vincensi stood in a field waving a court order barring spraying within 1,000 meters of homes in his town of Alberti; a tractor driver doused him in pesticide. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Erika, left, and her twin sister Macarena, who suffer from chronic respiratory illness, play in their backyard near recycled agrochemical containers filled with water that are used for flushing their toilet, feeding their chickens and washing their clothes, near the town of Avia Terai, in Chaco province, Argentina on March 31. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Felix San Roman walks on his property in Rawson, in Buenos Aires province, Argentina on April 16. San Roman says that when he complained about clouds of chemicals drifting into his yard, the sprayers beat him up, fracturing his spine and knocking out his teeth. "This is a small town where nobody confronts anyone, and the authorities look the other way," San Roman said. "All I want is for them to follow the existing law, which says you can't do this within 1,500 meters. Nobody follows this. How can you control it?" (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

A protest sign directed to Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and Cordoba Province governor Jose Manuel de la Sota that reads in Spanish; "Stop looting and contaminating! Monsanto out of Cordoba and Argentina," is posted on a fence where Monsanto is building its largest seed production plant in Latin America in the town of Malvinas Argentinas, in Cordoba province, Argentina on Sept. 25. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Students stand outside their rural school in Pozo del Toba, in Santiago del Estero province, Argentina on May 3. Most Argentine provinces limit how close spraying can be done in populated areas, with setbacks ranging from as little as 50 meters to as much as several kilometers. But The Associated Press found many cases of soybeans planted only a few feet from homes and schools, and chemicals mixed and loaded onto tractors inside residential neighborhoods. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Erika, right, and her twin sister Macarena, who suffer from chronic respiratory illness, stand inside their home in Avia Terai, in Chaco province, Argentina on March 31. The twins' mother, Claudia Sariski, whose home has no running water, says she doesn't let her children drink from the discarded pesticide containers she keeps in her dusty backyard. But her chickens do, and she has no other water to wash the family's clothes with. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Empty pesticide containers ready for recycling are collected inside an enclosure by the farming business association in Gualeguaychu, in Entre Rios province, Argentina on Sept. 23. Widely ignored Argentine health minister guidelines recommend perforating empty containers to prevent reuse by residents. The association says the containers will be recycled into plastic tubing. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Dr. Andres Carrasco, a molecular biologist at the University of Buenos Aires, pauses during an interview in Buenos Aires, Argentina on July 8. Carrasco found that injecting very low doses of glyphosate, a weed-killer, into embryos can change levels of retinoic acid, causing the same sort of spinal defects in frogs and chickens that doctors are increasingly registering in communities where farm chemicals are ubiquitous. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Silvia Alvarez leans against her red brick home while keeping an eye on her son, Ezequiel Moreno, who was born with hydrocephalus, in Gancedo, in Chaco province, Argentina on April 1. Alvarez blames continuous exposure to agrochemical spraying for two miscarriages and her son's health problems. Chaco provincial birth reports show that congenital defects quadrupled in the decade after genetically modified crops and their related agrochemicals arrived. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Residents gather to speak with Dr. Damian Verzenassi on health concerns they have about agrochemicals in the main square of Alvear, in Santa Fe province, Argentina on March 9. In the heart of Argentina's soybean business, house-to-house surveys of 65,000 people in farming communities found cancer rates two to four times higher than the national average, as well as higher rates of hypothyroidism and chronic respiratory illnesses. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Former farmworker Fabian Tomasi, 47, shows the condition of his emaciated body as he stands inside his home in Basavilbaso, in Entre Rios province, Argentina on March 29. Tomasi's job was to keep the crop dusters flying by quickly filling their tanks but he says he was never trained to handle pesticides. Now he is near death from polyneuropathy. "I prepared millions of liters of poison without any kind of protection, no gloves, masks or special clothing. I didn't know anything. I only learned later what it did to me, after contacting scientists," he said. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Students ride a motorbike past a field of biotech corn on their way to school in Pozo del Toba, Santiago del Estero province, Argentina on May 3. American biotechnology has turned Argentina into a commodities powerhouse, but the chemicals required aren't confined to the fields. They routinely contaminate homes, classrooms and drinking water. Now a growing chorus of doctors and scientists is warning that uncontrolled spraying could be causing the health problems turning up in hospitals across the South American nation. (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

Aixa Cano, 5, who has hairy moles all over her body that doctors can't explain, sits on a stoop outside her home in Avia Terai, in Chaco province, Argentina on April 1. Although it's nearly impossible to prove, doctors say Aixa's birth defect may be linked to agrochemicals. In Chaco, children are four times more likely to be born with devastating birth defects since biotechnology dramatically expanded farming in Argentina. . (Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press) #

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