Argentina’s reckless use of a pesticide is having a devastating impact on the health of its people, according to an Associated Press report released early this week. Though proper use of these agrochemicals has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the AP investigation in Argentina found farmers using the pesticides in illegal manners.
To maximize harvests and battle the ever-growing number of resistant weeds, Argentine farmers add in more toxic chemicals and use twice as much pesticide per acre as U.S. counterparts, according to the report.
Cancer rates in towns surrounded by soy farming in Argentina are two to four times higher than the national average, and birth defects in one province have quadrupled since 1996, the year Argentina began to use genetically modified seeds and companion pesticides. In addition, 80 percent of children carry pesticides in their blood in one Argentine neighborhood surrounded by industrial agriculture, according to the AP.
In response to the report, Monsanto Co. is calling for more controls on agrochemicals, though company spokesman Thomas Helscher criticized the report’s indication of causal relationships in “the absence of reliable data.” Monsanto also called the AP report “overbroad in indicting all ‘pesticides’ when we know that glyphosate is safe.”
Monsanto’s critics say this claim of safety is part of the problem, according to the AP. “While glyphosate is less toxic in terms of acute exposure than many other herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, it is routinely blended with other chemicals when applied to crops,” reporter Michael Warren wrote in an AP article published on October 23. “The spray that drifts from fields and seeps into groundwater adds to an overall chemical burden, a mix of many individual ingredients.”
This isn’t the first time Monsanto’s claim of glyphosate’s safety has been called into question. In 1996, New York’s attorney general sued Monsanto for false advertising for its claims that glyphosate is safe. Monsanto paid a $50,000 and agreed to cease and desist, according to the AP. In addition, glyphosate has been linked to to Cancer, Autism, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.
Standards for U.S. and Argentine regulations differ significantly. EPA approval in the U.S. is based on a cost-benefit analysis, and does not indicate safety. In contrast, Argentine federal law requires users of possibly harmful chemicals to protect human health and the environment.
“We deplore the misuse of any pesticides, regardless of who makes them. Monsanto’s employees work very hard to ensure that our customers and suppliers are properly trained and use the products according to label instructions, and that applies to Argentina, the United States, and everywhere else we do business,” Monsanto said in response to the AP report.