Argentines Say Agrochemicals Causing Birth Defects, Cancer

In one town, 80% of kids have pesticides in their blood

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 20, 2013 5:31 PM CDT

(Newser) – Argentina is the third-largest soybean producer in the world, and also grows a lot of cotton and corn. Nearly all of it is now genetically modified, since Monsanto convinced farmers to switch to its seeds and chemicals in 1996. But the agrochemicals the country's farmers use to keep up with demand, and fight off resistant pests could be making the country seriously sick, an investigation by the AP has found. In some areas where the chemicals are used, birth defects and cancer rates have spiked up to four times the national average. Though the chemicals are said to be safe when used properly, the people handling them often have no training or the right protective equipment.

"I prepared millions of liters of poison without any kind of protection, no gloves, masks or special clothing," says one farmer, now near-death due to a neurological disorder. "I didn't know anything. I only learned later what it did to me, after contacting scientists." Argentine farmers use twice as much pesticide per acre as US farmers, and often spray close to homes, despite bans on doing so. A study in one area found high levels of agrochemical contamination in the soil and drinking water, and 80% of the local kids had traces of pesticides in their blood. Of course, it's nearly impossible to prove a link between the chemicals and individual's diseases, but doctors are calling on the government to open an investigation. Click to read the full report here or just the main finding here.

Aixa Cano, 5, who has hairy moles all over her body that doctors can't explain.   (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Camila Veron, 2, born with multiple organ problems and severely disabled, stands outside her home in Avia Terai, in Chaco province, Argentina.   (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
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.   (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
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.   (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Erika, left, and her twin sister Macarena, who suffer from chronic respiratory illness, play in their backyard near recycled agrochemical containers filled with water.   (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Empty agrochemical containers including Monsanto's Roundup products lay discarded at a recycling center in Quimili, Santiago del Estero province, Argentina.   (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
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