Monsanto Brings High Yields—and More Cancer—to Argentina

Increased usage of GMO crops and associated herbicides and pesticides is taking a toll on the health of the nation's farm belt.

A corn field is seen at the town of Estacion Islas in Buenos Aires province. (Enrique Marcarian/Reuters)

Oct 21, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

Since welcoming Monsanto into the country in 1996, Argentina has become the world’s third largest soybean producer. The country’s farm belt continues to pump out commodity crops like soy, corn and cotton at an impressive rate with the help of not just commonplace herbicides such as glyphosate, but highly toxic substances like 2,4,D—a key component in Agent Orange.

For the 12 million residents of the farm-centric districts of the South American country, the increase in yields and acreage has come at a very high cost. According to a lengthy story from the Associated Press, lax oversight and regulation, misuse, resistance, and poor safety measures have led to mass exposure of Argentines who work or live nearby farms.

As yields have gone up, so have the rates of birth defects and cancer.

In Santa Fe, cancer rates are two times to four times higher than the national average. In Chaco, birth defects quadrupled in the decade after biotechnology dramatically expanded farming in Argentina.

From kids getting dusted with pesticides while swimming in a backyard pool, just over 300 feet from a nearby soy field, to the skeletal frame of a farmworker Fabian Tomasi, ravaged by a neurological disorder, who mixed “millions of liters of poison without any kind of protection,” the story presents a bleak image of Argentina’s farm boom.

"They told me that the water made this happen because they spray a lot of poison here,” Silvia Achaval, whose daughter was born disabled and with extensive organ problems, told the AP. "People who say spraying poison has no effect, I don't know what sense that has because here you have the proof," her child.