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By Observatory of Transnational Companies
Glyphosate kills plants, pollutes the soil and surface and groundwater, as well as living things. Plants that do not die, absorb glyphosate and are found in the parts used as food (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, lettuces, carrots and barley, etc.) For human health, the greatest risks that glyphosate brings are: damage genetic (in human blood cells), reproductive disorders (reduced sperm, abortions, fetal malformation), subacute toxicity (lesions in salivary glands), chronic toxicity (gastric inflammation, respiratory problems, allergies), carcinogenic effects and food contamination.
What is glyphosate?
Glyphosate is a non-selective, broad-spectrum herbicide used to kill weeds (annual and perennial grasses, broadleaf grasses, and woody species). Created in the 1960s, it is the active ingredient in Roundup (Monsanto's herbicide trade name) with which transgenic soy, corn and cotton crops are sprayed. These types of crops resist the compound, just because they are genetically prepared to do so.
It is absorbed by the leaves, and exerts its herbicidal action through the inhibition of several enzymes (proteins that have catalytic functions, accelerators of biochemical processes that occur in cells to maintain their functionality and, therefore, their existence), preventing In this way, plants make three essential aromatic amino acids for their growth and survival.
To increase its effectiveness, glyphosate must be accompanied by other substances that are not specified on the label that cause greater acute toxicity.
Consequences of Glyphosate
Glyphosate kills native and endangered plants, pollutes soil, surface and groundwater, and also living things. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that after reaching the ground, glyphosate is strongly absorbed. Hence, although it is highly soluble in water, the substance remains in the upper layers of the soil and has a half-life of more than 60 days (which takes time to be decomposed by microorganisms), being found even up to a year later.
Plants that do not die, absorb glyphosate and are found in the parts used as food (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, lettuces, carrots and barley, etc.)
The toxicity of these products (pure glyphosate and compound formulas -Roundup-) is greater in cases of dermal exposure (the skin has the ability to absorb substances) and inhalation (breathing in environments poisoned by glyphosate), but also in cases of ingestion.
For human health, the greatest risks that glyphosate brings are: genetic damage (in human blood cells), reproductive disorders (reduced sperm, abortions, fetal malformation), subacute toxicity (lesions in salivary glands), chronic toxicity (gastric inflammation , respiratory problems, allergies), carcinogenic effects and food contamination.
Symptoms of glyphosate poisoning include nausea and dizziness, skin and eye irritations, pulmonary edema, drop in blood pressure, allergic reactions, abdominal pain, massive loss of gastrointestinal fluid, vomiting, loss of consciousness, destruction of red blood cells, abnormal EKGs and kidney damage or failure.
Glyphosate in Argentina
Currently, glyphosate is the pesticide mainstay of the Argentine soybean industry. In 2007, Argentina was the second world producer of transgenic crops with 19.1 million hectares in 2007, 19% of the surface destined for this type of crops worldwide. 16 million of those hectares are planted with soybeans, 2.8 million with corn and 400,000 with cotton, according to data from the Service for the Acquisition of Agrobiotechnological Applications (ISAAA). Almost 100% of the soybean area and 90% of the corn crops were sown with seeds tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate.
In rural areas of the country, glyphosate is applied through aerial and ground fumigations, which entails a great danger to the health of the people who live there, who are sprayed next to their houses, water, land and non-transgenic crops. On the other hand, the wind spreads the poison over long distances.
When the Center for Research in Biodiversity and Environment (Ecosur), the Garibaldi Hospital of Rosario, the National University of Rosario, the INTA, the College of Agricultural Engineers and the Argentine Agrarian Federation, issued a report about the consequences on health The strong correlation between the cases of cancer, leukemia, lupus and other serious conditions found in six small towns in the southern and central soybean area of Santa Fe was verified, with the location of the fumigation machines, pesticide deposits, and silos.
In March 2009, the Cordoba Justice prohibited the spraying of soybean pesticides near urban areas. The provincial law came after 10 years of complaints from residents of the Ituzaingó Annex neighborhood. In that area on the outskirts of Córdoba, of 5,000 inhabitants, 200 have cancer. And everything points to glyphosate as the main responsible.
On April 13, the results of a study carried out by Andrés Carrasco from the Molecular Embryology Laboratory of the UBA-Conicet Faculty of Medicine were published on Página12, which shows the toxicity of glyphosate in amphibian embryos.
For the first time in our country, and in line with several studies carried out at the international level, the toxicity of glyphosate was verified.
After the public knowledge of said report, the Ministry of Defense prohibited the cultivation of transgenic in the fields of its facilities.
Cases in Urban Areas of Greater Buenos Aires
The TBA case
For several years, the TBA railway company has been using agrochemicals that are toxic to humans (including glyphosate) in order to keep the land near the Retiro-Tigre branch lines weeding, and it is very likely that in other branches.
Fumigations have even been seen behind the Quinta Presidencial de Olivos.
Víctor Freire, a member of the ARI Initiative bloc, who presented a project to the Vicente López Deliberative Council to stop this practice, denounced that TBA uses Monsanto's glyphosate, while Ferrovías uses Atanor's glyphosate.
The fumigated land is adjacent to houses, shops and squares that are usually attended by children, who are more exposed than adults. As a tragic grimace, some time ago, squares were created (such as the one on San Martín Street and the tracks or the merry-go-round at Vicente López station) with "ecological games" near the tracks. The toxic cloud generated by the fumigations crosses the wire fence laying on the surface of the games. Babies touch them and put their hands in their mouth. In this way the poison travels to the digestive tract. The embankments have also been fumigated, many neighbors say.
Plants and animals are also affected. The green vegetation, which normally grew on the sides of the tracks, first transformed into black threads and then mysteriously disappeared, disintegrated. This phenomenon occurred both in grasses (tapered leaves), grass, and broadleaf plants, such as vines and bluebells. The Municipality of Vicente López denounced that the glyphosate reached two ombúes with more than one hundred and fifty years and have dried, apart from other trees, flowers and plants in general.
An environmental impact is taking place that affects the biodiversity of the urban ecosystem and the food chain, because for example, butterflies, bees, or frogs have not been observed for a long time, which were previously easily found, benign because they feed on insects.
Another change occurred on the ground. At first it was spongy, with black humus, soil from the Río de la Plata, but gradually it was transformed into a thin blanket of milky color and lifeless. In fact, the TBA workers, every time they spray the embankments, they do so with masks.
The residents of Vicente López, along with several councilors, have mobilized with the support of various community organizations (such as the Vicente López Health and Environment Forum, La Galpona, La Otra Movida and the Unión de Asambleas Ciudadanas -UAC, Regional Buenos Aires) based on Article 41 of the National Constitution, point 10.5 of the TBA Contract, the Pesticides Law 10.699 and Regulatory Decree No. 499. They require an Appeal of Amparo where fumigations are prohibited, both land and air, in populated areas since glyphosate is toxic to humans, its fumigation in urban areas should be prohibited in order to save public health.
In addition, they ask that the spraying companies be registered with the Ministry of Agrarian Affairs, that they carry out demanding training courses and that they protect the sprayers. They filed complaints before the Vicente López Ombudsman, the National Ombudsman, the Police, the environmental police, San Isidro Environmental Health, bromatology, in the Municipality to Jorge Galli, the Rehabilitation Institute (Dr. Matassa), the Ministry of the Environment. Ambiente de San Isidro, Mr. Dos Santos and Director Ricardo Antoniassi, Civil Defense, from TBA to Roberto Suarez and at the National Transportation Regulatory Commission before Jorge Parrón and before TBA. But they got no answers. The problem exceeded local administrative boundaries.
The Municipality of the San Isidro Party, a densely populated municipality, sent a letter document to the TBA company as a start of protest asking for explanations after the sprayers entered its jurisdiction. Gustavo Gago, head of public relations at TBA, issued a note stating that the weed control carried out by Trenes de Buenos Aires S.A. in road areas it is done through glyphosate (belonging to Monsanto), which is applied diluted.
According to them, the product is not considered a carcinogenic or mutagenic agent and is used in practically all crops. The statement adds that the spraying is done in a focused way in the road zone, only in certain periods of the year and spaced, at most once or twice a month.
Glyphosate would quickly become inactivated in contact with the ground, and its low volatility reduces the risk of damaging neighboring plantations and crops without generating residual effects.
Glyphosate is dosed: 0.850 liters of herbicide are placed in 20 liters of water and spraying is carried out by spraying the track area with manual machines. In short, for TBA, glyphosate would not be dangerous for the population and therefore they will continue to use it. However (and not coincidentally) in the neighborhood, in recent times cases of allergies, bronchospasm and asthma have been observed.
One of those affected was Patricia Roccatagliata, an agronomist and a firm opponent of TBA continuing with its fumigations. He confesses that in April of last year he had to miss work for two weeks, because after a spray he began to suffer irritation in the respiratory tract, drowning, dizziness, chest pain, palpitations and dry mouth.
One morning, as she was crossing the railroad tracks, she and a neighbor carrying her baby were literally pulverized. The men who were working wore a special suit, hat, gloves, chinstrap, diving suit and safety shoes.
When she asked them what they were throwing away, they replied: "Poison, ma'am." After the visit of the fumigators, an unbearable toxic cloud remains, whose range can reach 400 to 800 meters, depending on the wind.
It is also important to clarify that this costly and continued treatment with agrochemicals is unjustified, since after 20 days of the previous application, the land remains barren. NO plant grows in that period of time.
Victor Freire, a member of the ARI Initiative block in Vicente López, presented a Draft Ordinance before the Deliberative Council of the Municipality requesting Intervention in the use of Glyphosate as a phytosanitary, based on the validity of Art. 41 of the National Constitution and the Law 10,699 of the Province of Buenos Aires, Decree 499/1991. Article 1 of the draft ordinance prohibits the application of agrochemicals for the elimination of pastures and plant species in all public and / or private national, provincial and municipal properties and private domain properties for use or public access of the Vicente López party.
Currently, the project is in the legal department for some questions regarding the legislative technique to be reviewed. Prior to this step, the project was discussed in the Ecology and Environment Commission, to be accompanied by the ruling party as well.
According to Blanca Díaz, councilor for the "Solidarity and Equality" block and president of the Ecology and Environment commission of the Vicente López Legislature, "we understand that this is a way to continue protecting health and the environment in urban areas ".
On the other hand, he stressed that there is "legislation at the national level that has exclusion zones that are urban and suburban areas, with which it is not possible to happily use this type of product."
The objective would be to extend the ordinance beyond the municipal limits (especially if it is originally opposed to the provincial legislation, which would force to work for the formulation of a law for the entire Buenos Aires territory to later apply it in Vicente López, since in what As regards laws, a pyramidal order is followed, that is to say that in the case that two laws of different order and rank oppose each other, the one with the highest rung will be taken into account. National law has the last word).
The case of the Plazas of the City of Buenos Aires
It has been reported that glyphosate was applied for weeding in Plaza Giordano Bruno in the Caballito neighborhood. People who pass through the square are subsequently affected both at the time of application, and the poison in the air for a time.
The stones that children play with are also contaminated and plants and soil absorb this poison.
Unlike the TBA case (where the workers supposedly use safety clothing for that matter), this safety regulation is not met here, since fumigators have been seen without the proper clothing (appropriate suit, gloves, gas mask, glasses). In other words, they are unprotected against the poison.
The La Plata case
Producers and residents of the Parque Pereyra and Villa Elisa areas denounced that glyphosate is being used to control the growth of grass in the train stations of the Roca Line.
As in other cases, there were cases of sore throat, eye irritation and a burning sensation at the skin level. They also fear that the "poison," as they call it, will enter the body through the respiratory tract. Neighbors of the area also noted that during the application of the herbicide, the maintenance concessionaire's personnel were fully covered with safety clothing. The concern of the producers lies, not only in the possible damage to health.
There is also concern about the contamination that the chemical can cause to the batts. On the other hand, the residents of the neighborhood were outraged by the use of glyphosate in an area classified as ecological. While they cannot use various pesticides in order to take care of the environment, now they observe with amazement that the company in charge of the maintenance of the train stations uses this glyphosate as if nothing else. With this method, the company in charge of maintenance saves itself from cutting the grass for about 4 months, because the land where it is applied is devastated.
Neighbors called different organizations, both local, provincial and national. However, none came to corroborate what is happening and its degree of danger.
The railway company reported that the maintenance of the stations is outsourced, but that they managed to establish that for the weeding of the land bordering the railroad tracks, in different sections, a herbicide whose active principle is glyphosate is being used. This chemical is currently approved by SENASA, but they stated that they will take into account neighborhood concerns.
Rafael Pico, head of Zoonosis for the Municipality of La Plata, ruled out the use of herbicides containing glyphosate. According to him, although it was offered for weeding, it was preferred to carry out tasks that do not involve any risk to employees or the environment.
Observatory of Transnational Companies - FOCUS Citizen Forum of Participation for Justice and Human Rights
- DIGITAL CRITICISM: "They accuse TBA and Ferrovías of fumigating with toxins"
- THE DAY: "Controversy over a poison thrown on the train tracks." February 20, 2009.
- PAGE 12. Health, more important than soy. March 21, 2009
- ARGENTINE PIRATE PARTY
- UNIVERSITARIOSLP: "Interview with Patricia Roccatagliata: The missing link of the soy homeland".
- Photographs contributed by Patricia Roccatagliata, Vicente Lopez's neighbor.