Featured Articles on GMO issues
Roundup sprayed on GM soy causes health problems and environmental damage Sprayed people speak
GM Watch press release www.gmwatch.org September 23, 2010
Argentine people whose lives have been affected by glyphosate (Roundup®) herbicide spraying on genetically modified (GM) Roundup Ready soy have told their stories in a series of interviews.
One interviewee is Viviana Peralta, a housewife from San Jorge, Santa Fe, Argentina. Peralta had to rush her newborn baby daughter, Ailen, to hospital after Roundup and other agrochemicals were sprayed on GM soy from planes flying near her home. The baby had turned blue and Peralta herself suffered respiratory problems.
Peralta and other residents won a lawsuit against soy producers that resulted in a landmark ruling banning the spraying of Roundup and other agrochemicals near houses.
Peralta said, “I do not understand chemistry, I did not go to university, but I know what my family suffered. To people who are not familiar with this agricultural model, I say, ‘Do not believe the companies. Reject agrochemicals. Do it for the life of your children.’”
As well as being widely used in agriculture, Roundup is marketed to home gardeners across Europe as environmentally friendly and safe to use around children and pets.
The interviews challenge commercial claims that GM soy cultivation is sustainable and that the glyphosate herbicide it is sprayed with is safe. In 2011 the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS), a multi-stakeholder forum on sustainable soy production, will launch a voluntary label for “responsible” soy that will reassure ethically-minded traders and consumers that the soy was produced with consideration for people and the environment. It will label GM soy sprayed with glyphosate as responsible.
The interviews are released with a new report by a group of international scientists detailing serious health and environmental hazards from the cultivation of GM Roundup Ready soy and the use of glyphosate (Roundup®) herbicide.
The new report, “GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible?” highlights new research by Argentine government scientist, Professor Andrés Carrasco, which found that Roundup causes malformations in frog and chicken embryos at doses far lower than those used in agricultural spraying. Other studies collected in the report link the herbicide to premature births, miscarriages, cancer, and damage to DNA and reproductive organs.
Carrasco believes his research is less important than the experiences of residents who have reported birth defects and other health problems from glyphosate spraying for years. He said, “The origin of my work is my contact with the communities victimized by agrochemical use. They are the irrefutable proof of my research.”
Other interviews in the series:
***Dr DarÃo Gianfelici was one of the first doctors to report the effects of agrochemical spraying. He said that just two years after GM soy was introduced into Argentina, “we began to see two pathologies: the death of the baby during delivery and early foetal death. Foetal death is a situation where pregnancy occurs, the placenta forms, but there is no baby. Today, we understand that the embryo died before it was visible. This condition has increased exponentially throughout the area. So, I began to investigate what had changed that would make this happen now and not in the past. Our town experienced drastic changes before and after soy. I've seen people die from cancer at age 30. I have witnessed pregnancy problems and a significant increase in fertility problems. I have seen an increase in respiratory diseases, as has never been seen before.
“GM soy has been a death sentence for humans and for the environment. No money can compensate for the damage that has been caused the contamination, the deaths, the cases of cancer and malformations.”
***Mariano Aguilar is executive director of the Environmental Lawyers Association of Argentina, which is petitioning the Argentine government for a ban on glyphosate. Aguilar said the GM soy model was good business for some, but for the Argentine people it was “bread for today and hunger for tomorrow”. He said 15 years of cultivation of GM soy in Argentina had left the land barren and unable to support crops to feed people.
***Ãngel StrapazzÃ³n is a member of Mocase-VC, the largest peasant farmer organization in Argentina. He said, "With the current agribusiness model, RR soybeans and glyphosate fumigations, the losses have been substantial over the years. Community territories where ancestral peasants and indigenous families have lived for generations have been totally destroyed. Indiscriminate deforestation has caused the loss of flora and fauna, which represented sustenance for the population of indigenous peasants. It meant having medicinal herbs and wild fruits as food for the people and the animals. In addition, land has been taken away from the people and fenced by wire, damaging the economy because families have been forced to reduce their livestock. In some cases, families had to get rid of their goats, sheep and cows altogether because they have nowhere to take them.
“In other cases, families were forced to leave just because they were defending their right to the land. People were put in jail, even children and the elderly. They have violated the rights of those who worked on the land for generations and even treated them as criminals. The judges and the police are the right hand of the multinationals in the agribusiness. They don’t respect schools. Children who attend school in rural areas are often sprayed on site, causing them dizziness, vomiting, diarrhoea and headaches.”
Interview links from: http://bit.ly/9D9J2k
Photographs available for download: http://bit.ly/cugGoE
1. Monsanto’s genetically modified Roundup Ready (GM RR) soy is engineered to tolerate glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide. This RR gene enables the crop to be sprayed liberally with the herbicide, killing weeds while allowing the crop to grow on. GM RR soy is the world’s most widely grown GM crop.
2. The interviews, conducted in August 2010 by Argentine journalist Dario Aranda, are collected here: http://bit.ly/9D9J2k. Photographs to accompany the interviews can be downloaded from here.
3. Viviana Peralta Interview by Dario Aranda. August 2010. http://bit.ly/b1CRhl
4. Romig, S. 2010. Argentina court blocks agrochemical spraying near rural town. Dow Jones Newswires, March 17. http://bit.ly/cg2AgG
5. See the Roundup label: http://www.onlinegardeningcentre.co.uk/proddetail.php?prod=ruc280ml
6. Marks & Spencer. Tackling deforestation. http://plana.marksandspencer.com/we-are-doing/sustainable-raw-materials/stories/86/
7. Solidaridad. Verantwoord geteelde soja in 2011 op de markt. June 11, 2010. http://www.solidaridad.nl/pers/2010/06/11/verantwoord-geteelde-soja-2011-op-markt. Solidaridad is a Dutch church-based organisation that is a prominent member of the RTRS.
8. The RTRS Standard can be downloaded from the RTRS website, http://www.responsiblesoy.org/. GM soy is treated the same as non-GM see p.i.
9. Antoniou, M., Brack, P., Carrasco, A., Fagan, J., Habib, M., Kageyama, P., Leifert, C., Nodari, R., Pengue, W. 2010. GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible? GLS Gemeinschaftsbank and ARGE Gentechnik-frei. Download from: http://bit.ly/9D9J2k
10. Paganelli, A., Gnazzo, V., Acosta, H., LÃ³pez, S.L., Carrasco, A.E. 2010. Glyphosate-based herbicides produce teratogenic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signalling. Chem. Res. Toxicol., August 9. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx1001749
11. Andrés Carrasco Interview by Dario Aranda. August 2010. http://bit.ly/diZ9HA
12. DarÃo Gianfelici Interview by Dario Aranda. August 2010. http://bit.ly/a8f70s
13. Mariano Aguilar Interview by Dario Aranda. August 2010. http://bit.ly/aP38Ga
14. Ãngel StrapazzÃ³n Interview by Dario Aranda. August 2010. http://bit.ly/8XGnxH