Warning: The Most Widely Used Herbicide in Argentina Causes Birth Defects

By Dialogo
April 14, 2009

Buenos Aires, April 13 (EFE) - The herbicide used in transgenic soybeans, Argentina’s main crop, can cause neuronal, intestinal, and heart malformations, according to scientific research released today. While the study “used amphibian embryos,” the results “are fully comparable to what would happen with the development of the human embryo,” professor of embryology Andres Carrasco, one of the authors of the paper, told Efe. "What is remarkable is that there are no studies on embryos at the global level, and much less in injecting glyphosate into embryos," said the researcher of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) and director of the Laboratory of Molecular Embryology. The doses of herbicide used in the study “were far below levels used in spraying,” so the situation “is much more serious” because “glyphosate does not decompose," he warned. Each year Argentina uses between 180 and 200 million liters of glyphosate, which was developed by the multinational company Monsanto, and which, since its arrival in the country in 1997, has been used on 18 million hectares of land. Carrasco said that the investigation found that "pure glyphosate at doses lower than those used in fumigation generates malformations" and "could interfere with various normal mechanisms of embryonic development that control how the cells divide and die." "The companies say that drinking a glass of glyphosate is healthier than drinking a glass of milk, but the reality is that we have used as guinea pigs," he added. He cited as an example: Ituzaingó, a neighborhood of 5,000 people on the outskirts of Cordoba (center), where in the last eight years there were approximately 300 cases of cancer associated with the spraying of pesticides. "In towns like Ituzaingó it's too late, but you need a preventive system, to require companies to adhere to all security measures, and above all to have very strict standards for fumigation, which no one abides by, due to either ignorance or greed," he said. The researcher also said that, beyond the work in which he participated, "a serious study must be conducted" on the effects of glyphosate on humans, and remarked that "for this matter, the State has all the resources." Due to the barrage of legal claims related to the disproportionate use of agrochemicals in the cultivation of GM soybeans, in February the Ministry of Health established a group to investigate the problem in four Argentine provinces. Argentina is the third largest exporter of soybeans and also occupies a high rank in the global trade in derivatives (oils and meals) of that grain.