Over 30,000 doctors and health professionals in Argentina are the latest to add their voice to the fight against Monsanto, asking the federal government to ban its products after recent studies found they may contain carcinogens, press reports stated Tuesday.
Other social organizations and researchers across Latin America have also spoken out against Monsanto's products, signs of a larger and more ambitious campaign to ban the agrochemical company from the whole region.
The demands come after the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report last month with the findings that glyphosate, the active chemical in Monsanto product Roundup, “probably causes cancer.”
The chemical is also sold by other companies under the names Cosmo Flux, Baundap, Glyphogan, Panzer, Potenza and Rango.
According to Argentina's union of medical professionals, Fesprosa, glyphosate, “not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.”
“In our country glyphosate is applied on more than 28 million hectares. Each year, the soil is sprayed with more than 320 million liters, which means that 13 million people are at risk of being affected, according to the Physicians Network of Sprayed Peoples (RMPF),” said Fesprosa in a press statement earlier this month.
The union, which represents over 30,000 doctors and health specialists in the country, also asked for the chemical to be banned from the country, and force agribusinesses to change their structure in order to not be dependent on chemicals. This includes stop using genetically modified plants.
Glyphosate is used mainly on genetically modified crops – which have been adapted to tolerate the chemical so farmers can spray it on their fields to kill weeds but not their crops.
The product is common not only in Argentina, but all of Latin America. According to Carlos Vicente, a representative of GRAIN, a non governmental organization that promotes sustainable agriculture, glyphosate was first introduced to the region in the 1970's and its use spread rapidly through the use of Monsanto products.
According to Greenpeace Andino, the use of agrochemicals in Argentina in particular has increased by 858 percent over the last 22 years.
Today, there are some 50 million hectares of genetically modified soy crops in Latin America, where 600 million liters of the chemical are used each year, Vicente told Inter Press Service.
Roundup Ready crops are particularly common in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. These five countries alone comprise of 83 million hectares of genetically modified crops, according to Javier Souza, coordinator of Latin American pesticide action network, RAP-AL.
“We believe the precautionary principle should be applied, and that we should stop accumulating studies and take decisions that could come too late,” Souza told Inter Press Service, referring to a principle that precautionary measures sure be taken against a product that is believed to pose a threat to health or environment, even if a definitive cause-effect relationship has not been established.
However, the pesticide is not only used on genetically modified crops, but also on vegetables, tobacco, fruit trees and plantation forests of pine or eucalyptus, as well as in urban gardens and flowerbeds and along railways.
Souza, who is also the head of the Argentine Center for Studies on Appropriate Technologies, has called for an all out ban of the product in the region.
“We advocate a ban on glyphosate which should take effect in the short term with restrictions on purchasing, spraying and packaging,” said Souza.
Greenpeace also demands a ban of the product in Latin America, which it says is “damaging to both the soil and our health,” and advocates for cleaner agricultural production techniques.
“We cannot allow the business interests of a North American multinational to be more important than the health of the people of our region. Governments should promote the technology and practices of organic farming to protect growers, consumers and the environment,” said Franco Segesso, coordinator of the campaign at Greenpeace Andino.