Around 60 per cent of Argentina’s arable land, a similar percentage in southern Brazil, and almost 80 per cent in Paraguay (where two per cent of the population owns 85 per cent of the land), is already planted with soy. The most widespread version is the soy patented by Monsanto, Intacta, known for its resistance to one of the world’s best-selling agrochemicals, Roundup Ready, which contains glyphosate. This is the “technological package” sold to producers and that guarantees the monoculture’s yield.
In 2013, Argentina used 320 million litres of glyphosate, according to the Red Universitaria de Ambiente y Salud (Environment and Health University Network – REDUAS); in 2000, the figure was 145 million litres. According to REDUAS, 22 million hectares are affected by the substance, along with 13.4 million people, either directly or indirectly.
A recent study by Argentina’s National Scientific and Technical Research Council, Conicet, has confirmed that the Parana River Basin has been polluted with glyphosate. There is also overwhelming evidence about its impact on health, thanks to the work conducted by Verzeñassi and the network of doctors from fumigated towns, Red de Médicos de Pueblos Fumigados, who have identified a rise in the number of cancer and leukaemia cases, foetal malformations and miscarriages. The scientific evidence is also growing: in October 2016, biochemists from the National University of Rosario detected learning and memory deficits in nervous cells exposed to glyphosate. Monsanto, meanwhile, continues to claim that glyphosate is harmless, despite it being included in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) list of potentially carcinogenic substances.
Researcher Mauricio Berger, who specialises in environmental justice, explains: “I think this fight will take on an anti-capitalist turn, because we are getting to the root of the problem: this is a model that creates development for a privileged few and causes damage to the health and the environment of minority groups.”