I was at the beautiful Central Oregon Coast this weekend. My husband and I stayed at a relative’s beach house, which offers a bird’s eye view of crashing surf and coarse sand. It was lovely and very relaxing, though as I’ve mentioned before, whenever I am at someone else’s home, it is virtually impossible to avoid GMO food entirely, if I want to be a gracious guest and and not a high-maintenance putz… but that’s not what this post is about.
This post is about me coming home and trying to decide what I would post next on sleuth4health. I began to peruse apropros, recently published articles and blogs. I chose to post and comment on an article about the havoc that GM soy crops have caused in Latin America. I had just seen an Art Wolf episode on public television and with camera and crew he had digitally captured landscape and wildlife in stunning Bolivia high in the Andes, where mining and farming are constant threats to the eco-system – so South America was on my mind. And I found this… an article titled “Monsanto’s transgenic soy sewing misery in Latin America.”
I have posted an excerpt of the last part of the article which talks about transgenic soy’s start in Argentina, third largest producer of soy worldwide, and which served as gateway for the GM crops to spread elsewhere south of the border. The beginning of the article gives a brief primer on the shady past of biotech giant Monsanto, the multinational GMO corporation that widely employs bully tactics – successfully.
At the end I posted a 12-minute video titled Killing Fields: The Battle to Feed Factory Farms. It is a heartbreaking account of the human and environmental cost of GM soy.
(Parenthetic, plain text additions are from sleuth4health.)
President Carlos Menem came into power in 1989 in the middle of an economic crisis. Clearly supported by private national and international monetary organisms and corporations, Menem opened the door to transgenic crops.
Currently, over 18 million hectares (1 hectare equals 2.471 acres) or 50 percent of cultivable land is seeded with transgenic soy (SOJA RR) each year, a biogenetic engineered seed that is resistant to glyphosate. The crops are sprayed with over 200 million liters of the herbicide also produced by Monsanto—Round Up— with unforeseeable consequences to families in thousands of rural towns and areas around the country. (not to mention what it does to those of us who eat it.)
As small farmers and growers have been displaced from their lands by means of buyouts, intimidation or exploitation, biogenetic engineered crops have replaced other harvests for human consumption and diversified crops. Unemployment, hunger and disease have grown to alarming levels in such rural areas, forcing the government to increase public programs.
The seed was introduced in 1996 without environmental impact independent studies, public awareness, Congressional debate or appropriate regulatory legislation. Four companies lead in biogenetic seeds, Monsanto, Cargill, Dreyfus and Nidera, being the first one the largest by far. Monsanto controls 90 percent of transgenic seeds sold around the world.
Over 200 thousand hectares are deforested every year in Argentina to make room for GM soy monoculture, with extraordinary profits from land property owners that transcend national borders into Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil.
In April 2009 Andrés Carrasco, an Argentinean embryologist working in the Ministry of Science’s CONICET—National Council of Scientific and Technical Investigations— reported that research results of glyphosate’ s (Roundup) impact in amphibians fetuses suggested the herbicide could cause brain, intestinal and heart defects. Not only his research was attacked and scorned but he was also personally threatened as reported by GRAIN.
Sofia Gatica, another Argentine activist who lost a three-day-old baby to kidney failure, was also threatened and victimized by Monsanto’s defenders and allies—including local police—when her advocacy efforts led to studies showing cancer rates in her hometown of Ituzaingo were 41 times the national average, as reported by the Huffington Post.
Introducing transgenic soy in Argentina was the mechanisms through which Monsanto spread and flourished into the rest of South America, pushing the seed illegally into Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay, countries where transgenic crops were prohibited. The “United Republic of Soy” was born, an expression that qualifies the transnational characteristics of transgenic soy exploitation.
“I was in Brazil presenting proofs just before regulators approved the GMOs. Brazil researchers resisted the approval of genetically engineered crops. They conducted research studies resulting in large dossiers that were plainly ignored because of Monsanto’s pressure, which introduced such an amount of illegal seed in Brazil that forced approval,” said Smith. “Monsanto sued Brazilian farmers for ‘pirating’ its seed but now, the company may have to pay up to $7.5 billion to five million Brazilian soy farmers in unlawfully collected penalties.”
CTNBio, the Brazilian Biosafety Technical Commission, has given consent to other GMOs including GM maize (corn), soya, sugar cane and cotton but EMBRAPA (Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research) is now speculating to approve GM pinto beans, a staple Brazilians eat in large quantities every day and worldly known for being the main ingredient in Brazil’s famous feijoada.
Attacks to native farmers and native indigenous populations in rural areas of Brazil have been denounced. Indigenous groups in Brazil claim they are frequently harassed and murdered to force submission of their land to multinational farmers with little or no protection from local authorities.
Paraguay’s political coup against President Fernando Lugo is now suspected to have had the dark hand of Monsanto moving the “wheel of fortune.” As reported, under the Lugo’s administration, the National Service for Plants and Seeds Quality and Health (SENAVE) refused the use of GM seeds but shortly after Vice-President Franco took power, Paraguay’s Health and Social Welfare Ministry’s sanctioned the genetically modified (GM) corn VT Triple Pro, produced by Monsanto.
Uruguay also resisted through light government pressure to corporations but finally gave in to Monsanto media campaign which adduced that transgenic soy was instrumental for its new Agricultural Production Plan. Changes to the farming landscape of Uruguay came with larger crop areas, and important increases in the index of economic concentration and marginalization of small rural farmers.
“Studies have shown that before 1996, food allergies were an irrelevant public health concern. After the introduction of transgenic soy, food allergy jumped to be the ninth cause of health concern in 1997 and the third in 1998. GMOs cause intestinal damage—leaky gut—and is believed to generate a number of other diseases that have expanded in the last forty years including diabetes, thyroids problems, rheumatoid arthritis and even MS,” concluded Dr. Bernhoft.