BBC Reports on Argentina’s Soy Boom, Monsanto and Birth Defects

The BBC this morning ran an in-depth thirty minute report this morning from Argentina about the country’s soya boom and links between the herbicide glyphosate and birth defects.

“The transgenic revolution in agricultural production has turned Argentina into one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of genetically modified (GM) soybean and corn,” the BBC’s Linda Pressly reports. “But there is unease across the nation’s vast GM belt, especially about health. In the northern province of Chaco, the minister of Public Health wants an independent commission to investigate cases of cancer and the incidence of children born with disabilities.”

Argentina has become one of the largest producers of GM soya in the world.

One farmer explained to Pressly the advantages of using GM crops.

“The big advantage of GM soya is that it is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate,” the farmer told Pressly. “We plant the seeds and then spray the land with glyphosate. It controls the weeds and then the soya grows well.”

Glyphosate is the world’s top selling herbicide. It was developed by Monsanto in the 1970s. Monsanto says it is safe when used properly.

But Pressly interviews the University of Buenos Aires Dr. Andres Carrasco, who published a study in 2010 showing that glyphosate can cause birth defects in animal embryos.

Pressly asks Carrasco — what should have happened after you published your paper?

“Very easy,” Carrasco says. “The governments in Argentina — they should call for a moratorium.”

“But you then call the whole of the model into question — what does that mean for Argentina’s economy?” Pressly asks.

“What about if we are poisoning our people?” Carrasco asks.

Pressly talks at length to a Monsanto spokesperson, Luiz Beling, who dismisses Carrasco’s study, saying it has been “refuted by a lot of other scientists.”

“There is no evidence that properly used glyphosate causes any harm to the health of a human being,” Beling says. “Embryos are not the best way to test the impact on human health.”

Pressly challenges Beling.

“All of the studies coming from the industry say that it is safe and the studies coming from the outside say it is not safe,” Pressly says. “What are ordinary people to think?”
“The studies we do are validated by a robust regulatory system,” Beling says.

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