Fighting against glyphosate on Argentina’s soybean fields: the Mothers of Ituzaingó

Do genetically modified crops reduce pesticide use? In Argentina, genetically modified (GM) soybeans are currently grown on 20 million hectares, mostly for export to China and Europe. In 2012, 335 million litres of pesticides were sprayed on Argentinean fields, almost nine times as much as in 1990. Although the level of pesticide use remained fairly constant after GM soya was initially introduced in 1996, it increased dramatically since 2002. Glyphosate, a herbicide marketed by agricultural company Monsanto under the trade name Roundup, is now the most widely used agrochemical in Argentina. While the average amount of glyphosate applied per hectare was three litres in 1996, this figure is now closer to an average of 12 litres per year; in some areas an even greater amount is used. Due to the constant spraying, more and more weeds are becoming resistant.

Today, the neighbourhood of Ituzaingó Anexo on the outskirts of Córdoba is almost completely surrounded by soy fields. And it is here that the community has started to take action.
Ever since her daughter died from kidney malformation in 1998, just three days after birth, Sofía Gatica has suspected that the aerial spraying of glyphosate right in front of her doorstep could have been linked to her daughter’s death. When Sofia started talking to her neighbours, she discovered that more and more people were suffering from cancer, respiratory and skin diseases, and that women were increasingly giving birth to children with deformities. In 2001, she founded the activist group, Mothers of Ituzaingó. Together with other women who were affected she went door to door to systematically document the diseases in the neighbourhood.

By 2010, there were 193 cases of cancer among the 6000 inhabitants of Ituzaingó, a rate many times higher than the national average.
A report commissioned by Argentina’s president Cristina Kirchner found that 33 per cent of the inhabitants of Ituzaingó die from tumours and that 80 per cent of local children have several agrochemicals in their blood.
Many babies are born with a cleft lip, without a jaw bone, without a thumb or with extra fingers. This coincides with findings of the late Argentinean scientist Andrés Carrasco, who had provided evidence that glyphosate causes malformations in the embryos of frogs and chickens.

In 2012, thanks to pressure from the Mothers of Ituzaingó, a soya farmer and a pilot of a pesticide-spraying aircraft were convicted: They were found guilty of illegally spraying chemicals on land near residential areas, endangering the health of inhabitants. In the same year Sofía Gatica was awarded the renowned Goldman Environmental Prize for her commitment to the fight against pesticides and GMOs. She also received several death threats, but both Sofía and the Mothers of Ituzaingó are determined not to give up. They are now spearheading protests against the construction of a Monsanto corn processing plant in Malvinas Argentinas close to Córdoba.

The Mothers of Ituzaingó

5 minute video on activist Sofía Gatica and the Mothers of Ituzaingó

What the Goldman Environmental Prize has to say about prize recipient Sofía

22 pictures from Argentina

Associated Press picture gallery on the impacts of the Argentinean soy boom


Donors of globalagriculture Bread for all biovision Bread for the World Misereor Heidehof Stiftung Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Rapunzel
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