2013-10-19 03:22 AM
EDITORS: An AP investigation.
Doctors in Argentina increasingly suspect that pesticides are making their patients sick, and that the South American country is turning into a laboratory for what can happen when uncontrolled chemicals are used on genetically modified crops.
The EPA says agrochemicals such as glyphosate, used around the world on the modified crops, are safe if applied properly. But an investigation by The Associated Press has documented dozens of cases where pesticides are used in ways specifically banned by existing law, exposing millions of people in South America's farm belt to poisons.
In Santa Fe province, the heart of Argentina's soy industry, cancer rates are two to four times higher than the national average. In the nation's poorest province, children are four times more likely to be born with devastating birth defects since biotechnology dramatically expanded industrial agriculture.
In backyards and schoolyards, reservoirs and swimming pools, the AP documented the uncontrolled use of chemicals and a growing backlash against the agriculture industry that has grown reliant on genetically modified crops, and the pesticides used to manage them.
This story was sent in advance Thursday for use beginning Monday, Oct. 21. Questions should be directed to editor Trish Wilson at 202-641-9773 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FOR MONDAY, OCT. 21:
BASAVILBASO, Argentina -- Argentine farmworker Fabian Tomasi was never trained to handle pesticides. His job was to keep the crop dusters flying by filling their tanks as quickly as possible, although it often meant getting drenched in poison. Now, at 47, he's a living skeleton, too weak to leave his house in Entre Rios province.
Schoolteacher Andrea Druetta lives in Santa Fe Province, the heart of Argentina's soy country, where agrochemical spraying is banned within 500 meters of populated areas. But soy is planted just 30 meters from her back door. Her boys were showered in chemicals recently while swimming in the backyard pool.
After Sofia Gatica lost her newborn to kidney failure, she filed a complaint that led to Argentina's first criminal convictions for illegal spraying. But last year's verdict came too late for many of her 5,300 neighbors in Ituzaingo Annex. A government study there found alarming levels of agrochemical contamination in the soil and drinking water, and 80 percent of the children surveyed carried traces of pesticide in their blood.
The Associated Press documented cases around Argentina of poisons being applied in ways unanticipated by regulatory science or banned by existing law. Spray drifts into schools and homes and settles over water sources; farmworkers mix poisons with no protective gear; villagers store water in pesticide containers that should have been destroyed.
Doctors are warning that uncontrolled pesticide applications could be the cause of growing health problems among the 12 million people who live in the South American nation's vast farm belt.
2,400 words, by Michael Warren and Natacha Pisarenko. Moved Thursday in advance for use Monday, Oct. 21. With ABRIDGED version. With AP Photos. With glance of findings.