GMO Kids? Argentina Moms Confront Monsanto and Philip Morris Over Greed and Pesticides
Seventeen-year-old William Nuñez can’t walk or talk, and has to be fed through a tube in his stomach. Five-year-old Lucas Texeira suffers from a severe and incurable skin condition. Lucas Krauss has congenital microcephaly, epilepsy, delayed motor and mental development, multiple muscular atrophy and numerous related pathologies.
What do these children have in common? Their fathers, all farmers working in Latin America, were exposed to agricultural pesticides that likely damaged their DNA, increasing the risk of cancer, birth defects and neurological disorders in the children they later fathered.
They also have this in common: Their mothers are fighting for justice for their kids.
“Genetically Modified Children,” a new one-hour documentary, exposes how Philip Morris and Monsanto have exploited generations of impoverished Argentinian farmers since 1996, when the Argentinian government authorized the use of genetically engineered crops to withstand the use of Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller.
Featured in the film are Dr. Hugo Gomez Demaio, head of neurosurgery at the Pediatric Hospital of Posadas, and Dr. Mario Barrera, neurosurgeon at the Medical School of Nordeste. (Both institutions are in Buenos Aires). The doctors are dedicated to highlighting and treating the link between glyphosate exposure and DNA damage.
Dr. Barrera explains:
“Even if the entire local environment is contaminated, it does not mean that all children will become sick. But when the father is exposed to herbicides, they are absorbed into the body and alter his DNA. He then passes that genetic mutation on to his children.”
Sofia Gatica lost her infant daughter to a kidney malformation, and her son was rendered unable to walk following a local agrochemical fumigation. She is the co-founder of the Mothers of Ituzaingó, a group of mothers working to stop the indiscriminate agrochemical use that has poisoned their children. Ituzaingó, a suburb of Córdoba, Argentina, is surrounded by GMO soy fields.
Gatica is renowned for her work tracking the abnormal rates of cancer, kidney disease and other conditions in areas close to aerial spraying of glyphosate on GMO soy crops. She’s been so instrumental in the fight against Monsanto that she was awarded the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize.
According to the film, the Mothers of Ituzaingo had blood tests done on their kids and found that three out of four children living in their community had agrochemicals in their blood, including pesticides, chromium, lead and arsenic. When they took the results to the Argentinian government, government officials told them they would improve the water only if the families signed away their right to sue for the previously polluted water.
The mothers have faced many uphill battles, including in 2007 when someone entered Gatica’s house, pointed a revolver at her, and demanded she give up the campaign.
But they’ve also made good progress.
In 2008, Argentina’s president ordered the minister of health to investigate the impact of pesticide use in Ituzaingó. A study was conducted by the Department of Medicine at Buenos Aires University and the results corroborated with the research the mothers had done linking pesticide exposure to the many health issues experienced by people in the community.
Gatica also succeeded in getting a municipal ordinance passed that prohibited aerial spraying in Ituzaingó at distances of less than 2,500 meters from residences. And, in a huge victory, a 2010 Supreme Court ruling banned agrochemical spraying near populated areas and reversed the burden of proof—now the government and soy producers have to prove the chemicals they are using are safe, instead of residents having to prove that the spraying is making them sick.
This David vs. Goliath battle continues to play out in the courts. Class action lawsuits were filed on behalf of these “genetically modified children” by five law firms: Philips & Poalicelli, Waters & Kraus, The Thornton Law Firm, Capilla & Mustapich and Bifferato.
According to Steven Phillips, founding partner at Phillips & Paolicelli, Monsanto and Philip Morris must be held accountable—Monsanto for selling Roundup while knowing it wasn’t safe, and Philip Morris for requiring the use of Roundup on its tobacco crops. Litigation against Monsanto is currently proceeding in Delaware, while litigation against Philip Morris is proceeding in Argentina.
All these steps are positive, yet much still needs to be done. Every year, more than 80 million gallons of glyphosate are used on Argentinian soil. Tobacco farmers in Argentina still lack information about the risks associated with the agrochemical and GMO products they are required to use in order to get their tobacco certified by Philip Morris.
Agrochemicals are worth $40 billion a year to chemical and agricultural companies like Monsanto. It’s estimated that the agrochemical market will be worth $308.92 billion by 2025. How likely is it that these multinational corporations will voluntarily sacrifice any of these profits, even if it means sacrificing the health of farmers and their kids?
You can stream “Genetically Modified Children” on Vimeo and Amazon or get the DVD for $10 by visiting this special promotional page. The film’s directors, Juliette Igier and Stephanie Lebrun, are looking for partner organizations and educators interested in using the film as a tool to raise awareness in their communities. To learn more, email Cinema Libre Studio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can Monsanto chemicals permanently alter your child’s genes? Doctors in Argentina think so, as they expose the epidemic of birth defects, childhood cancers, and disease plaguing the children of Argentina’s farmers.
In 1996, the Argentinian government authorized the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) based on studies done by chemical giant, Monsanto. Little to no independent research was done to verify the company’s own results and claims, and the Misiones Province of Argentina, where poverty-stricken farmers grow tobacco, became one of the first regions to begin handling Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup on their GMO tobacco. Today, every year, more than 300 million liters (80 million gallons) of glyphosate are used on Argentinian soil.
The local farmers consider Roundup to be an ’agrochemical,’ the label they give to the various toxic substances they’ve worked with in the past, and continue to work with, many of which have now been banned. As their use of Monsanto’s Roundup increased, so too did ill-health in their community, and most notably, birth defects in their children.
Ricardo Rivero, the Chief of Electricity in the city of Misiones, identified a trend amongst the growing number of families who could no longer pay their electric bill. They were tobacco farmers, all with very sick children. One of these children is five-year-old Lucas Texeira. Lucas’ tobacco farmer father Arnoldo Texeira received Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup without appropriate warning labels. For 15 years, he sprayed the chemical products without any protection, and his wife Rosana sprayed Roundup around the home while six months pregnant with their son, Lucas. Now five, Lucas has suffered from Ichtyosis Lamellar since birth, due to a genetic mutation. His skin lacks pores, so he cannot perspire and cool down, and every inch of his skin itches and burns. According to Arnoldo, nobody will directly blame the agrochemicals; they merely say it was "probably the fault of the agrochemicals."
Another boy named Lucas Krauss from the same region, suffers from congenital microcephaly, originally misdiagnosed as having been caused by a lack of oxygen during birth. He additionally suffers from epilepsy, delayed motor and mental development, multiple muscular atrophy, and numerous related pathologies. If his father stops growing tobacco, for which Roundup is required, he will lose his social security and no longer be able to afford his son’s care.
MONSANTO LOBBYING: AN ATTACK ON US, OUR PLANET AND DEMOCRACY
Poslanici Evropskog parlamenta (EP) povlače pristup parlamentu nakon što je firma izbegla saslušanje zbog optužbi da je preterano uticala na studije o sigurnosti glifosata korišćenih u njihovom pesticidu raund-apu
Lobistima Monsanta zabranjen je ulazak u EP nakon što je multinacionalna kompanija odbila da prisustvuje parlamentanoj raspravi u vezi sa navodima o regulatornom uplitanju.
Povodom zabrane proizvodnje NK 603, MON 810, MON 863 kukuruza u nekim zemljama EU, 2007. godine, ambasador SAD u Francuskoj, K. Stejplton (C. Staplenton) piše:
Evropa ide unazad umesto unapred, predvođena Francuskom, Austrijom, Italijom, pa čak i Evropskom komisijom... prelazak na represalije će pokazati da izabrani put košta Evropu i ojačaće biotehnološki lobi u Evropi. ...Tim iz Pariza predlaže da represivne mere usmerimo na celu Evropu zbog kolektivne odgovornosti, ali i da se fokusiramo na najteže prestupnike. Kazna mora biti odmerena, a ne očigledno prestroga i mora biti dugoročno održiva, jer ne možemo odmah pobediti. . . .
Svesna rastućeg uticaja ne-GMO lobija u Rumuniji i znajući šta će ulazak te države u EU, značiti za proizvodnju transgenih biljaka, američka Ambasada je sprovela brojne kampanje s ciljem edukovanja javnosti o benefitima tehnologije. U saradnji sa Nacionalnom agencijom za zaštitu potrošača i Nacionalnom rumunskom televizijom (TVR) i nekim nevladinim organizacijama održali su veći broj seminara u važnim univerzitetskim centrima (Bukurešt, Temišvar, Jaši, Kluž, Krajova). Učesnici seminara su birani iz redova istraživača, industrije i lokalnih medija. T. Dilar o toj kampanji piše:
...do kraja kampanje će biti objavljeno 40 članaka paralelno sa TV i radio-spotovima. Tako će 70 odsto populacije biti izloženo pozitivnim porukama o GMO. . . .
U novijim depešama SAD posmatraju GM hranu strateškim i komercijalnim imperativom. Iako veruju da papa tajno podržava biotehnologiju zahvaljujući lobiranju višeg savetnika Svete stolice, priželjkuju javnu papsku podršku koja bi izvršila veliki uticaj na mnogobrojne građane Evrope i zemalja u razvoju. Američku ambasadu je zabrinulo opozivanje podrške najbližeg saveznika, počasnog predsednika moćnog papskog Saveta za mir i pravdu, čoveka koji najčešće predstavlja papu u UN, kardinala R. Martina:
Njegov zamenik nam je nedavno rekao da je kardinal sarađivao sa nama po pitanju biotehnologije u protekle dve godine kako bi kompenzovao javno neodobravanje rata i posledica rata u Iraku. Prema našem izvoru kardinal više ne oseća potrebu za ovim pristupom.