Ever since the biotechnology industry first made inroads into South America back in the 1990s, rates of birth defects, cancer and other illnesses have steadily increased, a direct result of pesticides and herbicides being sprayed near residential areas. And one group of mothers from Argentina, known as “Mothers of Ituzaingo,” is demanding that the industry’s largest player, Monsanto, be removed from the country for the safety of all Argentinians and their children.
The story begins in a small farming community just outside the city of Cordoba, where large plantations of genetically modified soybeans border multiple residential communities. For the past 20-or-so years, children living in these areas have been coming down with serious health conditions, including major birth defects and cancer. These conditions have been steadily rising since the advent of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the area, yet they were largely nonexistent prior to this time.
“Children were being born with deformities,” says Sofia Gatica, a local mother of three whose oldest son became a victim of pesticide poisoning back in the mid-90s, about the consequences of GMOs. “Little babies were being born with six fingers, without a jawbone, missing a skull bone, with kidney deformities, without an anus — and a lot of mothers and fathers were developing cancer.”
Sofia’s son did not end up with anything this severe, but he was temporarily paralyzed and had to receive care at a local hospital. Doctors were initially unsure as to what the boy actually had, but Sofia was convinced that the GMOs near here home were to blame. After all, Monsanto operated a soy plantation just 50 meters away from her family’s property, where airplanes would routinely spray toxic glyphosate, also known as Roundup, over the fields.