Herbicides from German chemical giants infuse Argentinian soybeans | Americas | North and South American news impacts Europe | DW

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Brother, what’s wrong? Why don’t you wake up?

They contaminate your food and serve it to you on the table

Inject the unnatural seed

Brother, what’s wrong? Why don’t you care?

I say it to you, I sing it to you, I shout it to you: Monsanto out!

The song “Fuera Monsanto”, by Argentinian punk band Perro Verde, is almost 10 years old and has even been covered by Manu Chao. It remains a hymn today.

Activist Norma Herrera has long been trying to rid Argentina of glyphosate and other herbicides. “All over the world, glyphosate is banned, but here they keep spraying,” Herrera said. “Many of my neighbors have died in the past few years. People are still dying of cancer today. What the soy companies are doing here is nothing but ecocide!”

Herrera is one of Ituzaingo’s mothers, who formed 20 years ago after several cases of cancer and malformations emerged in the Ituzaingo district of Cordoba, the second largest city in Cordoba. Argentina. Her daughter was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 3 years old.

The mothers blamed the day and night spraying of soybean fields the size of several football fields not far from their homes. “When we started protesting 20 years ago, they insulted us, saying we were just two crazy mothers who let the cleaning product go to their heads,” Herrera said. “But when they tested the tap water here, we knew we were poisoned: they found a cocktail of bad sulfates, heavy metals, arsenic and lead.”

In the neighborhood, each family has a story to tell: leukemia, thyroid disease, asthma, kidney dysfunction, neurodermatitis and miscarriages that they attribute to this poisonous cocktail. Eventually, Herrera and the other mothers were able to force a court ruling that herbicides could only be sprayed at least 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) away from residential buildings. A farmer and an airplane pilot spraying herbicides have even been found guilty of illegally spraying near residential areas.

Pigs in Germany are fed with soybean meal from Argentina

“Do irreparable harm”

Each year, 200 million liters (50 million gallons) of herbicides and insecticides continue to be sprayed on land used to grow soybeans. Argentina has the highest per capita use of glyphosate in the world. But it is Germany, the largest meat producer in Europe, which is the main beneficiary. Pigs, cattle and chickens eat Argentine soybean meal.

“What would I say to the Germans? said Herrera. “Any farmer who buys soy from here to feed his pigs is doing irreparable harm. The more soy they buy in Germany, the more we produce here. But the main culprits are the governments and the multinationals who are only interested in one thing: profit. .”

A soybean field in Argentina

Soy is used to make flour which is fed to animals

One need only read the Pesticide Atlas 2022, a 50-page report on the industry’s misdeeds released in Berlin in January, to get an idea of ​​the scale of the situation. More pesticides are being used than ever before and the annual number of farm workers who fall ill from pesticide poisoning has risen to at least 385 million worldwide. In addition, glyphosate and other similar products are considered to be one of the main causes of biodiversity decline.

“Toxic pesticides that are not approved or permitted in the EU can still be exported, leading to double standards in southern countries,” said Inka Dewitz, senior program manager for international food policy at the Heinrich Foundation. Böll, who co-published the report.

A tractor in a soybean field in Argentina

Argentina is the country that uses the most glyphosate per capita

Advantage Bayer, BASF

The main beneficiaries are the German chemical giants Bayer and BASF, which dominate 70% of the world market, as well as the Chinese agrochemical group Syngenta and the American chemical and seed company Corteva. It is a lucrative business: in 2020, around half of the annual turnover of German companies was generated by sales of herbicides. Bayer’s tkae was Є9.8 billion; BASF reached 5.5 billion euros.

“Bayer and BASF respect the respective national laws, and therefore, in principle, they think it’s OK,” Dewitz said. “But, in many countries, the regulations are much worse and weaker than in the EU. And they export to places where there is a greater likelihood of permits being granted – especially Latin American countries .”

Logo of German chemical giant Bayer

The German chemical giant is one of the main beneficiaries of profits from Argentina

There is no international agreement to ban the use of glyphosate, which the World Health Organization has classified as “probably carcinogenic” and, although there is a German proposal to ban the export of the herbicide by 2024, this still has to be pushed through Germany’s Green Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir. “There is supposed to be an EU strategy to explicitly ban double standards and regulate dangerous standards,” Dewitz said. “However, it is still unclear which pesticides will be affected. France is the only country in Europe to have introduced export legislation, and this is now coming into force. The German government also has a duty to keep its promises .”

This article was originally written in German.

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