The people of this working-class suburb of Córdoba in Argentina’s central farming belt stoically put up with the spraying of the weed-killer glyphosate on the fields surrounding their neighborhood. But the last straw was when U.S. biotech giant Monsanto showed up to build a seed plant.
The creator of glyphosate, whose trademark is Roundup, and one of the world’s leading producers of genetically modified seeds, Monsanto is building one of its biggest plants to process transgenic corn seed in Malvinas Argentinas, this poor community of 15,000 people 17 km east of the capital of the province of Córdoba.
The plant was to begin operating in March 2014. But construction work was brought to a halt in October by protests and legal action by local residents, who have been blocking the entrance to the site since Sept. 18.
On the morning of Saturday Nov. 30, troops arrived at the plant, as seen in this video posted on Facebook, and escorted several trucks out of the construction site. The trucks had forced their way past the roadblock on Thursday Nov. 28, when members of the construction union stormed into the camp set up by local residents, with the aim of breaking the blockade. More than 20 people were injured in the clash.
The protesters don’t like to describe themselves as environmentalists, and do not identify with any specific political party. Most of them are women.
In Malvinas Argentinas, one of the poorest districts in the province, everyone knows someone with respiratory problems or allergic reactions that coincide with the spraying of fields around Córdoba, one of the biggest producers of transgenic soy in this South American country, which is the world’s third largest producer of soy.
Doctors have also reported a rise in cases of cancer and birth defects.
But the final stroke was Monsanto’s plans for a local seed plant.
“I’m participating because I’m afraid of illness and death,” María Torres, a local resident, told Tierramérica*. “My son is already sick, and if Monsanto comes things will get worse,” she added, in the midst of a protest that this reporter accompanied in mid-November.
Her 13-year-old son was at home, with sinusitis and a nosebleed. “In Malvinas, a lot of people have the same symptoms,” she said.
Most of the spraying is done with Monsanto’s Roundup glyphosate-based weed-killer.According to the University Network for Environment and Health – Physicians in Fumigated Towns, nearly 22 million hectares of soy, corn and other transgenic crops are sprayed in 12 of Argentina’s 23 provinces, whose towns are homes to some 12 million of the country’s nearly 42 million people.
Eli Leiria was also in the protest march. She is suffering from problems like weight loss. Doctors found glyphosate in her blood. “They say it’s as if a tornado had hit my body,” she said.