By Augustina Larrea – Buenos Aires Herald, 30 December 2016
Although agrochemical products, pesticides and genetically modified crops are today part of everyday life for those who live in the countryside, they are relatively new in Argentina. Very few people, apart from enviromental activists, question their use. Yet the consequences — in both the short and the long term — of their impact on the health of those living near lands fumigated daily, with products that are forbidden in many countries around the world, are already beginning to emerge.
After years of spralling, obsessive and sometimes overwhelming investigation, journalist Fernanda Sández — in her recent book, La Argentina fumigada — lays bare the links that tie that food industry and agrochemical use to pollution, via insufficient state control, and the increasing numbers of deaths from new diseases as a result of using pesticides.
Conducting her research, Sández visited what she calls “the sprayed small towns” in agricultural provinces such as Entre Ríos, Santa Fe, Chaco and Córdoba, where she listened to alarming testimonies from people struggling in a battle that, as she says, “seems to already be lost but is still worth fighting for.”
During your research you inverviewed many of those who have made accusations, have complained about the use of agrochemicals and have protested. Most of them are women. Why do you think they are frequently labelled as “irrational” or “mad” people?
It’s very shocking. But some experts say that the enviromental struggle is a women’s one, as most of those battles regarding life and death are. We have the Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo as an example of that.
Regarding enviromental issues, it’s frequently women who organise groups, who complain, who led the protests. Women are the ones that see their kids suffer when they have the first symptoms of diseases. Something similar happens with teachers, especially in rural schools. One of the neighbours I saw in a small town near Córdoba city told me: “We are the ones seeing our kids get sick.”
At the same time, those who fight for all this are seen as mad because the idea of fumigation as being something dangerous to human health is seen as something unlikely, ridiculous and even anti-scientific. But those “allegedly mad” were the ones who proved many things. In San Salvador, Entre Ríos, the so-called “Loca Kloster” ended up proving that the number of people dying of cancer grew as a consequence of the use of agrochemicals.