Argentina: Chemical warfare on towns

In the small towns of the Argentinean Pampas, glyphosate spraying is making residents sick and poisoning life. Resistance to the model of industrial agriculture is growing day by day.

“I’m here because I had to bury four of my relatives,” says Raquel in an almost inaudible voice. “My dad, my cousin, and one of my dad’s brothers worked as sprayers, and my brother worked in a rural school.” Raquel is a teacher and lives in Elortondo, a small town of 6,000 people located 300km south of Santa Fe, where soya and the illnesses caused by spraying prevail. “Eighty percent of them are country people,” she adds.

Raquel is carrying a heavy folder containing the work of her 7th grade students, almost all of them 13 years old. An in-depth survey has been carried out with them in order to find out the health condition of the town’s residents. The school lies right alongside train lines and in front of the soybean drying silos. Almost everyone surveyed by the children, their neighbors and relatives, is aware of the health problems that the spraying causes.

“To get to school you have to walk closely past the silos and you can’t breathe. The children who go out on the streets while the dryer is in operation are left with white clothes, because of the dust that is emitted by the silos and spreads across the school and the entire town,” the teacher explains. The project that Raquel leads is called “We are what we breathe,” but the authorities prevented them from competing as it dealt with a “controversial” issue.

She becomes sad and speaks in more hushed tones when she recounts the indifference of the people who could get involved in defending health. In towns, the communal president, the school director and the school cooperative frequently have some kind of relationship with the soybean farmers. “I’m here because we want to form a little group in the town, to make our presence felt.” With that intention she travelled to the 17th plenary session of the Dejen de Fumigarnos (“Stop Spraying Us”) campaign in the Santa Fe province.

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