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By Silvia Alonso
A few years ago Professor Wanderlei Pignati, a sanitary doctor in the toxicology area, made a careful study of the impacts of agribusiness on the environment and health.
Currently, the professor focuses his work on the subject of pesticides. He presented on Tuesday (28) on the first day of the National Seminar on the indiscriminate use of pesticides and production model in the field organized by the CUT in collaboration with the Center for Solidarity of the AFL-CIO, some facts and figures that demonstrate that there is no safe level for pesticide use.
The impacts of the agribusiness production chain are many. Those with the greatest effect on health and the environment such as pollution, acute and chronic poisoning are directly related to the use of pesticides. "True poisons that pose risks to health, occupational health and the environment," Pignati summarizes.
Study of the professor and doctor in Geography of USP, Larissa Mies shows that in the last 11 years 60,000 cases of pesticide poisoning were registered in Brazil. That is, five thousand cases a year and one poisoning episode for every 90 minutes.
But the report published by ANVISA (National Sanitary Surveillance Agency) on the presence of pesticide residues in 1,655 food samples showed that 36% of the samples analyzed in 2011 and 29% of the samples controlled in 2012 were considered unsatisfactory. the results.
An emblematic case - in 2006, farmers de-dried transgenic soybeans for harvest with paraquat (herbicide) in aerial fumigation in the vicinity of the municipality of Lucas do Rio Verde, Mato Grosso. A toxic cloud was blown into the city and killed thousands of ornamental and medicinal plants, drying plants from 65 surrounding city farms of vegetation and caused an outbreak of acute poisoning in children and the elderly.
Based on this fact, a team from the Center for Environmental and Health Studies of the Federal University of Mato Grosso del Trabajo, led by Professor Wanderlei Pignati, initiated a 2007-2010 site survey to collect data and samples.
The city of 37,000 inhabitants had an HDI (Human Development Index) of 0.818 (third MT), produced in 2010 about 420 thousand hectares of soybeans, corn and cotton and consumes 5.1 million liters of pesticides, especially herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.
"The results detected an intensive use of pesticides on crops, a crucial fact for the contamination of various components of the environment and the population, families and breast milk," reported Pignati.
The professor pointed out that despite the publication of instruction regulation 02/2008 MAPA (Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply) that prohibits aerial spraying within 500 meters of drinking water sources, streams, breeding and residences, there is a ongoing disrespect for the norm.
It also points to flaws in social control, public supervision, and studies on the impact of the rampant use of these products.
Banned in other countries, some pesticides are still used freely in Brazil, a country that leads the world ranking of pesticide consumption and uses more pesticides on its crops. In 2010, consumption was 828 million liters, which is equivalent to about five gallons of poison per capita.
Health damage ranging from acute damage (gastrointestinal and liver), as well as chronic psychiatric (depression, developmental disorders), neurological (deafness, Parkinson's disease), endocrine disruptors (diabetes, hypothyroidism, infertility, miscarriage), teratogenic (malformations, abortions), mutagenic (induces defects in the DNA of sperm and eggs) and carcinogenic (breast, ovary, prostate, testicles).
Vignati highlighted some urgent measures to be ratified, such as compliance with the legislation, a ban on spraying by aircraft and the use of pesticides that are already locked in the European Union, and the end of public subsidies for these poisons.
"This should be a fight of the CUT and of the entire population, whether rural or urban, since everyone is directly or indirectly affected. In the European Union, the ban on pesticides was produced from awareness and mobilization of consumers and this is the path we must follow with the publication on the effects of the indiscriminate use of these products, infertility, Parkinsons for health and the environment ", said Pignati, who joined the first direction of the CUT.
A doctor in Chaco reveals a connection between disability and pesticides: "They are damaging the territory, genetics and the future."
The newspaper Mu, edited by the La Vaca cooperative, dedicated its July edition to investigating the consequences of the application of pesticides. JUNE DIARIO reproduces the report on the doctor who is part of the Popular Health Network “Dr. Ramón Carrillo ”, María del Carmen Seveso. The doctor connects the alarming number of schools for disabled young people in Chaco with this chronic exposure to biocides: "Where I live, with a population of 89,800 inhabitants, there are approximately 7 private schools and they concentrate an enrollment of 700 children with different abilities" , Seveso says
She comes from a place called Resistencia, with a flash drive full of photos of babies born with malformations, misplaced organs, misshapen faces, huge noses, imperceptible eyes, crooked feet.
"More than photos, they are evidence," she points out with an inquisitive tone towards those responsible for following the ends of this ball that doctors from different parts of the country wove together, among whom she has established herself as a reference.
"Who is going to pay for this?" He asks, pointing to those painful photographs.
Dr. María del Carmen Seveso will show these tests at one of the conferences of the Congress of Worthy Science, and then she will stay chatting with Dr. Delia Aiassa, from the National University of Río Cuarto, a specialist in investigating the genetic damage caused by exposure to pesticides. They are planning something concrete: connecting the images with the scientific evidence.
That photo that would show them coordinating their work - and that will never be on any USB stick or newspaper or anything - is another proof: that of how worthy science is built in unworthy times.
Seveso is a specialist in Intensive Therapy and Pharmacological Therapeutics, among other things, and has always worked with adults. First in the intensive therapy service of the Perrando Hospital, in Resistencia. Then he settled in the Roque Sáenz Peña Presidency (second most populated city in Chaco), where he directed the Therapy Service of Hospital 4 de Junio, of which he is currently a member of the Bioethics Committee. In addition, he is a member of the Bioethics Council of the province of Chaco and is part of the Dr. Ramón Carrillo Popular Health Network, an organization that for years has accompanied the claim of the fumigated peoples. Her case is similar to that of other health professionals with their antennas up: an intensivist doctor who began to notice strange things. “Kidney failure, physical deformities, and later cancers - he enumerates. He received people who had very serious illnesses: some went into a coma, others with respiratory failure, and they did not have a diagnosis, but the disease had evolved very quickly. What was happening then? There was something that accelerated the processes ”. Seveso began an investigation worthy of any North American series, with the tools he had at hand: he resorted to the data system of the intensive care service of Hospital 4 de Junio (reference public health center for half of the population of the interior of the Chaco ) to see what those numbers said. Account:
- "In the database of hospitalized patients a significant number of women with pathologies of pregnancy and the puerperium were registered."
- "Those with serious complications derived from pregnancy-induced hypertension predominated."
- “In 2007 they increased in such magnitude that they equaled the sum of the last 5 previous years. In that year the planting of transgenic soybeans was the most important and thus also the fumigations ”.
- "We began to suspect that there was a relationship, as with other diseases such as cancer in younger people and with torpid evolution, neurological and respiratory diseases, etc."
- "At that time we are brought closer to the statistics of newborns with malformations that come from the same region and that tripled the data from other services in non-fumigated areas."
- At present, he says, the multiplication is greater.
- According to the parameters of normality, 10% of pregnant women may have this problem. In Hospital 4 de Junio, "of 10 who came to obstetrics and gynecology, 4 were cases with pregnancy-induced hypertension." That is, 40 percent.
Seveso says that hypertension during pregnancy is a systemic disease, which causes diseases to the vessels and affects all organs, and that it produces births of babies in critical conditions: neonates with low weight, there may be placental abruption, life is at risk of mother and child.
Go to the field
You have to imagine María del Carmen Seveso, meter fifty in height, walking through the towns of the interior of the Chaco, visiting the places where her sick patients arrived to tie up loose ends: “It added to our suspicion that in the towns, when We spoke with health personnel -among them doctors, health agents- they told us that the problem they had was that pregnant women had hypertension ”. In other words, the trend they noticed in the hospital was also verified in the places they visited. How to check if this trend was related to pesticides? They did not have laboratories. "Just at that moment we received a report of an investigation carried out in Colombia by Dr. Jaime Altamar Ríos that mentioned that the herbicides currently used cause the same endocrine and hormonal changes that are described in these pregnancies." Eureka.
Then came the scientific evidence. "Until then there was not much published research, but then it was possible to access publications from all over the world and our country that report on research showing that all these biocidal products are responsible for the change in the number of autism, obesity, problems learning, ”says Seveso.
His conclusion is forceful: "All this makes us think that we no longer have to ask ourselves if these diseases are caused by the poisoning of the environment and the quality of food, but the other way around: we would have to ask ourselves what disease is not caused by this" .
Another chilling fact: Dr. Seveso connects the alarming number of schools for disabled young people in Chaco with this chronic exposure to biocides, a term that refers to the package of transgenic and agro-toxic seeds.
At present there are forty public schools, distributed in different locations, and in the largest cities there are many more private institutions. "Where I live, with a population of 89,800 inhabitants, there are approximately 7 private schools and an enrollment of 700 children with different abilities is concentrated," says Seveso.
And he reasons: "If we connect this data to the new sowing model, it is understood why 10 years ago the number of enrolled, in Sáenz Peña and in these types of schools, was only 100. That is, 7 times less."
He concludes with another key piece of information: “Children come from fumigated areas, practically without exception”.
The cancer map
During 2011, Dr. Seveso was part of a research team headed by Mirta Liliana Ramírez, geographer, in charge of surveying the epidemiological conditions of the departments of Bermejo, Independencia and Tapenagá, in the province of Chaco. The results are overwhelming:
- In the town of Napenay (1,960 inhabitants), 38.9% declared having had a family member with cancer in the last 10 years.
- In Avia Terai (5,446) the percentage was 31.3%.
- In La Leonesa (8,420), 27.4% had a relative with cancer.
- In Campo Largo, 29.8%.
- In other witness towns that were surveyed and that are cattle ranchers -Charadai and Cotelai- the positive responses decreased: only 5 and 3%.
The report also highlighted the “high degree of inequity” observed when analyzing exposure to pesticides: “An unequal exposure is observed in residents of rural and urban areas, in the different economic strata of urban areas, among men and women. women, and workers in the formal and informal sector; and in particular, children and the elderly ”.
Seveso translates it into the reality of Chaco: “There are many very poor people. Most do not have drinking water and are supplied from wells and cisterns, which is water contaminated with pesticides. They bathe babies with that water, and they drink it, because they don't even have enough to buy a bottle. They are the most vulnerable ”, he reiterates.
Dr. Seveso's diagnosis culminates in an elementary reasoning, basic to all science: “In a healthy system everything is regulated. It is a type of system that, when there is a disruption, malfunctions. It's like when you alter something in a computer's operating system: it stops, or it hangs, or you get a virus. In short: it works badly. In a perfect equilibrium system, these types of alterations represented by biotoxins manage to break it, because they are disruptive. These poisons, all of them, are products designed to kill life ”.
What stage are we in now?
“We are in a stage where the diffusion is: people know what we are talking about. Politicians too. So, when there is necessarily a change due to the unsustainable nature of this discourse, they will be jointly liable for their negligence. This is just starting. They will have to pay. It hurts me a lot that human rights organizations do not assume this as a transgression of those rights, in its maximum expression: they are damaging the territory, genetics and the future. And if we don't do something, it's going to get worse and worse.
Because in the future, new biotechnologies will come and it will be very difficult for us to identify them. And until that happens they will have done even more damage; We will have to start investigating again. Did you see those devastation movies? It will be something like that.
In the middle of this bleak postcard, what does worthy science represent? I don't consider myself a scientist. I am from the trench, I worked with what the patients show and I went to the place where they got sick to understand what was happening. I think that worthy science is that: trying to explain what happened and what happens to society at the time you have to act. Is it possible that science today plays that role? I would have to define the other science first: science addicted to power, hegemonic science that always said what power was interested in saying, science at the service of corporations, always with the complicity of States.
Public universities are investigating today with funds from Monsanto and pharmaceutical companies. Who does that serve? I think the worthy science is Andrés Carrasco, who investigated and discovered the monster: glyphosate. He said it publicly and died fighting for it. And perhaps that is our destiny a bit: to fight to the death, because we are already great ”.