990 steps backwards: Bill approved by the Senate, allows glyphosate ten meters from houses

990 steps backwards: Bill approved by the Senate, allows glyphosate ten meters from houses

By Darío Aranda

The Chamber of Senators of Buenos Aires gave half approval to a bill that allows spraying with the disputed herbicide glyphosate up to only ten meters from the homes, reduces to a minimum the distances of use of agrochemicals, ignores judicial decisions and is not based on any scientific evidence to establish distances. Social organizations and assemblies of fumigated towns denounce the unconstitutionality of the project and affirm that the provincial government privileged the companies of the sector, nucleated in the Association of Direct Sowing Producers (Aapresid) and the Chamber of agrochemical companies (Casafe) over the population.

The minister of Agroindustry of Buenos Aires and former manager of Monsanto, Leonardo Sarquís, announced it days after taking office: they were working on a new provincial agrochemical law. On July 6, and without discussion by means of, the Buenos Aires Senate gave half sanction to a law in line with the business requests: "Any application using the terrestrial technique of all phytosanitary products, fertilizers and other pesticides included in classes III is prohibited. and IV, which is delimited by ten meters counted from the limit of the urban area ”.

Among the products that can be fumigated up to the steps of the houses are the herbicide glyphosate (classified by the IARC as "probable carcinogenic", located in the second dangerous step on a scale of 1 to 5), atrazine (its main marketer is the multinational Syngenta), chlorpyrifos and the also disputed herbicide 2,4-D.

“It is a project that completely ignores the complaints and diseases that occur throughout the country regarding fumigations and also ignores the scientific and legal evidence that proves the need to protect the environment and the health of the population. There is no technical or scientific argument that justifies this law, ”denounced Gabriel Arisnabarreta, an agronomist, producer of food without poisons and member of the Ecos de Saladillo organization.

Arisnabarreta affirmed that the only thing that favors this project in the "search for greater profitability" of companies. He specified that behind the initiative are the Direct Sowing Association (Aapresid), Casafe (agrochemical business chamber, where all the major companies in the sector are located), the Liaison Table, "INTA sectors" and the Ministry of Agroindustry of the Nation .

Senasa classifies chemicals into five categories: IA (extremely dangerous, very toxic, red band), IB (extremely dangerous, toxic, red band), II (moderately dangerous, yellow band), III (little dangerous, blue band) and IV (normally not dangerous, green band).

The classification is highly questioned at a national and international level because it is made based on studies by the companies that market the poisons and because it only considers acute toxicity (produced at the time of manipulation) and leaves out chronic affectation (due to long periods of time, for example it does not contemplate families exposed to continuous fumigations, where chemicals are more harmful).

Diana González, from the Assembly for the Protection of Health, Life and the Environment of Pergamino, considered that the Senasa classification “is fallacious because it excludes from the discussion the chronic exposure to which the residents of the fumigated towns are subjected ”.

Prohibitions or “exclusion zones” are mentioned in the project. It sets distances of 500 meters for aerial spraying and reduces them to 100 meters (for class IA, IB and II products) and ten meters for categories III and IV. “It is a joke. The most used today are in categories III and IV, on them there are numerous scientific studies that have chronic effects that affect health but will still throw it to the door of your house ", warned Arisnabarreta.

The Supreme Court of Buenos Aires ruled in 2012 and banned spraying within 1,000 meters of homes. It was a sentence that protected María Cristina Monsalvo and Víctor Fernández (from the town of Alberti), who suffered from sprays with glyphosate, atrazine and cirpermethrin from a neighboring soybean field. The highest court of Buenos Aires cited the precautionary principle in force in the law: given the possibility of environmental damage, it is necessary to take protective measures.

The project with half sanction ignores the judicial ruling of the Supreme Court. It was promoted by Senator Alfonso Coll Areco (of the Buenos Aires Peronism bloc and president of the Environment Commission) and its foundation does not cite any technical or scientific work that justifies the minimum distances. By contrast, in Argentina there are more than one hundred scientific works from public universities (Río Cuarto, La Plata, El Litoral, UBA and Rosario, among others) that account for the consequences of pesticides in populations.

Lucas Landívar and Juan Ignacio Pereyra are part of the Lawyers of Fumigated Villages collective, a space born from the communities affected by the consequences of chemical agriculture. They affirmed that the bill is "unconstitutional" because it ignores legislation that protects health and the environment, and explained that it is a "regressive" project (it reduces environmental protections that are already in force in previous laws). "That fact alone already confirms the unconstitutionality," the lawyers assured and stressed that there were no public hearings as established by current regulations.

González, from the Assembly of Pergamino, has no doubts: "The only goal of the bill is to protect the business interests of agribusiness."

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