Argentinian mother sticks it to Monsanto, wins major environmental award

Sunday, May 13, 2012 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: Argentina, Monsanto, environment

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(NaturalNews) The tragic, but inspiring, story of one woman's quest for justice in her local community has resulted in a significant victory for health freedom. Sofia Gatica, an ordinary, working-class mother from Argentina, successfully mobilized more than a dozen of her neighbors to fight the indiscriminate spraying of Monsanto's Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide and other chemicals near the town of Ituzaingo where she lives -- and in the process, she has earned a prestigious environmental award for her brave, grassroots efforts.

Argentina is the third largest exporter of soybeans in the world, which means many of the country's agricultural areas are heavily sprayed by the pervasive pesticide and herbicide chemicals used to grow the crop, which is typically of genetically-modified (GM) origin. And this has most assuredly been the case in soybean field-surrounded Ituzaingo, where the local cancer rate is at least 41 times higher than the national average, and rates of birth defects and infant mortality are off the charts.

For Gatica, the quest for environmental justice began when her own newborn daughter recently died of kidney failure just three days after being born. Gatica began talking to neighbors and local authorities about what may have been the cause of the child's death, and came to the disturbing realization that heavy pesticide and herbicide sprayings on the soybean fields that surround her town are responsible for causing unprecedented health problems throughout her community, including in her own daughter.

In the first epidemiological study ever conducted in the area, Gatica's persistent door-to-door surveying uncovered the dirty truth about these aerial sprayings, which prompted her and more than a dozen of her concerned neighbors to jointly launch an official campaign called Stop Spraying. Despite a lack of resources and repeated threats by local police and some business owners, Gatica and her supporters were able to achieve a significant victory in protecting not only their town, but also the entire country of Argentina from biotechnology poison.

Gatica's efforts prompt Argentinian Supreme Court to require chemical companies to prove chemical safety prior to use

In addition to helping get a local ordinance passed that has banned the spraying of all pesticides and herbicides within 2,500 meters of local residences, Gatica's efforts have also helped convince her country's Supreme Court to rule that agrochemical companies must now prove that their chemicals are safe before they can be permitted for use.

Prior to the ruling, the burden of proof was on local residents and other concerned parties to prove that an existing chemical was unsafe before it ever had the chance of being pulled from the market. But now, chemical companies will actually have to abide by commonsense regulatory and safety protocols before carelessly thrusting their toxic brews on rural agriculture.

Gatica's successes in fighting the tyranny of the biotechnology industry in her community have been so significant that she was recently awarded the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize (GEP), a prestigious prize given to individuals working at the grassroots level to protect the environment and fight injustice. But Gatica's efforts do not stop there.

"Recognizing the extent of the issue, Gatica is working with the Stop Spraying campaign to ban all aerial spraying in Argentina and create buffer zones so that agrochemicals are not used in close proximity to residential areas and waterways," says a recent GEP announcement. "With Argentina's ban on endosulfan (another toxic insecticide) going into effect July 2013, Gatica and her colleagues are pushing for a nationwide ban on glyphosate as well."

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