(NaturalNews) Ever since the biotechnology industry first made inroads into South America back in the 1990s, rates of birth defects, cancer and other illnesses have steadily increased, a direct result of pesticides and herbicides being sprayed near residential areas. And one group of mothers from Argentina, known as "Mothers of Ituzaingo," is demanding that the industry's largest player, Monsanto, be removed from the country for the safety of all Argentinians and their children.
The story begins in a small farming community just outside the city of Cordoba, where large plantations of genetically modified soybeans border multiple residential communities. For the past 20-or-so years, children living in these areas have been coming down with serious health conditions, including major birth defects and cancer. These conditions have been steadily rising since the advent of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the area, yet they were largely nonexistent prior to this time.
"Children were being born with deformities," says Sofia Gatica, a local mother of three whose oldest son became a victim of pesticide poisoning back in the mid-90s, about the consequences of GMOs. "Little babies were being born with six fingers, without a jawbone, missing a skull bone, with kidney deformities, without an anus -- and a lot of mothers and fathers were developing cancer."
Sofia's son did not end up with anything this severe, but he was temporarily paralyzed and had to receive care at a local hospital. Doctors were initially unsure as to what the boy actually had, but Sofia was convinced that the GMOs near here home were to blame. After all, Monsanto operated a soy plantation just 50 meters away from her family's property, where airplanes would routinely spray toxic glyphosate, also known as Roundup, over the fields.
Sofia's son eventually recovered, but the family's fourth child was not so lucky. According to Germany's Deutsche Welle, the little girl died just three days after being born due to kidney failure. This was the straw that finally broke the camel's back for Sofia, who immediately began talking with her neighbors about the situation. She came to learn that many children in the area had similar conditions, and the common link was the Monsanto fields out behind their homes.
"The mothers started to come help me, to tell me, 'Look, I have another sick person,'" explains Sofia about the coalition of supporters she was quickly able to form. "They came to me by themselves and decided to join the struggle."
Grassroots dedication leads to establishment of 'pesticide-free' borders in some areas
Together, the mothers were able to successfully convince their nation's government to begin an investigation into the matter back in 2002, which stumbled upon some shocking conclusions. Not only was the area's entire water supply polluted with glyphosate, but about 80 percent of children living in the area tested positive for pesticide contamination in their blood. And similar trends have since been observed all across Argentina, which happens to contain some of the largest GMO acreage on the continent.
Despite facing numerous outside threats for her work, including death threats against both her and her family, Sofia continued to press on with her cause and eventually succeeded in getting pesticide-free borders established around residential areas. As a result, Sofia' community now has clean water and a tumor registry to help track cancer cases in the area, but many other areas of Argentina are still hotbeds of Monsanto pollution.
"The multinationals come here to steal our land, to kick out the people who live on the land, to steal our water, and to sow death," says Sofia, who is continuing to push for the removal of biotechnology in Argentina.