A new agrochemical bill that would allow pesticides to be fumigated as close as 10 meters from homes in the province of Buenos Aires has been passed by the provincial Senate. Though the bill still pends a Lower House vote and Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal’s signature, a number of organizations have denounced the bill as unconstitutional due to the potentially harmful effects the pesticides can have on human health.
Página 12 reports that Buenos Aires Province Agriculture Minister Leonardo Sarquís, who happened to formerly work as a Monsanto manager, has had the project in the works since early July.
— Noticias de Campo (@NoticiasdeCampo) 6 de julio de 2016
“Sarquís signed his name in agreement with [Buenos Aires] municipalities for the correct use of plan-protection products.”
A 2012 Buenos Aires Province Supreme Court ruling prohibited all fumigation with 1,000 meters of residents’ homes. This new law, if passed, would thus drastically reduce the no-fumigation zone previously decreed.
The bill’s language, which is misleading in and of itself, states that it seeks “to define the perimeters for all methods administering plant-protection products, fertilizers and other pesticides that are categorized as class III or IV, which is to be limited to a 10-meter distance from urbanized areas.”
Basically, class III and IV pesticides (defined below) would be legally sprayed right up to residents’ doorsteps.
Class III and IV refer to the five-category system developed by the National Service of Argo-alimentary Health and Quality (SENASA) for agrochemicals: IA (very dangerous and very toxic), IB (very dangerous and toxic), II (moderately dangerous), III (slightly dangerous) and IV (normally harmless). “Slightly dangerous” and “normally harmless” are meant to sound reassuring.
These class III and IV (“slightly dangerous” or “normally harmless”) pesticides include glyphosate, an agrochemical that has already caused outrage in Argentina. It was declared to be “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization (WHO) in June 2015. You’ve probably heard of glyphosate because it’s a main component of the pesticide Roundup produced by Monsanto, a US-based agrochemical company largely reviled for profiting off the backs of many a South American country with questionable (i.e. harmful) effects on locals’ health.
Glyphosate is only categorized as a class IV compound. But the classification system has been widely questioned nationally and internationally, because the tests conducted only take into account acute toxicity (the immediate effect of the toxin).
Buenos Aires Province is part of the Las Pampas region along with the provinces of Córdoba, Santa Fe and La Pampa. In this region, the main crops are wheat, corn, barley, soybeans, sorghum and sunflower.