Earlier this month, the Associated Press released an article reporting an alarming increase in the rates of cancer and birth defects in Argentina since 1996, when the country welcomed Monsanto to its farm belt.

Doctors in rural provinces in Argentina report cancer rates two to four times higher than the national average, and quadruple the rates of birth defects.

The AP reports that while Argentina has laws against spraying agrochemicals near homes and schools, the laws are routinely ignored. Workers handle and apply pesticides and herbicides without any form of protection, and locals report tainted drinking water.

Monsanto promised that, by using its patented GMO seeds, chemical applications would go down.

Agrochemical use did decline at first, then it bounced back, increasing ninefold from 9 million gallons (34 million liters) in 1990 to more than 84 million gallons (317 million liters) today as farmers squeezed in more harvests and pests became resistant to the poisons. Overall, Argentine farmers apply an estimated 4.3 pounds of agrochemical concentrate per acre, more than twice what U.S. farmers use, according to an AP analysis of government and pesticide industry data.

Monsanto responded to the story by saying that if chemicals were being misused in Argentina, that the misuse should stop. But the company went on to say that glyphosates are safe and took issue with the article for “lacking in specifics about health impacts.”

The AP posted a second, rebuttal story citing an epidemiological study showing a 90 percent increase in cancer rates since 1997. Monsanto came to Argentina in 1996.  The second story continues, “Argentine doctors interviewed by the AP said their caseloads—not laboratory experiments—show an apparent correlation between the arrival of intensive industrial agriculture and rising rates of cancer and birth defects in rural communities, and they’re calling for broader, longer-term studies to rule out agrochemical exposure as a cause of these and other illnesses.”

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