Breathtaking photos, which look like scenes from a battlefield, shed light on the generational damage that Monsanto’s agrochemicals can do to families. The pictures are part of a photo-essay by journalist Alvaro Ybarra Zavala called, “Stories of a Wounded Land.” The pictures capture scenes from the dark side of Argentina’s haunting agricultural landscape. Recently, they were presented at the International Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan, France. Zavala confirmed that he is now coming under pressure from Monsanto to stop showing the photos.
While in France, Zavala was interviewed, starting with why he chose the project in the first place. While working in Argentina, Zavala saw beyond the pretty face of modern-day agrochemical GMO farming practices. “I started working on a particular case in Argentina, and I discovered that there were always more stories to tell,” he said. “I understood that the issue was important and global. … The idea is not to create activism but only to launch a debate on how we want our food to be produced. This is crucial; everyone eats.”
Photojournalist shines a light on the dangers of agrochemicals and multinational control that is destroying people around the world
When asked what the major problems were, Zavala responded, “Whether you are in India, Argentina or elsewhere, this type of agricultural production leads to problems of public health and the environment, human rights violations, political and economic tensions.”
He talked about corporate control taking out local producers and forcing them into using various dangerous agrochemicals. “This industry requires 4000-10,000 hectares to be profitable. Small local producers are sidelined and everywhere one finds the same multinationals. The small producers are having to sell their land or are forced to do so – especially in Brazil. And if they do not, their fields are surrounded with areas treated with pesticides, such as Roundup, which contaminate or destroy their harvests.”
In talking about the health consequences, he went straight to the point: “In Argentina, the first generation of children is affected because their parents were exposed to these chemicals. Cases of miscarriages, diseases or malformations such as hydrocephalus are legion. I thought I’d have to search for them, but in every village of 600 inhabitants, there are at least 60-70 cases. The adults suffer from cancers and skin diseases. Contamination occurs through contact with the products, but also through food and water.” [emphasis added]
When asked about why the local people continue to work with and around the agrochemicals, Zavala stated exactly what he witnessed: “[T]hese firms are giving them work. And cooperatives that manage health insurance, legal protection, etc. are very close to multinationals like Monsanto. Everything is done so that the system continues without being reported on.”
When asked why the authorities haven’t done anything to stop the violence of agrochemicals, Zavala said, “They also live off this business. Our work has been very little publicized but following publication in Argentina, we have been subjected to very direct pressure from the highest levels.” [emphasis added] He also said that multinationals like Monsanto “can afford two hundred lawyers to fight us.”
As the pictures show, residents living next to tobacco and soy farms sprayed with glyphosate, 2,4-D, endosulfan and chlorpyrifos are suffering horrifically from birth defects and disabilities. Constant exposure to these chemicals through the generations and in the womb is causing some to be born without the ability to walk, some to be born without eyeballs and some to be born without important parts of the brain.
As revealed, the people living in Argentina succumb to the agrochemicals year after year now, because of cooperation with large producers which demand the use of the chemicals as a requirement for farmers to purchase seed.
As Zavala documents, these agrochemicals are blasted from aircraft and spraying machines without limit or oversight. Local authorities do nothing to stop the unprecedented release of agrochemicals which infiltrate the water and are also breathed in directly by those working among and near the fields. As depicted, methamidophos calibre 25, a phosphorous-based chemical that was banned by the Stockholm Convention, is often sprayed alongside a host of other cellular disrupting agrochemicals.
If these pictures don’t make one stop and question the way food is produced today around the world, then what will? Seeing a generation of people forced into compliance with this method of farming is heartrending, especially after seeing pictures of children living with rare malformations.
Sources for this article include: