By BASE-IS / Rural Reflection Group
The tragedy of the peasant family of Petrona Villasboa due to pesticides seems to have no end. Even after 3 years of battle in the courts, they are still awaiting the sentence of the trial of those responsible for Silvino's death
The tragedy of the peasant family of Petrona Villasboa due to pesticides seems to have no end. Even after 3 years of battle in the courts, they are still awaiting the sentence of the trial of those responsible for Silvino's death (1).
Petrona's son, Silvino Talavera, was 11 years old when he was fumigated by a cocktail of pesticides used for Roundup Ready soy monocultures in 2003, in the Department of Itapúa, Paraguay. The fumigation also implied the contamination of food that Silvino carried and consequently caused the intoxication of 22 members of the family. In addition to Silvino, his sisters Sofía, 13 years old and Patricia, 2 years old, had to be hospitalized in the following days due to the extreme exposure to pesticides they had suffered. When the children's health status stabilized, they returned home but again the family was exposed to other fumigations, this time from the other soy neighbor. Silvino could not resist it and died a few days later. Phenol, carbamate and glyphosate were found in the brothers' blood. The entire family group is characterized by presenting a degrading picture of their health due to the indiscriminate use of pesticides in the region. Petrona, supported by the Organization of Peasant and Indigenous Women CONAMURI, has been carrying out a trial since 2003 for the murder of her son and the contamination of the entire family.
But the Talavera Villasboa family suffers not only from illnesses. During these 3 years, they have been subjected to intimidation and violence. Their animals have been killed, the soybean farmers have put a row of eucalyptus trees around the family lot that has desertified the land. In May of this year, Petrona's brother, Serapio Villasboa, was brutally murdered with 11 stab wounds. It is suspected that this is one more case of the murder of a member of a peasant organization by the famous citizen guard, a repressive force headed by the Minister of the Interior and linked to large landowners and soy farmers; armed thugs who especially persecute peasant leaders. According to the family's testimony, the prosecutor refused to carry out further procedures to clarify and arrest the suspects, alluding to the fact that the Villasboa family seeks only financial benefits as a result of the death of one of its members, referring to the trial case. for the death of Silvino.
Sofía, Silvino's older sister, was one of the most contaminated in 2003. She was the person in charge of cooking the fumigated food and since then her health has deteriorated, exacerbating in 2005 when she suffered chronic headaches and stomach pain nausea, and severe vision loss for 3 months. Sofía was a mother, in April of this year; At 17 she had a child, Vidal Ocampos, who seemed to have been born healthy but after 2 months of life, his head began to grow uncontrollably. The case has been diagnosed as HYDROCEPHALIA, a disease that involves the excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. The boy is currently admitted to the Asunción Maternal and Child Hospital to undergo surgery and insert a valve to remove the fluid. Hydrocephalus is considered a malformation of the Central Nervous System. This disease can be congenital or acquired. Congenital hydrocephalus can be caused by environmental influences during the development of the fetus such as exposure to pesticides, as is the case in Sofia.
In Mexico, researchers from the health research department of Nayarit found a causal relationship between exposure to pesticides and congenital malformations, particularly among women who are exposed to pesticides during the first trimester of pregnancy. The study shows that the risk of these malformations among mothers exposed to agrochemical products is three times greater than that found in the unexposed population; It includes those who go to fumigated fields, those who live near these fields, those who live with a partner who works with agrochemicals and those who wash contaminated clothes (2).
In Misiones, Argentina, 5 out of every 1000 children are born affected by Meliomeningocele, a malformation of the central nervous system related to hydrocephalus. The cases are repeated in the tobacco and paper-producing areas, where pesticides are used, and the problem is transferred to the entire environment, with soil degradation, air pollution and the poisoning of water courses. Furthermore, in Misiones it is estimated that about 13% of its population has some kind of disability, almost doubling the national average (3).
The incidence of this type of problem in Chile has risen in the last 15 to 20 years, especially in the fruit and forest regions, reaching one of the highest rates in Latin America in congenital malformations. In the Sixth Region of Chile, there is a great development of industrialized agriculture, with the consequent massive and intensive use of pesticides. Preliminary work carried out in the region suggests an association between exposure and an increase in the prevalence of congenital malformations at birth. In Rancagua, 4.1% of incidences of congenital malformations in newborns were registered, 27.65% of the parents had a history of agricultural work related to the use of
pesticides and 19.11% of the cases showed an incidence of exposure, due to the location of the home (4).
In 1986, Dr. Tagliari, from the University of Passo Fundo de Río Grande do Sul, carried out a study on cases of newborns whose mothers had had direct exposure to pesticides; found that 38% of the malformations were neurological, of which the highest incidence corresponded to hydrocephalus (44%), among other types, myelomenigecele, microcephaly, spina bifida, and anencephaly. Soy monocultures stand out for their high incidence in relation to neurological malformations, 78% of the cases correspond to this type of monoculture, while 22% are attributed to wheat (5).
The studies mentioned are only a fraction of many other investigations that demonstrate the devastating impact of pesticides on health. In the hospitals of Asunción, the cases of children with malformations, tumors, leukemia, and respiratory problems accumulate. At the Maternal and Child Hospital, next to Petrona's grandson is another baby with hydrocephalus, in a very critical condition after 4 unsuccessful operations. The baby comes from the Capiatá Km. 20 pesticide spill area in 2004. A truck that was irregularly transporting more than 20 thousand liters of pesticides (Methadof, Duron, Novafate and Novaquat) overturned and the spill reached a stream and the Ypacaraí lake. 30 people had to be hospitalized at the time of the accident (6).
Due to the indiscriminate use of pesticides, a wave of diseases hits Paraguayan peasants, beyond poverty, which condemns the population cornered by soy. The government closes its eyes to this genocide, refusing to link these deaths and illnesses with pesticides. The big business in soy is priced too high for this country. The 6% of the GDP it generates seems to justify and blind the government of the consequences on the environment and the health of the population, of the 20 liters of glyphosate used per hectare of transgenic soybeans in addition to the application of other agrochemicals still stronger such as Endosulfan, Paraquat and even DDT. The more the private sector earns from agribusiness, the less budget there is for health. Paraguay invests in the waterway, in order to facilitate the export of soybeans, the country goes into debt with financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Meanwhile, it seems that in the face of the poverty suffered by the population, the only solution that the World Bank promises us is the Swap of Debt for Health and Nature, all with money from USAID and invested through fraudulent local NGOs. In essence, it seems that stupidity, lack of vision, corruption and impunity dominate this government that sacrifices the population in order to maintain the agro-export model.
Meanwhile, Silvino Talavera's nephew, as well as many other newborns in Paraguay, are born with malformations that will condemn them for life. The Villasboa family continues to carry a great burden of diseases caused by pesticides, such as digestive problems, allergies, respiratory problems, hormonal dysregulations. The soybean farmers responsible for the murder of the child, Herman Schelender and Alfredo Laustenlager, remain free, despite 3 years of legal battle, the case is stalled in the Paraguayan Supreme Court of Justice, thus kept at the pleasure of the soy lobby. They continue with impunity to produce transgenic soy, fumigating peasant communities and causing disease and devastation for future generations.
July 18, 2006
Rural Reflection Group
1 Rulli, J. 2006. Another murder of a peasant from the Citizen Guards. www.grr.org.ar
2 Rodríguez, G. 2005. United States: Pesticides, diseases and malformations due to pesticides. The Day. Mexico
3 08-31-2005. Malformations in the provinces of Misiones due to the use of pesticides -By El Paranaense.
4 Rojas, A., Ojeda B. and Barraza, X. 2000 Congenital malformations and exposure to pesticides. Rev. medic. Chile v.128 n.4 Santiago de Chile.
5 Tagliari, M.R. 1986. Survey of the occurrence of congenital malformations in the region of Passo Fundo-RS, Brazil ”.Un.Passo Fundo.
6 10-12-2004 An unlicensed truck nearly caused an environmental catastrophe. Last minute. Paraguay