Transgenics and failure of the Argentine agricultural model

Transgenics and failure of the Argentine agricultural model

By Adolfo Boy

The expulsion of farmers, especially small and medium-sized ones, who are being left out of the growing productive scale, is another shocking reality in the Argentine countryside, which leads to the concentration of land in the hands of the planting pools.

The analysis that our Rural Reflection Group makes of the direct relationship between GMOs and the crisis in the Argentine countryside is not understood, in particular, by the agricultural producers themselves and their leaders.

Therefore, it is necessary that peasants and those who are concerned about the strong pressure from companies and the scientific establishment to introduce GMOs in the countries of Latin America, when Argentina is proposed as a paradigm of what the implementation of this technology see a more complete picture and make an effort to compose a complex picture of causes and effects that have led to what was "the granary of the world" to become "Argentina, sink of the world", as the newspaper Página 12 (September 8, 2001) making its exports only of "low added value" the first three export items in the first seven months of 2001 were Cereals (1,690 million dollars), Residues and Waste from the food industry (1,362 million dollars) and Crude oil (1,352 million) .. ".

To facilitate understanding of our analysis, I am going to propose a little history of what happened in the area of ​​influence of the INTA Experimental Station of San Pedro (170 kilometers north of the autonomous city of Buenos Aires) where I have worked since the year 1972 to 1992.

In the 70s, extensive rural farms were characterized by their cycles of agriculture and livestock (mixed), which ensured the fertility of the soils without the use of fertilizers and the health of the crops by the rotation and succession of crops such as : wheat, flax, corn, sunflower, guinea and coriander.

Within the intensive crops, at least 5 cvs of potato were grown (Sebago; Kathadin; Kennebek; Huinkul; White Rose); that were planted in two seasons: August and January. The sweet potato occupied more than 5,000 hectares and 4 cvs were cultivated (Bolivar (early); Red Creole; White Creole; Carrot (Centennial). At that time there were three sweet potato factories operating in the area. Sweet corn, or corn, had areas dedicated to fresh consumption and industry (there were three bottling plants in nearby cities Ramallo, Pavón Arriba and Arroyo Seco). Peas and lentils were planted with the same destinations. In the Pergamino area, with loose soils and irrigation, carrots were sown, they reached more than 700 hectares.

In the 80's, the soybean boom took place, a phenomenon that began with the green revolution that made the fences and livestock facilities rise to give rise to a permanent agriculture scheme with soybeans as the axis of a succession with wheat, lentils, pea, as winter crops.

By then the tillage equipment was enlarging as a requirement of the extensions under cultivation and the tractors passed 100 HP and the articulated ones appear, it is the time of the boom of the national brand Zanello, from Las Varillas, Córdoba (today broken) example of the "mega-virus" that affected the entire production scale.

This new equipment is beyond the possibilities of the average producer, due to the large investment that they represented, this gives rise to the appearance of the contractor. This highly equipped businessman establishes different contractual forms with the owners of small or medium extensions of land (50-100 hectares) so that he cultivates between 500-1000 hectares. This system of permanent agriculture, with aggressive high-speed tillage, ends up causing serious erosion.

It is in this context that direct sowing appears as a solution, a system by which it is sown on the stubble of the previous crop without removing the soil. This practice reduces erosion and allows a significant accumulation of moisture in the soil.

In this system, weeds are a problem that must be solved using a series of pre- and post-sowing herbicides, since the beginning glyphosate was used with an application above the height of the soybean plant, fundamentally for the control of sorghum of Aleppo (Sorghum alepensis) with a wet rope, in doses of around one liter per hectare

The panorama in the nineties can be characterized by the proliferation of commodities in all agricultural activities. Thus we saw the red, juicy, compact and tasty tomatoes disappear, and unify the offer of the long life; the white peaches, for immediate consumption, juicy and fragrant, gave way to the yellow, hard, green plucked and tasteless.

From a potato for each culinary use, mashed, fried or baked, we opted for a forage potato that is not good for anything, but that yields more than 1000 bags of 50 kilos per hectare: the Spunta.

The aforementioned Pérez Millán meat processing plant is closed, since livestock as the basis of mixed farms (agricultural - livestock) was displaced from the region and cornered in feed-lots (confinement for fattening) in marginal and low lands. It is estimated that at the national level 1.5 million heads are enclosed in around 500 feed-lots of very varied dimensions (Bargas, 2001).

The productions of peas, lentils, sweet corn, have disappeared and are not carried out in other regions. According to estimates, 50% of these foods are currently imported.

The expulsion of farmers, especially small and medium-sized ones, who are being left out of the growing productive scale, is another shocking reality of the Argentine countryside, which leads to the concentration of land in the hands of the planting pools, a new business form of the contractor, with larger scale than that and capital from bank investment funds (outside the agricultural sector) (GRR, 2001). According to statements made by the president of the Argentine Agrarian Federation, Eduardo Buzzi: "The same economic and agricultural policy guidelines continue to condemn thousands of producers to the disappearance, and with this, an agriculture without farmers continues to be designed in Argentina. "( September 29, 2001)

In a recent work, Ing. Agr. Guillermo Gallo Mendoza (Gallo, 2001) elaborates the following figures on the rural exodus from existing data

Disappearance of Agricultural Holdings between 1969 and 1888: (EAPs with defined limits)

Buenos Aires 38,000 Jujuy Increased 1,935
Corrientes 3,201 La Pampa Increased 256
Catamarca 5,536 Missions 4,176
Cordoba 13,639 Salta 1,470
Chaco 9,888 San Luis 2,432
Entre Ríos 9,315 Santa Fe 19,490
Formosa 2,746 Tucuman 4,106

Evolution of the Rural Population * (in thousands of inhabitants) Censuses of the years 1960, 1970, 1980 and 1991



* the one found in human nuclei of less than 2,000 inhabitants.
(1) includes the population living on agricultural holdings and the dispersed population in rural areas.

People who Work Permanently on Agricultural Operations (CNA of 1960, 1969 and 1988)

Year 1960
Year 1969
Year 1988

Producers 418,215

Relatives 536,246

Non-Family 319,802

Transient 212,582

TOTAL 1,486,845

It is time for us to ask ourselves: What relationship does this reality have with the explosive spread of direct seeding using RR soybeans; What have been the advantages or promises they offered and how is the crisis in the countryside explained?

One of the first arguments of the technological proposal is cost reduction. The magazine Márgenes Agropecuarios, in one of the latest comparisons between production costs with RR and normal soybeans, shows the opposite:


Reference Zone

Tillage Type

Seed Group and Type
North of Bs. As.


Group IV
North of Bs.As.


Group IV / RR

Total Direct Costs
163 U $ S / ha
191.7 U $ S / ha

Seed (85 kg / ha)
32.3 U $ S / ha
76.5 U $ S / ha

Seed + insecticides + fungicides
39.4 U $ S / ha
83.6 U $ S / ha

Agrochemicals + fertilizers
84.9 U $ S / ha
69.4 U $ S / ha

Total Costs
220.8 U $ S / ha
249.5 U $ S / ha

Gross margin
374.1 U $ S / ha
345.4 U $ S / ha

(Source: Agricultural Margins, September 1, 1998)

Judging from this document, it would be very difficult to understand how farmers so decisively and quickly opted for this technology, if the costs were actually higher.

The explanation is perhaps very simple. In response to a demand from US agricultural producers, the General Accounting Office of that country sent a special mission to investigate whether it was a reality that the Monsanto firm had preferential treatment with Argentine farmers, who paid a lower price for RR seed. .

Said mission leaves in writing that Argentine farmers did not pay a technical fee and kept their own seed from one crop for the next, a situation that in the US would amount to a legal claim by the seed company.

Seed Price Ranges in the United States (Illinois and Iowa) and Argentina, 1998

Roundup Ready Soybeans per Bls 25 kilos Bt Corn per Bls of 80,000 seeds
US $ 20 - $ 23 US $ 83 - $ 122
Argentina $ 12 - $ 15 Argentina $ 75 - $ 117

(Source GAO 2000)

The difference between soybeans and corn is clear, since the former is self-pollinated and easy to obtain seed. The report points out two main aspects as causes of this "advantage" of Argentine producers: (1) greater control over patented seed technology in the US and (2) extensive black market in sales of soybeans in Argentina.

5 Roundup Ready soybeans are patented in the US, but not patented in Argentina.

Added to the "reduction" of costs, the entrance….

Average of periods

Hectares Harvested Total

Yields / harvest.
85 / 86-89-90 Soy 4,022,940

89 / 90-93 / 94 Soybeans 5,107,391

1994/1995 Soybean 5,934,160

95 / 96-99 / 00 Soy 7,215,764

Also skillfully handling the figures, it is said that the consumption of glyphosate decreased, and it is even mentioned that Argentina has saved 400 million dollars in this concept, with the consequent decrease in environmental pollution. The reality can be consulted at, where the Chamber of Agricultural Health and Fertilizers itself details that glyphosate sales in 2000 exceeded 240 million dollars and 80 million liters. 5 years ago less than 14 million liters were used, with a turnover of approximately 75 million, here is the "detail" of the specific savings that is due to a significant reduction in the cost of the drug and the import of very low-priced glyphosate from China.

One mystery that time will surely reveal is the fact that the world patent for glyphosate has already expired, Monsanto has installed in the province of Buenos Aires, in February 2001, a drug factory with a cost of 135 million US $

Uses of soy: oil, pellets (livestock feed), lecithin, and other derivatives that are used in an extensive list of industrialized products for human consumption (read fine print!).

This is the explanation for the increases in the volume of crops, which are not actually the product of increases in the yield of genetically modified soybeans but rather of planting RR soybeans "even on the shoulders", an expression that is easy to check if the routes of the provinces of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Santa Fe and Entre Ríos.


BARGAS, S .: "Introduction to the determination of the social cost of beef production in Argentina". First Conference of the Argentine Uruguayan Association of Ecological Economics (ASAUEE), Buenos Aires, November 22 and 23, 2001.

GALLO MENDOZA, G .: Unemployment, hunger and the agricultural model. GRR document, Bs. As., December 2001.

GAO 2000 BIOTECHNOLOGY: Information on Prices of Genetically Modified Seeds in the United States and Argentina. United States General Accounting Office Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Risk Management, Research, and Specialty Crops, Committee on Agriculture, House of Representatives, January 2000, GAO / RCED / NSIAD-00-55

RURAL REFLECTION GROUP: Transgenics and Failure of the Agricultural Model. Ediciones del Tranvía, Bs. As., 2001.

PENGUE, W .: Transgenic Crops Where are we going? Bs. As., Publishing Place - UNESCO, 2000.

Ing. Adolfo Boy
Network for a GMO-Free Latin America
Rural Reflection Group

Video: Lets Discuss GMO Effects on the Environment. GMO Answers (June 2021).