By Darío Aranda
With more than 16,000 cases of dengue in Argentina and the advance of Zika in Latin America, agrochemical companies carry out a campaign to promote spraying with numerous chemicals to, advertise, control mosquitoes. Doctors and researchers affirm that, once again, the chemical-pharmaceutical industry does business with the health of the population. "The scientific bibliography and health promotion practice allow us to maintain that toxic chemistry and transgenic biotechnology are far from being part of the solution and we could say that they are part of the problem," said Damián Verzeñassi, from the National University of Rosario .
The Chamber of Agricultural Health and Fertilizers (Casafe) sent a statement on February 10 with the title "avoiding dengue, chikungunya fever and Zika is possible." He announced a "major outbreak" for March and warned that "it may be life threatening." He proposed "taking preventive measures" and offered his products: "There are various insecticides that allow us to stop the proliferation of the mosquito and thus save human lives and malformations."
Among Casafe's partners, Syngenta, Monsanto, Basf, Bayer, Dow, Dupont, Nufarm and Rizobacter stand out. Five days later, he sent the statement again and on February 29 he insisted: “Fumigation tasks are being carried out throughout the country and to ensure that the work is carried out properly and efficiently, it is recommended to keep the doors and windows of the homes for the 'spray cloud' to enter ”.
Javier Souza Casadinho, professor at the Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA and regional coordinator of the Network for Action on Pesticides and their Alternatives in Latin America (Rapal), explained that the insecticide permethrin (recommended by Casafe) impacts “on the central nervous system , which can cause seizures, tremors, anxiety, allergies, gastric discomfort; it is also included in the list of pesticides related to male fertility problems and the EPA (US regulatory agency) warns of possible effects on the female reproductive system and incidence in breast cancer ”.
Souza Casadinho affirmed that the chemical fenitrotion (another of those recommended by agrotoxic companies) is prohibited in the European Union and “severely questioned by institutions in Argentina (among them, the Ombudsman) because it can cause endocrine disruption, affecting the growth and reproduction of human beings ”.
The Minister of Health, Jorge Lemus, admitted on February 6 that "they are working hard on the fumigations", although he acknowledged that the Aedes aegypti mosquito (transmitter of the disease) "is already resistant to chemicals." Far from abandoning the toxic route, the minister proposed "changing the substances" to fumigate.
Damián Verzeñassi, from the Chair of Socio-Environmental Health of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of Rosario, began with a question: “Is it not surprising that the same people who 'discovered' the epidemic of influenza A H1N1 (later recognized as false), and that benefited the pharmaceutical industry today appear with this 'new evil' at the same time that they flourish as the only option to return to chemicals such as DDT or similar and together with it infest our territories with a transgenic mosquito that failed and Brazil (where it was released to control Aedes)? ”. And he questioned that “the same people responsible for the fumigations denounced by the communities and by epidemiology as responsible for serious damage to health (such as malformations, neoplasms, spontaneous abortions, among others) present themselves as the carriers of the solution based on their toxic chemicals". He recalled that researchers from the Brazilian Association of Collective Health (Abrasco) questioned the use of larvicides to combat mosquitoes and also made explicit the suspicion that chemicals (and not the Zika virus) are involved in the increase in cases of microcephaly. .
The World Health Organization released the alleged direct relationship between Zika and microcephaly. The entity reported on February 29 that Zika was detected in 49 countries, but only microcephaly in Brazil. Another element was added by the National Institute of Health of Colombia, which has just reported 47,000 cases of Zika, of which 8,900 are pregnant women and there were no cases of microcephaly.
Rafael Lajmanovich is a researcher at Conicet, a doctor in natural sciences and a professor of ecotoxicology at the Universidad Nacional del Litoral (UNL). It has been studying the impact of agrochemicals for 18 years and has more than eighty scientific publications. "All the insecticides (pyrethroids, phosphates and BT) that are used against mosquitoes are toxic to wildlife and to a greater or lesser extent also to humans," he said. And he stressed that dengue-Zika is directly related to the tropicalization of the climate, global warming and industrialized agriculture. “It is known that this vector (the mosquito) proliferates more in poorly urbanized and poor places. It is worth explaining the relationship between the Argentine production model, poverty and the precariousness of large cities. Undoubtedly, in the short term we must consider the ‘control’ of the epidemic, but if we do not change the model it is clear that no insecticide will save us, ”Lajmanovich warned.