Here’s a clip from early in the year that might interest libertarians who’ve been looking outside the US for farmland, in anticipation of any further worsening of the economy.
The video depicts the effects of drought in Santa Fe province….and makes a rather vague (and likely, insubstantial) reference to global warming.
But there are many other problems in Argentina besides drought – bad government policies, problems with squatters, the depletion of the soil from soy monoculture, the influx of genetically modified foods, and the relatively high prices of land in recent years.
And now there’s also increasing social unrest.
I was talking to some American friends who live in one of the north-eastern provinces, Misiones. They liked where they were, but there were certainly problems. Foreigners couldn’t own the land outright, since it was on the border. And the little enclave of immigrants didn’t always get on with other foreigners. On the good side, they thought the land itself was a natural paradise….
Reading the history of these regions, I came across this early example of the futility of trying to fend off nature…
No other part of the world has in recent years suffered from such a
plague of locusts as the agricultural districts of Argentina. They come from the north in clouds that sometimes darken the sun. Some of the swarms have been estimated to be sixty miles long and from twelve to fifteen miles wide. Fields which in the morning stand high with
waving corn, are by evening only comparable to ploughed or burnt lands. Even the roots are eaten up.
In 1907 the Argentine Government organized a bureau for the destruction of locusts, and in 1908 $4,500,000 was placed by Congress at the disposal of this commission. An organized service, embracing thousands of men, is in readiness at any moment to send a force to
any place where danger is reported. Railway trains have been repeatedly stopped, and literally many tons of them have had to be taken off the track. A fine of $100 is imposed upon any settler
failing to report the presence of locust swarms or hopper eggs on his land. Various means are adopted by the land-owner to save what he can from the voracious insects. Men, women and children mount their horses and drive flocks of sheep to and fro over the ground to kill them. A squatter with whom I stayed got his laborers to gallop a troop of mares furiously around his garden to keep them from settling there. All, however, seemed useless. About midsummer the locust lays its eggs under an inch or two of soil. Each female will drop from thirty to fifty eggs, all at the same time, in a mass resembling a head of wheat. As many as 50,000 eggs have been counted in a space
less than three and a half feet square.
During my sojourn in Entre Rios, the province where this insect seems to come in greatest numbers, a law was passed that every man over the age of fourteen years, whether native or foreigner, rich or poor, was compelled to dig out and carry to Government depots, four pounds
weight of locusts’ eggs. It was supposed that this energetic measure would lessen their numbers. Many tons were collected and burnt, but, I assure the reader, no appreciable difference whatever was made in their legions. The young jumpers came, eating all before them, and
their numbers seemed infinite. Men dug trenches, kindled fires, and burned millions of them. Ditches two yards wide and deep and two hundred feet long were completely filled up by these living waves.
But all efforts were unavailing–the earth remained covered.
Agribusiness titan Monsanto is the goliath every activist would like to slay:
Its patented Round Up brand of herbicide is ubiquitous in farmland world over, but new research suggests the product poses a danger to human health. [Note: an earlier version of this post dropped the word herbicide by accident so it read as though soy contained the chemical. I corrected it but the google cache still shows the old version in the header. Apologies. I often think I’ve corrected something and saved it and find that the save didn’t actually take place…]
“A study released by an Argentine scientist earlier this year reports that glyphosate, patented by Monsanto under the name “Round Up,” causes birth defects when applied in doses much lower than what is commonly used in soy fields.
The study was directed by a leading embryologist, Dr. Andres Carrasco, a professor and researcher at the University of Buenos Aires. In his office in the nation’s top medical school, Dr. Carrasco shows me the results of the study, pulling out photos of birth defects in the embryos of frog amphibians exposed to glyphosate. The frog embryos grown in petri dishes in the photos looked like something from a futuristic horror film, creatures with visible defects—one eye the size of the head, spinal cord deformations, and kidneys that are not fully developed.
“We injected the amphibian embryo cells with glyphosate diluted to a concentration 1,500 times than what is used commercially and we allowed the amphibians to grow in strictly controlled conditions.” Dr. Carrasco reports that the embryos survived from a fertilized egg state until the tadpole stage, but developed obvious defects which would compromise their ability to live in their normal habitats.
Pointing to the color photos spread on his desk, Dr. Carrasco says, “On the side where the contaminated cell was injected you can see defects in the eye and defects in the cartilage.”
For the past 15 months, Dr. Carrasco’s research team documented embryos’ reactions to glyphosate. Embryological study is based on the premise that all vertebrate animals share a common design during the development stages. This accepted scientific premise means that the study indicates human embryonic cells exposed to glyphosate, even in low doses, would also suffer from defects.
“When a field is fumigated by an airplane, it’s difficult to measure how much glysophate remains in the body,” says Dr. Carrasco. “When you inject the embryonic cell with glysophate, you know exactly how much glysophate you are putting into the cell and you have a strict control.”
Glyphosate is the top selling herbicide in the world and is widely used on soy crops in Argentina.
Monoculture soy is grown on more than 42 million acres of fields across Argentina and sprayed with more than 44 million gallons of glyphosate annually. It is part of a technological package sold by Monsanto that includes Round Up Ready seeds GM to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate. This allows growers to fumigate directly onto the GM soy seed, killing nearby weeds without killing the crop. In the winter, crops are sprayed to kill off weeds and seeds are then planted without having to plow the soil, a process commonly referred to as “no-till farming.” Nearly, 95% of the 47 million tons of soy grown in Argentina in 2007 was genetically modified, adopting the Round Up ready technology marketed by Monsanto.
The study on the top-selling agrochemical has alarmed policymakers, so much so that Dr. Carrasco has received anonymous threats and industry leaders demanded access to his laboratory immediately following the study’s release. Industry leader Monsanto wouldn’t talk to the Americas Program for this story, but in a press release on its website, the company says that “glyphosate is safe.”
There – the cat’s out of the bag. Now you know why I’m down here. South America has the last remaining land masses suitable for agriculture, the greatest biodiversity, the richest vegetation, the richest fauna….
No wonder one of the most predatory and rapacious corporations in the world is also here…