by Ethan A. Huff, staff writer +natural news +
A group of Argentinian farmers says corporate biotechnology giant Monsanto, tobacco behemoth Philip Morris, and several other tobacco companies coerced the farmers into using dangerous amounts of Roundup (glyphosate) and other pesticide and herbicide products on their tobacco crops, which eventually resulted in a major spate of birth defects throughout the local community.
According to Courthouse News Service (CNS), dozens of farm workers in the Misiones Province of northeastern Argentina say their children suffered “devastating birth defects” after Altria Group, the parent company for Philip Morris USA, Carolina Leaf Tobacco, Universal Corporation, and Monsanto convinced the farmers to switch from their native tobacco crop to a new tobacco crop specific to Philip Morris cigarettes.
This new tobacco crop reportedly requires the use of much higher amounts of pesticides and herbicides, including Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, in order to grow, which suggests that the new crop may actually be a genetically-modified (GM) tobacco variety produced by Monsanto. And in the process, both Monsanto and Philip Morris failed to warn the farmers about the dangers associated with the chemicals, as well as about how to properly store and use them.
“[Monsanto and Philip Morris] promoted the use of Roundup and other herbicides to tobacco farmers in Misiones even though they were on direct and explicit notice that at all relevant times farmers in Misiones […] lacked the necessary personal protective equipment and other safety knowledge and skills required to minimize harmful exposures to Roundup,” says the complaint.
“[Monsanto et al.] did not recommend protective measures to farmers and their families in Misiones […] (and) actively recommended and/or required that contracted tobacco farmers […] purchase excessive quantities of Roundup and other pesticides.”
The evils of Monsanto truly know no bounds, as the corporate biotechnology appears to have played a direct role in forcing these Argentinian tobacco farmers not only to use its pesticides and herbicides, but also to use them without knowledge of their dangers. And as a result, many of these farmers’ children are now suffering from cerebral palsy, psychomotor retardation, epilepsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, metabolic disorders, congenital heart defects, Down syndrome, missing fingers, and blindness, according to the report.
Worse, Monsanto and Philip Morris’ willful negligence in the whole matter matter has also resulted in the contamination of local water wells and food crops, as the affected farmers improperly used and stored the pesticide and herbicide chemicals from the very beginning. Driven by “a desire for unwarranted economic gain and profit,” these companies deliberately ignored the health and environmental risks associated with the chemicals, and pushed them as if they were safe.
GMO tobacco may already be on the market
According to GMO Compass, field trials of GM tobacco have been going on for quite some time, and have typically been used for research purposes rather than for product development. However, GM tobacco that has been genetically-engineered to resist herbicides has already been developed, and is currently being used in some brands of cigarettes (http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/database/plants/304.tobacco.html).
So by the looks of it, these Argentinian farmers were strong-armed by Monsanto and Philip Morris to switch from their native, non-GM tobacco to some type of GM tobacco that requires the use of Roundup. This would appear to be the case, as Philip Morris hired researchers several years ago to develop GM tobacco for use in its cigarettes (http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/03/philip-morris-t/).
Sources for this article include: