by Dr. Mercola, Waking Times:
The shocking film “Genetically Modified Children” unveils the horrors of decades of chemical-intensive agricultural practices in Argentina, where the majority of crops are genetically modified (GM) and routinely doused in dangerous agrochemicals, and the chokehold big tobacco companies such as Philip Morris and chemical and seed giants have on poverty-stricken farmers desperate to earn a living.
The film, produced by Juliette Igier and Stephanie Lebrun, shows the devastating health effects the region’s agricultural sector is having on children,1 an increasing number of whom are being born with monstrous physical deformities. Some of the children’s cases are so severe that, without a medical intervention, will result in death before the age of 5.
The film begins with the crew traveling from North Argentina in the Province of Misiones to the Brazilian frontier, an agricultural region that was one of the nation’s first to begin growing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the mid-’90s.
Featured in the film is Ricardo Rivero, regional head of the local electricity company. He learned that the reason families cannot pay their bills is because often they are taking care of a sick or handicapped child, and receive no assistance from the Argentinian government.
The film shows them visiting the humble home of a tobacco farmer where they meet Lucas Texeira, a 5-year-old boy with an incurable genetic skin disease. The family believes it was caused by the mother’s exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller early on in her pregnancy. No one told her it was toxic, she says.
The genetic mutation that caused her son’s condition left him with no pores in his skin, which means he doesn’t perspire. The heat from his body stays inside, causing him severe and painful itching that leads to frequent crying spells. Mr. Texeira expresses his sadness over Lucas’ condition, as well as his fears that he could have another child in the future with a similar deformity.
Agrochemicals Lead to Rise in Birth Defects, Deformities in Argentinian Children
Like many families in rural Argentina, the Texeiras have grown GM tobacco on their land for years, using a number of various agrochemicals required to produce a crop that’s certifiable by Philip Morris, an American multinational cigarette and tobacco manufacturing company (a division of Altria Company since 2003).
Philip Morris provides farmers GM burley tobacco seeds for the manufacturer of light tobacco cigarettes. Each year, Argentinian farmers are forced to use more than 100 different chemicals in order to grow the perfect-looking tobacco crop — that is, if they hope to make any money.
The Texeira family is no exception. For more than a decade, they have treated their tobacco plants with glyphosate and other agrochemicals — and without any protection. However, after seeing a rise in birth defects among the community’s children, including in their own child, they began to fear for their safety and moved off their farmland, away from the toxic chemicals.
“It’s not easy, but you have to live the life you have,” said Mr. Texeira. “Thank God, Lucas’ problem is just his skin. He’s healthy and can eat. He eats almost anything.” Lucas is a miracle, says the film’s narrator. In this region, there’s a disproportionate number of children born with deformities.
300 Million Liters of Glyphosate Are Applied to the Land Each Year in Argentina
GM crops first entered the country through the Misiones Province of Argentina after the government authorized their use from 1996 onward, a decision based solely on studies conducted by Monsanto, and with no contradicting research.
For more than two decades the land was sprayed with glyphosate and other agrochemicals, contaminating the region’s soil and water. By 2013, more than 24 million hectares2 (59.3 million acres) of GM crops were grown in Argentina, including soy, maize, cotton and tobacco.
Mounting scientific evidence connecting the rise in miscarriages, birth defects and cancer to GMOs and agrochemicals did not dissuade the Argentinian government from subsidizing GM crops. Perhaps, that decision is due in part to the 35 percent in taxes Argentina receives from GMO soyexports.
Despite the dangers, no one warned tobacco farmers of the risks. In fact, the opposite was true. Farmers in the Misiones province were inundated with various forms of marketing, including commercials from chemical companies insisting agrochemicals were the key to prosperity.
Television advertisements touted the benefits of Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, including its ability to kill everything except for GMOs. The marketing worked. Today, more than 300 million liters (79.2 million gallons) of glyphosate are dumped each year onto more than 28 million hectares (69.1 million acres) of land in Argentina.3
The film shows the crew visiting the home of another sick child. Lucas Krauss was born with congenital microcephaly. He suffers from epilepsy, delayed motor and mental development, multiple muscular atrophy and numerous other related pathologies.
The first doctor the family consulted said their son’s condition was due to a lack of oxygen; however, the neurologist had a different opinion. At first, he agreed and said it was due to a lack of oxygen; however, when they pressed him further he admitted that a lack of oxygen was not the only cause, but he refused to say what he believed the true cause was of Lucas’ condition. They wouldn’t even run medical tests, said the boy’s mother.
The family understands that Lucas’ condition, as well as many others in the community, is likely tied to the agrochemicals used to farm tobacco. But the family can’t quit the trade because it’s the main source of income in their area, and most importantly, it’s the only sector that provides social security for its workers. Without the financial aid of the tobacco industry, the father fears he will be unable to care for his special needs son.
“The whole family feels discriminated against because it seems that society doesn’t want to see their reality,” said Rivero. “His parents don’t ask anything for themselves. They’re not asking for anything out of the ordinary. It’s just that the responsible parties — the state is the responsible one for these children’s problems — and it’s not taking responsibility and there’s total desertion.”
In 2010, things started to move. Lawyers from the U.S. traveled to Misiones to visit the families of severely handicapped children. One of their stops included the home of 17-year-old William Nuñez, who was born severely handicapped.
He can’t walk or talk, and has to be fed through a feeding tube in his stomach. The family has received no aid from the government for the medical treatment William needs. Instead, they have learned on their own how to care for their disabled child.
Ignorance and Exploitation
The Nuñez family says they were visited by American lawyers four or five times in a sixth-month period, as well as a handful of doctors from the U.S. and Mexico. The Nuñez family were told that they were not at fault for using agrochemicals, and that they could be awarded up to $3 million for William’s case.
The attorneys asked the family to sign a contract with a commitment not to discuss their case with anyone. Up until now, they have respected the contract. But they haven’t heard from the lawyers in over four years and don’t want to keep quiet any longer.