Scientist Warning of Health Hazards of Monsanto’s Herbicide Receives Threats

In April, Dr. Andrés Carrasco, an embryologist at the University of Buenos Aires, published his findings that even very low doses, glyphosate can cause brain, intestinal and heart defects in frog fetuses.

July 1, 2009 | Source: GRAIN: Seeds of Information | by

“I expected a reaction but not such a violent one”

In April 2009 Andres Carrasco, an Argentinian embryologist, gave an
interview to the leading Buenos Aires newspaper Pagina 12, in which he
described the alarming results of a research project he is leading into
the impact of the herbicide glyphosate on the foetuses of amphibians.
Dr Carrasco, who works in the Ministry of Science’s Conicet (National
Council of Scientific and Technical Investigations), said that their
results suggested that the herbicide could cause brain, intestinal and
heart defects in the foetuses. Glyphosate is the herbicide used in the
cultivation of Monsanto’s genetically modified soya, which now covers
some 18 million hectares, about half of Argentina’s arable land. [1]

Carrasco said that the doses of herbicide used in their study were “much lower than the levels used in the fumigations.” Indeed, as some
weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, many farmers are greatly
increasing the concentration of the herbicide. According to Pagina 12,
this means that, in practice, the herbicide applied in the fields is
between 50 and 1,540 times stronger than that used by Carrasco. The
results in the study are confirming what peasant and indigenous
communities – the people most affected by the spraying – have been
denouncing for over a decade. The study also has profound consequences
for the USA’s anti-narcotics strategy in Colombia, because the planes
spray glyphosate, reinforced with additional chemicals, on the coca
fields (and the peasants living among them).

Three days after the interview, the Association of Environmental
Lawyers filed a petition with the Argentine Supreme Court, calling for
a ban on the use and sale of glyphosate until its impact on health and
on the environment had been investigated. Five days later the Ministry
of Defense banned the planting of soya in its fields. This sparked a
strong reaction from the multinational biotechnology companies and
their supporters. Fearful that their most famous product, a symbol of
the dominant farming model, would be banned, they mounted an
unprecedented attack on Carrasco, ridiculing his research and even
issuing personal threats. He was accused of inventing his whole
investigation, as his results have not yet been peer-reviewed and
published in a prestigious scientific journal.

According to an article in the Argentine press, after news about the
study broke, Dr. Carrasco was the victim of an act of intimidation,
when four men arrived at his laboratory in the Faculty of Medicine and
acted extremely aggressively.

Two of the men were said to be members of an agrochemical industry
body but refused to give their names. The other two claimed to be a
lawyer and notary. They apparently interrogated Dr. Carrasco and
demanded to see details of the experiments. They left a card Basilico,
Andrada & Santurio, attorneys on behalf of Felipe Alejandro Noel.

Carrasco was firm in his response: “When one is dealing with a subject
of limited public interest, one can keep the study secret until all the
last details have been resolved. But when one uncovers facts that are
important for public health, one has an obligation to make an effort to
publish the results urgently and with maximum publicity.” Even so, he
was clearly taken aback by the strength of the reaction. “It was a
violent, disproportionate, dirty reaction,” he said. “I hadn’t even
discovered anything new, only confirmed conclusions that others had
reached. One has to remember, too, that the study originated in
contacts with communities that have suffered the impact of
agro-chemicals. They are the undeniable proof of the impact.” He is not
intimidated: “If I know something, I will not shut my mouth.”

[1] See: GRAIN, Twelve Years of GM Soya in Argentina – a Disaster for People and the Environment,

Seedling, January 2009.