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There are Argentine scientists who are about to take a great leap for humanity: to achieve that the calcium that is in soy can be metabolized. Thanks to this technological innovation, soy would achieve the wonderful properties of… THE MILK! Yes, the one that comes out of the cow when you milk it. A producer monkey.
Do I complicate it?
The objective of these scientists from the Lactobacilli Reference Center (Cerela) in Tucumán is, very briefly, to get milk without touching the cow. These Argentine scientists are not delusional who intend to achieve the flight of a pig or harvest an empanada out of simple scientific vanity. Faced with the obvious question, the Project Director answered "Why did we choose soy and not a dairy product? Because different solidarity plans were being implemented in which it was used as the main food contribution in children's and adult canteens, but the way When it was used, it did not allow full use of its nutritional properties. In the former dairy of the world, no one has the cow tied anymore; now we have to live on soybeans that are not exported to Europe, where they are used for , ahem… feed cattle.
How could this happen? It is that wheat and corn, like cows, are part of a melancholic food tango: almost 45% of the arable land in Argentina is already covered with soybeans. The vaquitas are strangers: our country imports milk from Uruguay. In May 2003, the NGO Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN) and Services of the Evangelical Churches in Germany for Development (EED), presented a complaint to the United Nations against Argentina for "food genocide."
Jorge Rulli, a member of an NGO called the Rural Reflection Group (GRR) that brings together agricultural engineers, biologists, chemists and people of culture, thinks that the most serious thing is that? The role of the country has changed. It stopped being a food exporter. Now we are not a banana republic, are we a soy republic? Lilian Joensen, a molecular biologist member of the same group, is obfuscated:? It cannot be that in our country, which used to produce healthy and varied food for us and for export, now we have to import lentils, milk, cotton, peas ... that we have left behind. to produce quality to produce quantity and also quantity of a product that does not serve to feed us ?. Joensen is currently in Denmark seeking funding for research.
But the agronomist Victoria Francomano, president of the Argentine Society for the Development and Use of Soy (SADESO), thinks very differently:? Soy has many virtues. That is a worldwide trend. Are there million dollar studies showing that soy is excellent? Francomano is convinced of the myriad benefits of soy, ranging from its usefulness as an emulsifier to hormonal treatment.
Lilian Joensen, from the GRR trench, is much less convinced:? Companies have managed the media, INTA and universities in a way that, as a scientist passionate about biology, outrages me.? Despite the economic importance of the soybean sector, Clarín and Nación published some tepid notes in recent months on the consequences of monoculture.
We are soy
Let's be clear: it's not just a matter of culinary pride. The issue is worrying from the health.
To face hunger, exporters implemented the Solidarity Soy Plan, thanks to which they donate one kilo for each ton. As explained on their website, soybeans? Constitutes a high-quality food for human consumption, since it has proteins of high biological value? and it can replace? meat in our diet ?. Thanks to this plan, thousands of dining room goers live off the hyper-publicized bean.
Lic. Pilar Llanos, member of SADESO, disagrees:? Argentine food problems are not going to be solved with soy. The solution will go through economic and food policies that provide access to all the food we have: milk, eggs, meat, vegetables and fruits, cereals and all the legumes where soy is. Different is the role he played in a very critical moment where the bean was given away in a relief plan?
In a brochure distributed by Monsanto, the world's leading seller of soybeans, the bean is described:? Few foods [for humans] include unprocessed soybeans, as it naturally contains lectins and protease inhibitors, which interfere with the digestion. These antinutrients are destroyed by cooking or processing soy at high temperatures.?
Jorge Rulli, says the same, although in a simpler way:? Soy is a food for ruminants, very difficult to digest. The idea that one can deactivate toxins at home has spread here, which is a lie. It costs a lot even for large laboratories. The toxin takes away your ability to assimilate calcium and iron. If after eating soy you drink milk, you get diarrhea from rejection. But the most serious are the hormonal disorders produced by phytoestrogens or plant estrogens that soy has in large quantities. For children fed this is as if they were giving them 2 or 3 birth control pills a day.
Lic. Llanos admits some limitations of soy in children:? I agree that children under 5 years of age need milk, meat and, in general, have problems with fiber because they cannot take advantage of the nutrients it contains.?
Rulli continues to growl stories about people who feed almost exclusively on beans:? There are many children who are on hormonal treatments, girls who have their first menstruation at 7, 8 years old. A nutritionist from Resistencia told me that she has a 9-year-old niece from whom they bought her first bra. In Los Toldos, when the municipality said that we were telling lies, a lady told her story from the town's channel: her daughter has been on hormonal treatments for 4 years and now she is 14 or 15. Was she a soy drinker?
And the rest?
The opinions of the GRR on the one hand and of Monsanto and SADECO are opposite. What do the others think? Let's see:
Last year the government released a booklet called "Forum for a National Food and Health Plan", on page 30 of which "the use of soy is discouraged in children under 5 years of age and especially in children under two."
According to the nutritionist Ana María Gallo, Head of the Pirovano Hospital Food Division, “Soy is not a substitute for meat. Nor does it replace milk, so it should not be used as a substitute, especially in young children, adolescents and pregnant women.? According to the licensee, it can be consumed as a complement to a complete and varied diet in adults, "up to 2 to 3 tablespoons per serving in the form of legumes with a frequency not exceeding 3 times a week." But make it clear that they should not consume it? At all? children under 5 years old.
In 2002, the governments of Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe requested that transgenic seeds be removed from food donations to avoid crossbreeding with their own plantations. Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa blocked a food aid he called "poison," despite the fact that nearly 2.5 million Zambian citizens were starving. The reason was also economic: if their fields were contaminated with GMOs, they would not be able to export more to Europe.
Among the defenders of soy is the President of the United States, George W. Bush, who months ago attacked the activists who fight against genetically modified foods, for "condemning Africa to hunger." Perhaps, this champion of freedom should take a tour of Argentina to verify the relationship between genetically modified foods and malnutrition.
The United States is the main partner of the World Food Program through which a good part of the GMOs that rich countries do not accept are diverted to poor countries. In April 2001, the Bolivian government denounced that a food donation from the United States contained transgenic soy that was prohibited in the country.
The reasons why Argentina is working so hard to reduce its food supply are, obviously, economic. In the 90's, hand in hand with neoliberalism, soybeans entered the country. Last year, almost 20% of Argentine currency came from soy exports. Nothing pays that much right now, so there aren't many people willing to speak out against such a good deal.
The problem is that monoculture does not come alone. The variety of soybeans used in the country comes from the Monsanto company, practically a monopoly in this segment. They sell the genetically modified seed along with a specially designed herbicide to kill everything except their own plants. This type of production with herbicides, fertilizers and genetically modified seeds also has environmental and social consequences.
For starters, the way you sow is totally different from the one that required a plow and implement. Currently, large machines of several tons are used that open the land with knives, place the seed, herbicides and fertilizers of the case. These machines are expensive and are justified only for large surfaces. Thus, small producers rent their land, lose their knowledge and emigrate alongside the laborers, who have also become expendable. It is a model of agriculture without farmers
On the environmental side, the problem is that, thanks to natural selection, species resistant to the herbicide (glyphosate) reproduce. Against this, an advertisement in the rural section of an Argentine newspaper proposes a creative solution:? When glyphosate is not enough, we have the solution: glyphosate plus combos.? Dr. Clara Rubinstein, Monsanto's Manager of Scientific Affairs, maintains her confidence in technology. According to her:? Herbicide resistance is a natural process. However, there are herbicides that make the development of this resistance much more unlikely. That is the case with glyphosate, for example. The advancement of plant genomic science will allow us to identify new targets for new molecules and thus develop better herbicides.?
According to Rulli,? The land, after monoculture and increasingly strong herbicides, is emptied of nutrients, bacteria, diversity… it is dead. Until the fallow, that supposed stage of rest of the land, in which the animals traditionally visited it to fertilize them, is done with chemicals and herbicides that ensure that nothing grows while waiting for the next soybean harvest.? Corn, a complementary crop of soybeans, occupies about 3 million hectares in our country, while soybeans occupy almost 13 million. In the US, for example, the ratio is one to one.
Dr. Rubinstein, from Monsanto, accepts some risks, but proposes a different solution? We agree with the conclusions of the experts who were presented at Mundo Soja 2003, which stated that the challenge is to grow responsibly, taking into account that Market analysts estimate that our country is in a position to expand soy production to 45 million. However, it was noted that the trend towards soy monoculture hampers the development of the production system. For this reason, it was recommended the rotation and the use of direct sowing continuously, as well as the fertilization of the crops.?
Then what do we do?
The difference of opinions is strong and the versions intersect with violence. All interviewees asked HBA to make "a serious note", insisting on their idea of seriousness. The struggle is between a utilitarian view of profit extraction and another that tends towards environmental, social and economic sustainability. For the former, the land is an instrument from which soy is extracted, practically through chemical torture. ? The boys now leave the faculty without knowing of rotation. Input-dependents come out. I have seen agronomists who believe that the soil is a support structure to which you have to give what you are going to get later, not a living organism ?, Rulli laments.
And what will happen when there is a drop in the price of soy, an environmental collapse or a massive rejection of the population towards soy? ? It is very difficult to switch to other crops, because there is no other seed left ?, laments Rulli.
The way something as simple as soy sums up what is wrong with the world is remarkable. And, from the neoliberal paradigm, nobody is guilty: transgenic seed companies only sell seeds to whoever wants to buy them and, coincidentally, this brings them millions. Producers want to produce what is most profitable for them and show their good hearts by donating soybeans to thousands of family dining rooms who would otherwise have empty plates. The government would never allow itself to truncate a source of foreign exchange in times of crisis. People eat what is there. Meanwhile, the land is being depleted, mortgaging its future fertility. Argentina is no longer a barn. It is the political, economic and technological test tube of the world.
GM and intellectual property