"The bottom of a river that flows into the Paraná has more glyphosate than a soybean field"

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A recent study by Conicet detected the alarming presence of agrochemicals and heavy metals in the basin of one of the country's main rivers

"There is no reason of State or economic interests of corporations that justify silence when it comes to public health," said researcher Andrés Carrasco (1946-2014), the famous Argentine scientist who challenged the political establishment - and his peers - to report the harmful effects of using glyphosate on GM crops when no one else was.

That same phrase recalled Dr. Damián Marino, researcher at Conicet and professor at the Faculty of Exact Sciences of the National University of La Plata (UNLP), during a talk in Chaco, in which he presented the results of studies that confirmed the presence of residues of agrochemicals and heavy metals in the waters of the Paraná River.

Regarding the details, the biologist revealed that in the upper reaches of the basin “there are concentrations of different insecticides for agricultural use”, while from the middle to the lower “there is multiple contamination” with some metals and mainly with glyphosate.

“They are the most affected sites. Glyphosate is a dominant molecule. Paraná is in trouble, ”Marino highlighted.

He also explained that if international parameters are taken into account, the samples exceeded by a wide margin the tolerable presence levels with respect to the insecticide endosulfan (banned in the country in 2013), and its subsequent replacements: clirpyrifos and cypermethrin.

“The scientific publication validated worldwide says that all water samples exceeded for, at least some of the pesticides, the recommended guideline level for all aquatic biota and recommends articulating immediate policies. Today, in the world market, 90 percent of pesticides is glyphosate and the remaining 10% is divided between clirpyrifos, cypermethrin and endosulfan ”, he said and mentioned that similar results were obtained in the Paraguay River, which was also included in the job.

The environmental monitors on the Paraná basins were embodied in three stages: the first was in 2013, the second in 2016 and the most recent in January 2017, with which the presence of agrochemicals in both the water and the sediments was ratified. (mud from the bottom).

"The samples were taken at the mouths of the streams or rivers that drain from the interior of the country to the Paraná, with the aim of seeing the permanent drip on the great river," said Marino, who for five years (2010-2015) He carried out a research project on the state of the water resource in the Pampa del Indio area, together with Dr. Alcira Trinelli, a chemical specialist at the UBA and Conicet.

The specialist stated that the lethal effects (dead organisms) and sublethal effects (alteration of development and reproduction) were analyzed from the samples obtained. "The relevant thing that was obtained is that the concentrations of metals did not exceed the guide levels," he revealed, and pointed out that only the lead found in almost all the sediment samples, in quantities lower than those accepted, verified the incidence of anthropic activities of cities that the Paraná runs through in its basin.

As an example, he mentioned that the waters of the San Lorenzo, Saladillo and Pavón rivers have sediments with higher concentrations that caused lethal effects on organisms. Meanwhile, sublethal implications were noted in the upper basin (province of Buenos Aires), with alterations in growth linked to high levels of pesticides.

“Looking at the results, we saw that the glyphosate was stuck to suspended particles or as part of the sediment. From the middle basin the concentration began to increase. And when it reached the height of Luján, it had increased a lot, "he stressed.

Taking the explanation to numbers and comparisons, he warned that the levels of glyphosate plus AMPA (metabolite in the degradation of glyphosate) found in the river basin "are about four times the concentrations that can be found in a field planted with soybeans." Then he concluded: "The bottom of a river that flows into the Paraná has more glyphosate than a soybean field."

There is more: all the water samples, suspended material and bottom sediment had the presence of insecticides designed to kill insects. "This shows that the insecticides are distributed throughout the entire basin," said the researcher.

Biodiversity in decline

The initial context in which Marino placed his presentation was the report by Planeta Vivo, an international organization that produces an index that measures the planet's biodiversity. This index was made on 10 thousand species of different types. “It is seen that between 1970 and 2010, there was a decline of 52% of the world's populations. But in Latin America the value is 80%. It is not that there are fewer species, but rather that the population groups are smaller, "he graphed, and transferring to everyday experience, he explained that people can observe the presence of fewer numbers of frogs or fish.

As an emerging concept of the report, he highlighted that in less than two human generations, half of the population of species that existed on Earth was destroyed throughout its evolution. Meanwhile, using the concept of Ecological Footprint, which is measured in several countries, he said that "Argentina essentially has a footprint based on agro-productive systems."

Then, he pointed out another graphic data: taking biocapacity, that is, how much the planet can offer with respect to what is being used, and crossing with information on population evolution, it can be seen that on August 8, 2016 humanity consumed all the resources natural of that year. “From there we consume resources on credit, we are taking them out to future generations. The last time we were done was in December 1970. Today we are consuming a planet and a half per year. Something is not working, "he warned.

In this regard, he stressed that pesticides "are a footprint that we are leaving on ecological systems" and explained that they are associated with a concept of dynamics. From the moment of application, processes will occur in the atmosphere, in the soil, and others that will link the soil with the water. They all occur simultaneously ”.

The case of Pampa del Indio

After finding glyphosate in the water used for consumption in Pampa del Indio in 2012, the precautionary measure interposed had effects and the spraying stopped being done on surfaces near towns. This was summarized by the chemical doctor from the UBA and scientist from Conicet, Alcira Trinelli, who for half a decade studied water for consumption and irrigation in that Chaco town and in parts of the area where the aboriginal population predominates and with a high level of social vulnerability .

“We knew that at that time there were planes spraying without restrictions on the remoteness of the populated areas. We found high levels, like 500 parts per billion at the entrance to the water treatment plant, ”said Alcira Trinelli.

Trinelli explained that the samples were taken at the water treatment plant, school cisterns, water sources, Pampa Chica, Lot 4, Campo Medina and Campo Nuevo; the Bermejo river and the Presidencia Roca water network. There were sampling campaigns in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

"Thanks to the precautionary measure that was filed shortly after those samplings where glyphosate was found, as of 2013 it was not detected again in the samples," he said. The most worrying thing, he recalled, was the water analyzed in the Campo Medida area, which mixed multiple pollutants.

The study in Pampa del Indio arose at an express request from the Qom community in the region, given the lack of access to quality water, and was financed with resources from a volunteer, subsidies from the Undersecretary of University Policies and from the university itself .

As detailed by Trinelli, the objective was to analyze the quality of the water for consumption and irrigation, and thus be able to generate a scientific tool that would serve to support the claims of access to water. "In all the places we find some type of poison, except in the Bermejo river and in Presidencia Roca," the specialist concluded.

Source: Environmental Forum / Diario Norte

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