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The Mother Who Stood up to Monsanto in Argentina

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

When Sofia Gatica's 3-day-old daughter died from kidney failure, she didn't connect it with an environmental problem. It was only as she noticed neighbor after neighbor developing health problems that she started to wonder about the agrochemicals that were being sprayed on the farms nearby.

"I started seeing children with mouth covers, mothers with scarves wrapped around their heads to cover their baldness, due to chemotherapy," she told me recently through a translator. It was then, Gatica says, she knew something was seriously wrong.

Her city, Ituzaingo, Argentina, is surrounded by soybean fields where farmers use some of the same chemicals used on crops grown in the U.S. - chiefly glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's weed killer Roundup. But in Ituzaingo, the industrial-scale farms that grow soybeans for export have crept right up to the edge of the residential community, and many of the chemicals are sprayed aerially, allowing them to drift wherever the wind or water will take them.

"There are soybeans to the north, to the south, and to the east, and when they spray, they spray over the people because there's no distance," Gatica said, adding that some homes are less than five yards from where the fields start.

But thanks to the actions of this working-class mother, and the international movement she has built against Monsanto, things in Argentina are slowly changing. And, as one of this year's recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize, Gatica now has a chance to inspire those in farm communities around the world.