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Whitewash pp 153-168 | Cite as

Angst in Argentina

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Abstract

American farmland has long been the largest market for genetically engineered seeds and the glyphosate herbicides used on them, but the United States is by no means the only country to have adopted the new technology with open arms. Farmers in Argentina started using genetically engineered seeds about the same time farmers in the United States did, after regulators in Argentina approved Monsanto Company’s Roundup Ready soybeans in 1996. Soy production soared over the next decade as farmers who previously had been tending to grass-fed cattle, growing rice and potatoes, or running dairy farms shifted their focus to growing soybeans. Many farmers plowed up pastures to become part of what was billed as a biotech revolution. Because the beans tolerated direct sprays of glyphosate herbicide, controlling weeds was easier than ever, and, like the Americans, Argentine farmers quickly became eager buyers of both the specialty seeds and the glyphosate chemicals. The timing was perfect. Rising demand for protein—translation: meat— was fueling strong global demand for soy needed to feed livestock that would end up on dinner plates around the world. Argentina soon became the world’s third-largest soybean supplier, and genetically modified soybeans became Argentina’s most important export. Argentine farmers adopted biotech cotton and corn as well, with roughly 24 million acres of the nation’s farmland planted with biotech seeds by 2014, most of which were designed to be sprayed with glyphosate.

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© Carey Gillam 2017

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