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Press Release

Argentinean Physicians and Citizens Against Pesticides

Public petition launched in Argentina for pesticide reclassification and physicians' plea to stop aerial pesticide spraying 340 million litres – That was the quantity of pesticides poured over Argentina (mainly by aircrafts) last year, affecting an area where 12 million people live. The amount of poisons used for intensive agriculture keeps on increasing by 15-20% a year.
In 1990, 35 million litres of pesticides were sprayed over crops, but following the introduction of transgenic cultures the volume has been rocketing. In 2000, 145 million litres of chemicals were initially used and then, as increasingly larger quantities were needed to control the spreading of infesting weeds and predating insects (that have both become more and more resistant to pesticides), a total of 340 litres was reached. As a result, a similar kind of record concerning human population's health has been achieved as well. Unfortunately, the situation can only get worse, unless a completely different approach is adopted fairly quickly.


As a matter of fact, the huge volume of toxic substances used for crops has already induced a progressive rise in the incidence of some severe diseases, such as birth defects, reproductive problems, cancer in adults and children, toxic liver diseases and neurological disorders, just to name a few.
The situation has been reported by the association called "Physicians from fumigated towns" that held meetings at Cordoba (2010) and Rosario (2011) universities to tackle such a dramatic emergency - which can be ascribed to government agencies and other authorities, as well as to chemical-pharmaceutical companies. In particular, the companies in question produce pesticides and, at the same time, own patents for genetically manipulated plants, for which they collect patent rights every year. Sadly enough, Argentina has been one of the most 'welcoming' countries for their business. The above-mentioned doctors drafted a final document, where the following requests have been stated:

-       Aerial spraying (form aircrafts) should be forbidden throughout the country;

-       Pesticide spraying made from the ground should be limited to rural areas;
-       The products used in agriculture should undergo reclassification.

The physicians' initiative is carried out together with the "Popular petition for agro-toxic product reclassification", started by Argentinean citizens.

In fact, the current classification of pesticides does not keep into any consideration the recent scientific evidence confirming their actual dangerousness, and it still refers to unreliable data obtained from experiments on rodents!

That's the sheer truth. Toxicity evaluation is still made through the LD50 test, which is performed to assess how much poison is needed to kill 50% of rats among a given number of such experimental animals (the smaller the quantity needed, the higher the substance's toxicity level is). This form of measurement, however, cannot be applied to humans and does not consider any medium- and long-term effects, such as those of oncogenic, reproductive, immune and endocrine nature. If such effects were considered, according to scientists, substances like glyphosate, for example, (the most common weed-killer in the world), would be classified as 1b level (i.e. as extremely dangerous for health). In fact, a considerable amount of scientific and epidemiological findings show that glyphosate causes birth defects and miscarriages (1-3), whereas it is currently classified as 'moderately toxic'.

Much more reliable data, compared to those obtained from animal testing, come from a study on the effects of pesticides in human subjects who have used them in an attempt to commit suicide (a third of the suicides occurring in the world is carried out by ingesting pesticides; in Asia, the figure rises to 50%).
To such purpose, AH Dawson and his colleagues (4) have recently published (October 2010) the outcomes of a study which involved monitoring about 9,000 people admitted into hospital in Sri Lanka after swallowing agro-toxic substances (see EQUIVITA press release of 29/07/2011). The study enabled the researchers to determine acute toxicity levels for various pesticides with a high degree of reliability. The authors in question stated: "Unfortunately, regulations on pesticides are currently based on a toxicity classification drafted by the WHO (World Health Organization) and originating from the oral LD50 test carried out on rats. Scientific grounds for its extrapolation to human toxicity are quite weak". They also pointed out that: "Rodents react to xenobiotics (compounds which are not normally produced or expected to be present in an organism) in a different s fashion compared to humans, as they boast a higher detoxication capacity for organophosphates. Therefore, it is not certain that a pesticide found to be moderately toxic in rodents may have the same effects in humans and vice versa" (just remember that rodenticides are often advertised as 'harmless for humans'!)

The data gathered by Dawson can be added to those of retrospective studies on suicides carried out in Taiwan (5), India (6) and Sri Lanka(7). The new classification is remarkably different from that of the WHO. Just to give a few examples, the WHO considers paraquat (47% fatality rate), endosulfan (22%) and dimethoate (20.6%) as Class II pesticides (i.e. moderately dangerous), whereas human data show that they are extremely dangerous and, consequently, their use should be restricted all over the world.
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For the above-stated reasons, the Environment & Health University Network/PHYSICIANS OF FUMIGATED TOWNS, through a press release issued in July 2011 (*), is pleading for "an urgent reclassification of pesticides in Argentina according to their acute and lethal effects already found in humans, and based on data concerning medium- and long-term effects on human health – i.e. those related to oncological, reproductive, endocrine and immune disorders."

While joining the appeal, the EQUIVITA Scientific Commission nevertheless regrets to circulate such devastating news as those concerning Argentina's populations flooded with pesticides, in order to demonstrate the importance and fairness of the cause that it is fighting at an institutional level - aimed at banning experiments on animals to ensure fairness and reliability in scientific research. The use of the old animal model promotes some other interests which are clearly contrasting with the safeguard of human health. The animal model will never be a useful tool for the evaluation of pesticide toxicity in humans. On the contrary, it would rather conceal it (through the selection of the appropriate experimental species) in order to protect private, financial interests that are not exactly 'hidden' as they are far too obvious and manifest.

(*) The press release is signed by: Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, Medico Pediatra y Neonatólogo
Coordinador Red Universitaria de Ambiente y Salud, Médicos de Pueblos Fumigados - [email protected] 0351 155915933

1- Avila Vazquez M, Note C. Informe 1º Encuentro Médicos de Pueblos Fumigados. UNC. Aug 2010
2- Declaración del 2º Encuentro de Médicos de Pueblos Fumigados. UNR. Ab 2011 Universitaria de Ambiente y Salud / Médicos de Pueblos Fumigados
3- Antoniou M, Mostafa Habib M, Howard C, Jennings R, Leifert C, Onofre Nodari R , Robinson C, Fagan J. Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark? Earth Open Source, 2011
4- Dawson AH, Eddleston M, Senarathna L, Mohamed F, Gawarammana I, Bowe SJ, Manuweera G, Buckley NA. Acute human lethal toxicity of agricultural pesticides: a prospective cohort study. PLoS Med. 2010 Oct 26;7(10):e1000357. South Asian Clinical Toxicology Research Collaboration, Faculty of Medicine, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
5- Lin TJ, Walter FG, Hung DZ, Tsai JL, Hu SC, Chang JS, Deng JF, Chase JS, Denninghoff K, Chan HM. Epidemiology of organophosphate pesticide poisoning in Taiwan Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2008 Nov;46(9):794-801. Department of Emergency, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.
6- Srinivas Rao Ch, Venkateswarlu V, Surender T, Eddleston M, Buckley NA. Pesticide poisoning in south India: opportunities for prevention and improved medical management. Trop Med Int Health. 2005 Jun;10(6):581-8. University College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kakatiya University, Warangal, India.
7- Eddleston M, Eyer P, Worek F, Mohamed F, Senarathna L, von Meyer L, Juszczak E, Hittarage A, Azhar S, Dissanayake W, Sheriff MH, Szinicz L, Dawson AH, Buckley NA. Differences between organophosphorus insecticides in human self-poisoning: a prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2005 Oct 22-28;366(9495):1452-9. South Asian Clinical Toxicology Research Collaboration, Centre for Tropical Medicine, University of Oxford, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, UK.
8- Miller M, Bhalla K. An urgent need to restrict access to pesticides based on human lethality PLoS Med. 2010 Oct 26;7(10):e1000358. Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America

EQUIVITA Scientific Commission:
Via P. A. Micheli, 62 - 00197 Rome - Italy
Tel. +39.06.3220720 - Mobile 335.8444949
Fax +39.06.3225370 Email [email protected]

(Translated from Italian by Emilia Mancini – Translators against vivisection)

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