Argentina is the first country in the world to eat genetically modified bread. The company Bioceres-Indear reported that GM wheat is already being mixed with conventional wheat in 25 mills. With no labelling of genetically modified foods, it is already on the country’s tables and impossible to identify. It is grown with the dangerous agro-toxic glufosinate ammonium. The risks to health and the environment.
The population of Argentina is the first to eat bread with genetically modified wheat. This was confirmed by the company Bioceres-Indear, which reported that 25 mills are already mixing the cereal with conventional wheat. The genetically modified wheat, which goes together with the dangerous agro-toxic glufosinate ammonium, was denounced by more than a thousand scientists, by producers (both agro-ecological and agribusiness) and by socio-environmental organisations. The studies that would indicate the supposed “innocuousness” of the genetically modified are confidential and were carried out by the very company that sells it. “It is a fact of unusual gravity from the point of view of public health”, denounced in a public letter the Institute of Socio-environmental Health (InSSA) of the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the National University of Rosario (UNR).
The news was announced by Bioceres-Indear at the beginning of March. And it is of global significance: for the first time a genetically modified wheat (called “HB4”) has found its way into mass-consumption foods (bread, pizzas, empanadas, noodles and all uses of flour). And, more seriously, the population has no way of identifying if it is eating a genetically modified product or not: in Argentina there is no labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The Institute of Socio-environmental Health (InSSA-UNR) stressed that there is no independent scientific evidence published in academic journals that demonstrates that HB4 wheat is safe for human consumption. They point out that in Argentina, genetically modified crops are approved on the basis of “studies” by the companies themselves and that these reports are secret.
The InSSA, which has confirmed with a scientific publication the incidence of cancer in fumigated villages, points out another factor of genetically modified wheat: “It is accompanied by the herbicide glufosinate ammonium, whose toxicity to the environment and health has already been demonstrated in numerous scientific works, and it has also been shown that it does not degrade and that it can even be detected in ultra-processed foods.
The researchers urge “public policy makers” to heed the scientific evidence of the dangers of this crop. “We consider it urgent that the authorities ban the commercialisation and incorporation of HB4 wheat in flour for the production of edible products and/or substitutes for human food,” they say.
In 2020, in an open letter, more than a thousand scientists from Conicet and 30 public universities in Argentina rejected the advance of genetically modified wheat: “This authorisation refers to an agribusiness model that has proven to be harmful in environmental and social terms, the main cause of biodiversity losses, that does not solve food problems and that also threatens the health of our people, confronting food security and sovereignty. They provided dozens of studies on the dangers of the new genetically modified crops. None of this has been taken into account by the state authorities.
Bioceres-Indear is the company behind the genetically modified wheat. It presents itself as a “national company”, with shareholders such as the so-called “soya king” Gustavo Grobocopatel and the billionaire Hugo Sigman, but since 2021 it has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The state’s contribution to the genetically modified crop was also vital, through the resources and active policies of the Conicet and the National University of Litoral. Its leading figure is the scientist Raquel Chan, partner of Bioceres and denier of the social, environmental and health consequences of agribusiness.
Mauricio Macri was on the verge of approving wheat during his administration, but stopped the decision due to warnings from agribusiness producers, the Cereal Exporters’ Centre and the Federation of Grain Stockpilers, due to the possibility of losing export markets (mainly Brazil). Consumers do not want genetically modified crops on their plates. The no end came in May 2022, when Julián Domínguez (then Minister of Agriculture) gave the green light to the Bioceres-Indear request (the administrative signature was provided by Luis Gustavo Contigiani).
“The responsibility of the government is total. From the authorisation without safety tests, without considering the negative effects on the countryside and also with its scientific policies, with Raquel Chan as an emblem, at the service of the most concentrated agribusiness sector”, denounced Agustín Suárez, from the Union of Land Workers (UTT). And he stressed the seriousness of this wheat: “Not only will conventional wheat be contaminated, but this genetically modified wheat, and its agro-toxins, will go directly into our bodies, into our children’s bodies. The consequences will be very serious and will be seen in the medium and long term. It is criminal.
The Multisectorial Paren de Fumigarnos de Santa Fe, which for two decades has been denouncing the impacts of agribusiness on health and the environment, pointed out that the herbicide glufosinate-ammonium is “much more toxic than glyphosate, and its teratogenic, neurotoxic and genotoxic effects have been proven”.
The Multisectorial, which is part of the campaign “Not with our bread” (which brings together dozens of organisations from all over the country) warned of the effect on producers: “The coexistence of genetically modified and non-GM wheat is not possible due to the process of ‘genetic contamination’ that occurs during pollination and whose residues of agrotoxins will remain in the flour obtained. In impoverished and culturally dependent wheat-flour societies, this is a clear public health hazard. And it warns that the mechanism by which the genetically modified crops were authorised violates the General Environmental Law and article 41 of the National Constitution, among other norms for the protection of health and the environment. They demand a halt to the planting of the genetically modified crop, a halt to the mixing with traditional wheat, and they recall: “Health is not negotiable”.
“Corruption of genetically modified crops”.
The Multisectoral Paren de Fumigarnos denounced the complicity of the bodies that should regulate genetically modified crops: the Secretariat of Agriculture, the National Service for Agri-Food Health and Quality (Senasa) and the National Seed Institute (Inase). A fundamental event in the authorisation of wheat happened in 2018, when the National Commission of Biothencology (Conabia) gave its approval. The social organisations denounce three key facts: Conabia is made up mostly of members of the companies that sell these products (and academics who have conflicts of interest), it does not carry out its own studies (it only validates those of the companies) and all its reports are confidential. Its pro-corporate actions are so crass that the European NGO GMWatch (a reference in the global study of genetically modified crops) called it a world reference for “transgenic corruption”.