A must read for Biofuel searcher.. New Release of Biofuel Secrets ..A must read for for every US voter and concerned citizen.. challenges the reader to explore new possibilities and new mindsets that will ultimately be required if the world is truly ready to make a change.. amazon.com US only15 years of GM Soybeans in Argentina:
The true cost of monoculture
Intoxication, massive clearing, loss of biodiversity, forced evictions, land concentration and murder. The dark sides of 15 years of soy monoculture, a model driven by businesses and governments.
By Dario Aranda and Nina Holland
The only scientific evidence to support the approval of GM soy in Argentina was research data provided by Monsanto. Monsanto produces both soy seed and the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate), a product that GM soy has been made resistant to. The 'scientific' dossier with data on Roundup Ready soy's safety is only 146 pages.  The approval took place in record time: 81 days during the summer of 1996. Since then, RoundupReady soy has beem cultivated on a large scale - and the use of Roundup has also increased exponentially.
On Monday 21st March 2011, four days before the 15th anniversary of the approval, the Argentine Ministry of Agriculture sent out a press release that had been long-awaited by agribusiness: "The 2010/2011 grain harvest exceeds the magic limit of 100 million tonnes." For years, it had been the dream of pesticide producers, grain traders, soy producers and the Ministry's civil servants to reach this milestone. Today soy represents half of this harvest. The area cultivated with soy has increased from 6 to 19 million hectares, which represents 56 percent of Argentina's cultivated land. 
Soy exports bring in 16,000 million dollars a year, but there are also other consequences: 190 million liters of glyphosate are sprayed and there has been an exponential increase in deforestation. Two hundred thousand families have been driven from their land and there are conflicts between soy producers on one side and peasants and indigenous peoples on the other over eight million hectares of land. However, this production model is promoted as an economic success, and now is even described as "responsible".
Deforestation in Saravia, Salta, North-West Argentina; photo: Didi van Dijk
The Soy Economy: profits for the few
The current economic model in Argentina is extremely dependent on soy production. The model is driven by large companies and transnational corporations that form an 'agribusiness system'". A large part of this model is controlled by a small number of companies and individuals", according to Miguel Teubal and Thomas Palmisano who have written a book on the influence of the soy sector on Argentine economy and politics.  These include export companies such as Cargill and ADM, big soy producers like Grupo Los Grobo, seed companies as Monsanto and Syngenta, and investment groups known as "sowing pools".
Based on data from the Ministry of Agriculture, the economists show that between 1997 and 2008 soy exports increased in value from $3.2 billion to $16.3 billion. The researchers point out that a handful of companies account for 85 per cent of the business: Cargill, Noble Argentina, ADM, Bunge, LDC-Dreyfus, AC Toepfer, Nidera, Molinos Rio de la Plata, AGD and Vicentín.
"It was very convenient for the government to promote the soy model, because it improved the trade balance as well as tax collection, very necessary to meet external debt payment obligations," Teubal and Palmisano write. Even though there was disagreement on soy export taxes between the government and "el campo" (agribusiness), as both conflicting parties had a vested interest in maintaining the soy model, it remained intact.
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in the European Union, more than 40 million tonnes of RoundupReady soy is imported annually from Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. These imports are attractive because there is no import taxas a result of historic trade negotiations between the USA and the EU. Cheap soy is mainly destined for factory farming. European and foreign markets are inundated with cheap meat, eggs and milk, which make it difficult for small farmers to compete. And there is the added problem that factory farming causes severe environmental pollution.
There is strong scientific evidence that exposure to pesticides increases the risk of an adverse impact on human health. This is stated in the final declaration of the First Meeting of Doctors of 'Pueblos Fumigados' (sprayed villages), organised by Córdoba's National University (UNC), Argentina, in August 2010.  This was the first time that a state university has organized a meeting of this type. Molecular biologists, geneticists, epidemiologists, endocrinologists, and other medical specialists from 10 provinces and six universities presented their work, linking the use of agrochemicals with different types of cancer, spontaneous abortions, birth defects and fertility problems through national and international research, and patient medical records.
Argentina uses 300 million litres of chemicals each year, which is estimated to have a direct negative impact on 12 million people. The attendants of the meetings demanded that the Argentinean government ban aerial spraying and restrict ground spraying, and called for urgent implementation of the precautionary principle, which is contained in Argentine law. This means that where there is a risk of environmental damage, protective measures should be taken.
For the last 10 years, about a hundred villages situated in soy areas have united in the 'Paren de Fumigar' campaign (Stop the Spraying), denouncing the environmental and health effects of agrochemicals. Demonstrations, road blockades, information campaigns and court cases have resulted in several important victories. The Court has already banned glyphosate spraying close to villages in the provinces of Formosa, Córdoba, Buenos Aires, Chaco and Santa Fe - all areas with large-scale soy monocultures.
The Urquiza neighborhood in the town of San Jorge is a good example. In 2009, the community obtained two favourable rulings to stop the spraying. In February 2011 the decision became final. This was the first case in Argentina, which reversed the burden of proof: it is no longer the affected families who must demonstrate the harmful effects, but those using the pesticides that have to prove the product's harmlessness.  The news was welcomed by hundreds of people from the 'Pueblos Fumigados' who say they will continue to file new cases in court.
The campaign has also had another impact. In 2009 the Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed a decree to establish a national committee to study pesticide impacts. However, the committee failed to reach an unambiguous conclusion but agreed the need for further research on glyphosate's harmfulness. Demonstrating the harmfulness on human health is complex, requiring a large epidemic study. But lab research with chicken embryos conducted last year by Andrés Carrasco of the Argentine National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), resulted in clear indications that the exposure to glyphosate in the first weeks of pregnancy can lead to birth defects – and suggested that the same could also apply to human beings. 
Box: glyphosate's approval
Roundup can be bought in almost any garden centre, anywhere in the world,. It used to be proclaimed as a relatively harmless product, but this has been retracted. Monsanto has been forced to remove the 'environmentally friendly' label from the packaging several times. In 1996, when RoundupReady soy cultivation started, glyphosate's maximum residu limits were at once raised from 0.1 mg/kg to 20 mg/kg, on Monsanto's request, both in Argentina and in the EU. In the EU, Germany is responsible for the glyphosate-dossier. A revision was scheduled for 2012 to check whether the evaluation of this product is still in line with the latest scientific findings, but, because of 'high work pressure' the European Commission has postponed this decision to 2015. The permanent committee of the EU member states (Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health) qualified Andrés Carrasco's research as irrelevant, because supposedly it was not conducted according to certain criteria. This news was never spread in the European press, while it was widely published in the Argentine agrarian press. 
More soy, less forest
The province of Córdoba is one of the core areas of the soy model. Monocultures have expanded to the detriment of forests and pasture lands. Soy expansion and the displacement of extensive cattle raising have increased the pace of land conflicts, evictions, and deforestation.
Marcelo Cabido and Marcelo Zak are researchers at the Multidisciplinary Institute of Plant Biology (Imbiv) at Córdoba's National University and the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, CONICET. They have analysed the relationship between deforestation, agriculture and biodiversity and pointed out that according to the FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization), the rate of deforestation in Argentina is twice as high as in the Amazone area. But in Córdoba they recorded a far more severe deforestation rate of almost four times the national average and thirteen times the global average. 
"The speed with which Córdoba's forests are disappearing, is unmatched worldwide, it even surpasses that of tropical forests in poor countries," stated the researchers, highlighting the direct relationship with the advance of the agricultural frontier, in particular the cultivation of annual crops, primarily soy.
Nationally, the outlook is no better. The latest national native forests inventory of the National Environment Secretariat shows that during the period of 2002-2006, 1,108,669 hectares of forest were lost. That is 277,000 hectares per year, equivalent to 760 hectares per day or 32 hectares per hour. The National Secretariat has never formally spoken out on the expansion of RoundupReady soy but in March 2008, it issued a 12-page document on the advance of the agricultural frontier and confirmed what peasant movements and environmental organizations had already denounced for years: "Soy production leads to environmental problems like deforestation, soil degradation (...) The expansion of soy is a recent and powerful threat to biodiversity in Argentina."
Reverse land reform
During the soy boom, governments have implemented a reverse land reform in Argentina in favor of big landowners and 'sowing pools', and to the detriment of indigenous people and peasants. As a direct consequence, according to the National Peasant and Indigenous Movement (MNCI), two hundred thousand families were evicted from their ancestral territories mainly bound for the poor neighborhoods of the big cities. This led to concentration of land ownership. The 2002 Census of Agriculture shows that 10 per cent of the largest "agricultural establishments" own 78 percent of the land, while 60 per cent of the smallest farms occupy just five percent of the country's arable land. In 1988 there were 422,000 farms in the country, which dropped to 318,000 in 2002 (a decrease of 24.6 per cent). The National Research Institute for Agricultural Technology (INTA) summarizes: "land distribution is highly inequitable from the point of view of the agrarian structure."
Evictions and repression
There are no official statistics for land conflicts in rural areas. The Argentine Chaco Agroforestry Network (Redaf), a multidisciplinary platform consisting of social movements, environmental NGOs and experts, presented a report in October 2010 that describes 164 land and environmental conflicts. These conflicts concern nearly eight million hectares (equivalent to almost 400 times the city of Buenos Aires) and 950,000 people, mainly indigenous peoples and peasants. This report only takes into account six provinces in northern Argentina: Salta, Formosa, Chaco, Santiago del Estero and the north of Santa Fe and Córdoba. Most of the conflicts are concerned with the violation of land rights starting in 2000, coinciding with "the expansion of the agro-export model in the Chaco region, driven by the international demand of soy."
On 13 March, 2010, in the village of San Nicolas in the province of Santiago del Estero, Sandra "Ely" Juarez died after standing in front of a bulldozer that was heading for the land her family has always lived on. Eight months later, on 23 November, during a police crackdown in the province of Formosa, Roberto Lopez, a member of the Qom "La Primavera" community, was killed. This occurred during a road blockade in which the community tried to enforce their claim on the right to their ancestral lands. Both murders remain unpunished. The State has the primary responsibility for resolving these conflicts, but according to indigenous peoples and peasant movements, impunity reigns and there exists a lack of political will to solve the problems.
A responsible product?
The future is not promising. The Argentine government has put forward a " Strategic Agribusiness Plan 2010-2016", which is committed to increasing soy production by 20 million tonnes. This will intensify the problems described above. In Europe, the Romanian Minister of Agriculture, Valeriu Tabara, a former Monsanto employee, advocates the approval of RoundupReady soy cultivation by 2012.  Meanwhile, ever more voices, including in the European Parliament, are raised against industrial farming and massive soy imports, and in favour of local forage production. Several environmental organisations have worked on the issue for years.
However, there is also another, more agribusiness-friendly initiative to supposedly solve the problems related to soy cultivation. The companies that dominate the soy chain, like Cargill, ADM, Bayer, Monsanto and Syngenta, have received an opportunity to show their 'responsible' face in the so-called "Round Table on Responsible Soy". This Round Table is an initiative from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Swiss supermarket chain COOP. They wanted to develop a new label for 'responsible' soy. An essential condition for the companies involved, was that RoundupReady soy would be eligible for this label. In 2005, the talks started off with a first conference in Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil, on the border with Paraguay and Argentina. Protests arose immediately. Social and peasant movements organized a counter-conference in the same location. The Round Table continued, but the resistance against it as well. In 2010, 230 social and environmental organizations once more signed a declaration against this project. 
Six years after the first meeting, the criteria for this label have finally been agreed. Critics consider it an empty shell. Soy production is being ´greenwashed´, they claim. Most of the criteria are already contained in local laws. There are no clear goals for the reduction of pesticide use and ´responsible´ soy expansion is permitted, even in forested areas.
No peasant, indigenous or social movements participate in the Round Table, and only a limited number of NGOs do. Since the Round Table will provide certification for soy ´biodiesel´ for the European market, it will encourage further soy expansion. The RTRS was among the first ones to apply at the European Commission, that is determining which label will be allowed to certify agrofuels, in order to achieve the biofuel targets of 10% by 2020.
The European industry, like forage lobby FEFAC, is two-faced. They participate in the Round Table, but at the same time lobby at the EU to abolish the prohibition on non-permitted and therefore illegal genetically manipulated products in food and fodder. These companies have a clear objective: if the European people can be convinced by a ´panda-label´ that RoundupReady soy is ´responsible´, then the resistance against genetically manipulated crops and monocultures in general will decline. But whether they will succeed, remains to be seen.
Dario Aranda is a free-lance journalist and often writes for the Argentine newspaper Página12 (darioaranda.wordpress.com). Nina Holland works for Corporate Europe Observatory (www.corporateeurope.org, email@example.com).
 http://www.agrositio.com/vertext/vertext.asp?id=121210&se=7 and offical statistics on the cultivated area by the Ministry of Agriculture.
 Giarraca, Norma en Teubal, Miguel (coordinators). 2010. Del paro agrario a las elecciones de 2009. Buenos Aires: Antropofagia.
 "Deforestation, agriculture and biodiversity", http://www.hoylauniversidad.unc.edu.ar/2010/junio/deforestacion-agricultura-y-biodiversidad-apuntes