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"We are a cross-sectoral group made up of unions, social organizations, assemblies, independent individuals who contribute with their experiences. We are united by the fight against agribusiness, which affects us every day. We are being sprayed with agrotoxics. Every day, just like in the cities, we are forced to consume fumigated products", said Carla Poth, Argentinian researcher about the Cross-Sectoral Group against Agribusiness during the Peoples´ Summit carried out in Argentina in parallel to the meeting of the World Trade Organization.
This group is also known as "La 41", with reference to the number of the article in the Argentinian Constitution that demands the protection of environmental rights of all the inhabitants of the country. The group works in Marcos Paz, Exaltación de la Cruz, San Antonio de Areco, San Andrés de Giles, Navarro and Rodríguez municipalities.
Poth said that "each territory has its particularities", but at the same time she made reference to the need to "globalize the struggle", something that they are starting to work on, uniting territories.
The group works at different levels: "The first level is somewhat reactive: we are being constantly sprayed with agrotoxics", she said, and added that agrotoxics are a "key input" in agribusiness, not only in Argentina but in the continent and the world and that their excessive use is "at the center of the agribusiness model". In this way, the cross-sectoral group focuses on exposing problems. "Some of the territories have municipal regulations that establish certain spraying distances that are awful: today, academic studies have proven that these distances are too short: 500 meters, 100 meters, 300 meters. So we expose this: we talk with the citizens in these territories, who many times are not even aware of these regulations and we explain how they can denounce this", she said.
Poth added that they are beginning to build some epidemiological maps in some districts, using as a reference the tools implemented in Ituzaingó Anexo and Monte Maíz neighborhoods in Córdoba province. She highlighted that this mapping "allows to show the impacts of the constant use of spraying and agrotoxics on the people".
Poth highlighted the work of the cross-sectoral group in schools to protect children from sprayings. "Buenos Aires province has many rural schools that are systematically fumigated; children and teachers are constantly exposed to these toxic products and the schools don´t work on this; the Ministry of Education is not addressing the issue. We are focusing on raising awareness on the schools and also within the teachers union", she highlighted. She made reference to Suteba, the Education Workers Union of Buenos Aires, member of the cross-sectoral group, and also the Santa Fe Teachers Association (Asmafe), which has been dealing with the issue.
The cross-sectoral group also makes proposals: "The aim is to create agroecological production networks, markets that allow to articulate the different peasant farmers who produce in an agroecological way and have difficulties to make their products available in urban centers", she said. Connecting the countryside and the city is key, even more in the territories where La 41 works, because as Poth said, "they are small urban centers surrounded by products". Nevertheless, agroecological farmers are not safe from agrotoxics: "The main problem for agroecological farmers in our regions is that their products are also sprayed, so they can´t even ensure the agroecological nature of their own products, because they are sprayed all the time", she warned. "A large part of the regulations related to fumigations are not enforced", she added, thus linking the problems experienced by agroecological farmers with those suffered by children and teachers at the schools and the people who live near crop fields.
Lastly, she said that La 41 is part of the "Cross-sectoral group against the Monsanto Seed Law", a group that gathers over 50 organizations that oppose the changes proposed by Mauricio Macri´s administration to Seed Law 20.247 to benefit agribusiness industries. "Our farmers keep, reproduce and exchange seeds in markets", said Poth, and warned that this would be one of the practices that would be affected if all crops are patented.
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