A municipality in Jalisco, symbol of the fight against agrochemicals

MEXICO.- Karla Padilla’s son returned home from school with anxiety, headache and nausea in El Mentidero, Jalisco, a community that is a symbol in Mexico in the fight against the use of pesticides for agricultural crops due to its relationship with the increase in cancer and other diseases.

According to a study by the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change, the five most widely used pesticides in Mexico are banned in 49 countries due to its high degree of acute or chronic toxicity that can cause serious and permanent damage to health.

Without adequate control by health authorities, the study explains, Mexico imported in a decade, between 2010 and 2019, almost 250,000 tons of these chemicals coming mainly from the United States and China – where they are prohibited – despite the fact that many of them are banned by presidential decree, such as DDT and endosulfan.

Others, such as paraquat, atrazine, methamidophos or chloropicrin follow an open path to the Mexican fields, although internationally they are classified as dangerous and harmful to health.

In El Mentidero, Karla Padilla spoke with other parents of families about the symptoms that her boy presented daily when he returned from the Venustiano Carranza telesecundaria, located in a territory with a vocation for sugarcane and vegetable crops.

They all agreed that 56 children who attended school had the same symptoms: nausea, fevers, vomiting, severe headaches and menstrual pain and even anxiety.

Investigating among students, teachers and managers, they discovered that in the telesecundaria a plot, owned by the institution, was rented to a farmer who fumigated the fields of cucumber and corn with a cocktail of chemicals at the same times that the students were in classes or At recess.

“There were times when the children were having breakfast between 10:30 and 11:00 and they were already spraying and all that the children were absorbing. In fact, the classrooms, the windows facing the paddock and all the fumes were concentrated in the classrooms, ”said Karla Padilla.

It was then that the parents spoke with the director to explain that between Spanish and algebra; Between the memories of the First World War and the types of ecosystems, it was necessary to attend to health issues.

It was the year 2016. “The director said that he would meet with the man in charge of that plot and, in another meeting we asked him what answer he got, and he said ‘not very good’ and so the spraying continued”

The parents continued to complain, but the spray bombs commanded by the peasants continued to launch the poison left and right to kill the pests of the crops that would later be sold in the markets at the cost of a trail of no flavors in El Mentidero.

According to the National Agricultural Survey 2019, Mexican legislation is characterized by regulatory gaps that have allowed the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides in 57% of the country’s agricultural production units, which are many and extensive.

Mexico ranks third in Latin America in percentage of arable land and farmers use the products because there is access to them, out of habit, convenience and money savings.

“Controlling pests or weeds without these chemicals is very expensive, organic agriculture is very expensive,” explains Antonio Mendoza, an agronomist who is fighting a regional battle in the south of the State of Mexico and North of Guerrero. “On the other hand, the authorities are very lazy or ignorant of the realities of the field, which they consider a minor issue, and there is absolutely no surveillance on the use of these chemicals.”

In the case of Jalisco, neither the director of the telesecundaria, René Michel nor the municipal president, Miguel Ángel Iñiguez, would have paid attention, had it not been for a factor of luck in favor of the residents.

A group of researchers conducting studies on the use of agrochemicals for the University of Guadalajara, they chose the municipality of Autlán as the center of analysis.

The suspicion about the abuse of chemicals harmful to health in the agricultural municipality was confirmed with another red alert finding: lhe urine samples of the 53 students from the El Mentidero telesecundaria presented four different herbicides: glyphosate, 2,4-D, picloram and molinato.

In addition, the doctors extended the studies to 178 children from the José María Morelos primary school, the kindergarten from El Mentidero and 103 children from Ahuacapán (another community). In all, they found 12 different pesticides in their urine.

In a meeting with parents, the researchers explained that molinate can damage sperm when exposure is constant. Picloram, 2,4-D, and glyphosate are carcinogenic, disrupt hormonal balance, cause hyperactivity and loss of attention in children, as well as long-term kidney and liver damage.

Until the time of the study, researchers ruled out liver damage, but they issued a warning: “If you keep absorbing the chemicals comes cancer or other deadly diseases.”

The researchers gave part of their results to the local press and from there they jumped to the Jalisco Human Rights Commission (CDHJ).

This institution attracted the case by official letter and issued in recent days a recommendation with a call for attention to the Autlán city council and the state government because to date they have limited themselves to “training” on the use of pesticides.

The CDHJ wants more: that the water be made drinkable to avoid contamination in this way with chemical agents as well as repairing the damage of the victims and their families: medical expenses, legal guidance, etc.

Also asked punishment for city council staff found to be responsible due to the omission in the application of municipal and state legislation and that the government of the state of Jalisco officially recognizes the number of affected persons with names and surnames.

This recommendation was made on August 2. No authority has accepted it. Meanwhile, farmers still use chemicals to weed, for pests, to pollute.

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