Genetically Modified Soybeans and the Crisis
of Argentina's Agriculture Model
One of the most dramatic consequences of the current Argentine crisis is the suffering of millions of hungry people who have experienced a widespread decline in their living conditions. In 2001, at the height of the crisis, over half the population—20 million persons, according to official figures—was living below the poverty line. Around one in four was suffering extreme poverty, meaning that their income was insufficient to cover their basic food needs, something unprecedented in the social and economic history of Argentina. This panorama was reinforced by media coverage of children starving, either because their parents could not care for them or because of a lack of assistance from the state.
This situation is nothing short of scandalous if we consider that Argentina has an enormous potential for producing sufficient food in quantity and quality to feed several times the country's total population, and that in recent decades there has been a sustained and dramatic increase in agricultural production—mainly of cereals and oilseeds. The country's estimated annual production of cereals and oilseeds is over 70 million tons, almost two tons per capita, with a total of 90 million tons of agricultural produce in general. But these figures come with a caveat: almost half of the country's grain production is soy, virtually all of it genetically modified and for export.
Historically one of the “breadbaskets of the world,” Argentina was one of the few Third World countries self-sufficient in food, as well as an important net exporter of grain and other commodities to the world economy. How then can it be explained that a country like Argentina has become submerged in hunger and misery? How could this increase in agricultural production and overall supply of food be accompanied by a