For 13 years Sofia Gatica has organized opposition to the aerial spraying of agrochemicals that threaten human health and the environment in Argentina -- and for almost as long, she and her children have faced physical threats from anonymous agents.
Gatica, who lives in a working-class neighborhood of 6,000 in central Argentina surrounded by soy fields, began organizing against Monsanto after she noticed a disturbingly high rate of cancer and birth defects in her community. Her own 3-day-old daughter died of kidney failure in 1999, and a neighbor had a baby die of the same uncommon birth defect.
Editor's Note: This story contains explicit language.
"I started seeing children with mouth covers, mothers with scarves wrapped around their heads to cover their baldness, due to chemotherapy," she told Grist in an interview, explaining what inspired her to co-found Mothers of Ituzaingó. The efforts of those half-dozen mothers, who began going from door to door collecting information on health problems in their community, led to the first epidemiological study that showed cancer rates in Gatica's hometown of Ituzaingó were 41 times the national average, with high rates of birth defects and infant mortality as well.
Within a few years of the study's publication, and as her advocacy work gave her a higher profile, Gatica began to receive death threats, culminating in an incident in late 2007.
"I had just come back from the corner store, and I never lock my door," she told HuffPost through a translator. "I always just come and go in our neighborhood, and I came in and he followed behind me and put the gun against my head in my kitchen and said that I needed to 'stop fucking with the soy.'"More...