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In an interview with the Internet portal Salud Popular, Balbea criticizes the use of GMOs and pesticides, as he believes that they are a technology that serves the purpose of dominating the territories of the producing countries.
For the doctor, the act of eating and producing food is directly linked to the culture of the peoples, and this is being
What is the purpose of a technology like GMOs?
Technologies are not neutral. They are political instruments and some serve certain powers, to implement certain actions. If a technology has support from the entire industry, a social legitimation process will be created for people to accept it.
In the case of transgenics, they serve for the domination of some territories, for the production of commodities [primary products] in favor of capital.
You said that eating is a cultural act. How do GMOs change the way we eat and produce?
Food is much more than nutrients. Sometimes, we eat without being hungry, because of a social relationship that is established around producing and preparing food. When we stop producing food and switch to transgenic products, which are merchandise, there is no such relationship, because it is a production that goes against the culture of the peoples.
In Argentina, for example, we do not have the culture of eating soybeans, but we have an expansion of the agricultural frontier based on the cultivation of soybeans. In Brazil, the same thing happens. It is a production made especially for export, serving the interest of other nations.
In addition, several studies show that ingesting transgenic products generates diseases, such as changes in the digestive tract, in addition to the chemistry associated with the genetically modified product: there is no transgenic that does not have, in its composition, pesticides.
Why do countries like Brazil and Argentina continue to use proven dangerous pesticides, which were banned in other countries?
Those countries, mainly Europe, decided, due to popular pressure and other reasons, that these poisons cause damage to health. But, in countries like Brazil and Argentina, where it is easier to manipulate politics, its use continues. They are countries that are not truly sovereign, they cannot articulate their own policies; they respond to policies that are developed in the central capitalist countries. They depend on that economy that is decided elsewhere and applied in their territories. There is a freedom and impunity that allows the rights of the peoples to be imposed.
Why is there silence from the scientific community about many complaints and questions in relation to transgenics?
I think that due to lack of knowledge, due to the type of training that exists, that naturalizes these technologies as something indispensable for the economy and society. It is the paradigm that the economy weighs more than life. Our whole life goes through consumption. The economic has a value that is above any other right, it is the way society works.
And, when you think that there is no alternative, it is a victory for that dominant way of thinking, which does not allow us to think that there are ways to produce sustainably and that health is something utopian. But, more and more, the debate is taking place in greater form, in more important places. The accumulation of information and the social unrest that are generated through this issue no longer allows some to look the other way [and ignore the issue].
And how does the network of doctors in Argentina contribute to this debate?
When scientists go against the interests of the industry, they are persecuted, dismissed from positions and careers, just for publishing what they believe to be correct. It is necessary to have a space where doctors, health professionals and other disciplines feel safe to investigate and share information.
We have already held three congresses on environmental health, with people who participated in discussions on transgenic, agro-toxic, on different production models. That process created a union of scientists committed to health and nature in Latin America. The network has been a space that allows creating and questioning, without these people feeling persecuted by the industry, having support and space to think about another science that is in favor of the interests of the people.