The deadly impacts of soya production

Silvino Talavera

Intensive livestock production in the UK and Europe relies on the import of large quantities of high protein animal feed. This feed is mostly made from soya, which is now being grown on a massive scale in South America. This expansion of soya production results in rainforest destruction in Brazil and and many communities losing their land.

Soya cultivation is often a vast monoculture of GM crops. these are heavily dependent on a toxic cocktail of pesticides and herbicides. The frequent application of these pesticides and herbicides is leading to severe health problems for many people who live in neighbouring rural communities.

Above the law

Laws to protect the environment are often ignored by the soy farmers.

Despite this, few cases are brought against the soy farmers because the rural poor are reluctant to highlight their plight due to shame, intimidation, or lack of faith in corrupt legal systems.

Standing up for her son

One notable exception is the case of Silvino Talavera, an 11 year old boy from Pirapey in southern Paraguay. Silvino was walking home from school, taking his normal route through a neighbouring plantation growing Monsanto RoundUp Ready GM soy. This crop requires regular doses of a potent herbicide to thrive. He was fifteen meters from his home when he was enveloped in a cloud of the Monsanto herbicide cocktail RoundUp sprayed from a cropduster plane. He arrived home barely able to breathe. Silvino was rushed to the nearest hospital, where he died five days later, on 7 January 2003.

Silvino's mother, Petrona Villasboa, took her case to the Paraguayan courts. Two soya producers were found guilty of Silvino's death in 2004. Under Paraguayan law, if a case is not settled after the three years, the defendants are exempt from any form of punishment. People with a lot of political or economic power take advantage of this by delaying their legal case until the deadline has passed. Nearly four years later, on 29 November 2006, the Paraguayan Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling, and the two landholders were sentenced to two years in prison.

Eight years after Silvino's death neither of the farmers has been imprisoned.

Take action

Please send an email to Petrona's lawyers and the Paraguayan judiciary asking for justice for Silvino Talavera.