American Journal of Plant Sciences, 2011, 2, 359-369
doi:10.4236/ajps.2011.23041 Published Online September 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. AJPS
A Research of the Environmental and Social Effects
of the Adoption of Biotechnological Practices for
Soybean Cultivation in Argentina
Guido Fernando Botta1,2, Alfredo Tolón-Becerra3, Xavier Lastra-Bravo3, Mario Cesar Tourn2
1Technology Department, National University of Luján, Luján, Argentina; 2Agronomy Faculty, Buenos Aires University, Buenos
Aires, Argentina; 3Ctra Sacramento, University of Almería, Almería, España.
Received July 18th, 2011; revised August 14th, 2011; accepted September25th, 2011.
In recent years, the excessive and unregulated implementation of biotechnological practices has placed a large
number of farmers in a precarious position throughout our country. Here we review and we analyzed results pro-
duced in field experiments installed along the Argentinean Pampas to determine environmental and social effects of
the adoption of biotechnology practices associated with direct sowing (DS) of soybean. The use of machinery for
farm work, the perfection of handling techniques, the incorporation of improved seeds, and the use of fertilizers and
pesticides together influenced a significant increase in the productivity of the land, manual labors and capital. De-
spite positive economic results of this agricultural renewal also brought about consequences that proved to be det-
rimental to producers. By the end of the 1980s numerous sectors were in states of crisis. The major findings of our
research are: 1) exhaustion of resources; 2) erosion problems brought on by inappropriate land use and soil com-
paction by increased area under DS system; 3) loss of biodiversity in the ecosystem; 4) crisis among family-owned
farms who cannot access to new improved technologies due to profitability, obsolete machinery and the impossibility
of access to credit; 5) reduction in smaller farms; 6) increase in specialized production, which implies the subordi-
nation of farming production to the dynamic of capital and finally more direct relationships between the entities
generating technology and primary productions. The results of our study on adoption of biotechnology practice as-
sociated to DS of soybean give the following results: 1) the deterioration of family income from farms reached 41%
per hectare comparing the average values of the 1990s to the 1980s. Farms smaller than 190 hectares, therefore,
ceased to be competitive in Buenos Aires State, it can be observed a reduction of 24.2% in the number of farms.
This occurred due to a reduction of small and medium-scale farmers associated with the concentration of land into
farming units of more than 500 hectares; 2) annual losses in rural work rise 17.043.000 $/year or US$4.260.750 or,
from another point of view, 4.128 tractor drivers, 3.926 mechanics and 4.600 farm workers, with an overall 12.000
rural workers; 3) increase of subsoil compaction and soil erosion was found due to high axle load of machinery
equipment which also caused a decrease in crop yields ranging between 9% and 38% of the to ta l y ield pe r hec ta re o f
soybean crop, affecting the producers.
Keywords: Agricultural Sustainability, Small Producers, Agricultural Machinery, Rural Workers
1. Introduction
1.1. Modernization Process
In the Republic of Argentina, grain production is about
80.8 million Ton·year–1 with a value of US$6.4 billion.
Grain exportation is one of the pillars of the country’s
economy, as it provides US$ 2.7 billon. In terms of cli-
mate, the Rolling Pampas region is characterized by in-
tense periods of rainfall. These rains are particularly com-
mon when summer crops have not completely covered
the land or have yet to be sown. It is also identified by
recurring seasonal drought during flowering and grain
filling. This occurrence has a probability of about 70%
In recent years the use of land for agricultural purposes
has intensified overall. According to [2], an intense pro-
cess of modernization was observed in the Pampas re-
gion of Argentina at the beginning of the 1970s. The use
A Research of the Environmental and Social Effects of the Adoption of Biotechnological
Practices for Soybean Cultivation in Argentina
of machinery for farm work, the perfection of handling
techniques, the incorporation of improved seeds, and the
use of fertilizers and pesticides together influenced a
significant increase in the productivity of land, manual
labour and capital. This process of modernization was
accompanied by technological practices oriented towards
increasing productivity. For family-owned farms in the
Pampas region this period represented a time of social
restructuring and new investments. A great deal of disil-
lusion arose among producers whose meagre previous
crop yield did not allow them to access the new system.
Many of them left farming but continued to maintain
ownership of their land while others consolidated to form
a significant segment of contractors. A study carried out
in this region reveals that at the beginning of the 1980s
50% of the land in use in the area was leased to contrac-
tors by the owners.
Despite positive economic results this period of agri-
cultural renewal also brought about consequences that
proved to be detrimental to producers. By the end of the
1980s numerous sectors were in states of crisis. Some of
the main effects caused by this agricultural development
Exhaustion of resources, mainly soil, with serious
erosion problems brought on by inappropriate land
Loss of biodiversity in the ecosystem (contamination
of tributaries and streams, decrease in the presence of
important flora and fauna for sustainability).
Relocation of ranching to more remote areas and the
increase of land area dedicated to farming.
Crisis among family-owned farms who cannot access
to new improved technologies due to profitability,
obsolete machinery, the impossibility of access to
credit, etc.
Emergence of new players on the agrarian sector:
public limited companies or agricultural investment
funds (based on short-term production criteria), con-
tractors that displaced the old system of leasing,
where it can be seen that access to capital becomes an
important source of profitability against owning land.
Increase in specialized production, which implies the
subordination of farming production to the dynamic
of capital.
More direct relationships between the entities genera-
ting technology and the most important farm lands.
One very common observation of many Latin Ameri-
can authors is that the process of agrarian capitalization
has caused an increase in temporary workers and a de-
crease in permanent ones [3-5].
[6] Adduces that 50% of the rural workers in Argen-
tina are not legally registered. This group suffers from an
enormous lack of protection and greater vulnerability
than rural workers with contracts. In comparison with
other economic sectors, illegal labour is excluded due to
stricter labour contract laws, which are enforced by a
“special statute” that protects workers to a small extent.
According to the definition by the Rural Workers Or-
ganizations “Convention of the International Labour Or-
ganization”, a rural worker is understood as: any person
engaged in agriculture, handicrafts or a related occupa-
tion in a rural area, whether as a wage earner or, tenant,
sharecropper or small owner-occupier who work the land
themselves, with the help only of their family or with the
help of occasional outside labour and who do not a) per-
manently employ workers; b) employ a substantial num-
ber of seasonal workers; or c) have any land cultivated
by sharecroppers or tenants” [7].
These technological transformations that took place in
Argentina can be extrapolated to Latin America. Ac-
cording to most authors these transformations have had a
significant impact on the labour market, thereby chang-
ing the composition of the agricultural work force.
According to [5], this can be observed in at least four
basic aspects, namely:
a) The replacement of resident workers with external
wage-earning workers;
b) In terms of wage-earning work, the rise in tempo-
rary and seasonal work;
c) The increased incorporation of women into the agri-
cultural work force;
d) Rural workers moving to urban centers.
From this period of modernization emerges direct so-
wing (DS) or no-tillage systems as an answer to the crisis
that affects farming production in this region. On one
hand DS is defined as one that overcomes the degrada-
tion processes that had affected resources, mainly land,
which in specific areas had reached alarming degrees of
erosion. DS was introduced as one which surpassed those
that had been prevailing since the Green Revolution,
characterized by the incorporation of technologies of
inputs and machinery. DS represents a technological leap
in qualitative terms as it builds on the Green Revolution
system by technologically changing processes. The
changes obtain significant increases, particularly in the
processes of production and work. Therefore, it is possi-
ble to identify this system as the core of the radical
transformation in the farming production sector [8].
In the 1980s, DS began to spread in a sustainable
fashion as a response to rising availability and cost re-
duction of agrochemicals. Another factor was the simpli-
fication of labour, as it implied a decrease in both the
number of operations and the need for machinery. This
system of work, which currently covers 20 million hec-
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. AJPS
A Research of the Environmental and Social Effects of the Adoption of Biotechnological 361
Practices for Soybean Cultivation in Argentina
tares in Argentina forms part of a technological practices
comprised of an enormous amount of imported machin-
ery, Monsanto herbicides and transgenic soybean [9-11].
According to [12], in an extensive study conducted in
the town of Zavalla (province of Santa Fe, Argentina),
the majority of producers view DS and its variety of
transgenic seeds as not just simply other techniques in
the technological practice spread throughout the farming
world of the Pampas in recent years.
Instead, it is seen as part of a complete productive
strategy which withstands the risk of impoverishment
and/or exclusion as a result of the implementation of
global new-liberal policies. This threat requires new so-
lutions that allow farm units to endure. These answers
can be found by both learning from past experience and
by incorporating new innovations.
1.2. Rural Development
The first step in analyzing rural development consists of
identifying the theoretical background behind develop-
ment plans that requires strengthening. The objective of
this process is always stated to be that of improving the
standard of living of the population in a given area
through decentralization, local participation and encour-
aging endogenous resource usage. However, in reality,
the theoretical framework from which development em-
erges is the ultimately determines the extent of said de-
The solution in the eyes of institutionalized interna-
tional organizations and multilateral development banks
lies in the process of economic globalization. This proc-
ess offers the masses of the periphery the same general
level of consumption as the city. The Periphery, whose
population is rapidly multiplying, can achieve this level
through the “indispensable economic growth” required
by modern societies.
The approach behind the official method for achieving
sustainable development seeks to strengthen economic
growth in those areas where basic needs are not satisfied.
At the same time, it respects “growth in other areas, pro-
vided they fulfill the requirements of sustainability and
reject the exploitation of others”, in a way that ensures
“equal opportunities among all people”.
Sustainable development has its origins in the pre-
paration for the Stockholm Conference of 1972 and the
work of the Club of Rome in the early seventies. These
two events represented the first warnings against the en-
vironmental problems perceived at that time; the Global
2000 Report of 1980, which diagnosed the “state of the
world” and the methodical approach to face the ecologi-
cal crisis. This approach was part of the Bruntland Re-
port which officially defined sustainable development.
Finally, the Earth Rio Summit set out the institutional
strategy for sustainable development.
From the perspective of Agro-ecology, according to
[13], a new paradigm of sustainability is required. It has
to be ecologically friendly, economically viable, socially
fair, culturally flexible as well as socio-culturally hu-
manized. Constructing a development model that meets
these demands implies that “as opposed to interdepend-
ence and concentration, dominant trends would have to
be those of autonomy and decentralization, where local
power prevails with all of the diversity that distinguishes
it from what is global and homogeneous”. Or, in other
words, it would imply an autonomous development sys-
tem based on local resources that will depend on the
communal organisms of each territory, and it would op-
pose, therefore, the current trends of concentration of
political and economic power. A model such as this one
would be labour intensive rather than capital intensive.
However, all of these changes which have affected ru-
ral families and the environment have not appeared to
have achieved improvements in the standard of living of
wage earners and their families. Instead, they appear to
have allowed poverty to accompany modernization. In
more direct terms, the productive readjustment caused by
modernization and industrialization has not resolved the
old problems linked to agriculturepoverty has not di-
minished and land has come into the hands of a small
number of owners, which has brought about the eviction
of farming families and made wage earners the largest
and poorest group in the farming world.
Finally: a widespread idea in some production circles
of Argentina is that productivity increases when DS
practices are adopted. Conversely, others suppose that
negative effects caused by this practices on soil physical
properties, crop yields, environmental and annual work
cycles changing the relationship between employers and
2. Objective
The objective of this paper was to carry out a study that
would provide information on the effects had on the
various parties in the agricultural sector and the envi-
ronment as a result of adopting the technological prac-
tices (farming technique, machinery, agrochemicals and
seeds) associated with the DS of soybean crops in Ar-
3. Study Hypothesis
a) The mass adoption of technological practices by farm-
ers of different social classes has intensified the inequal-
ity that already existed among them.
b) The transformations caused by new technologies are
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. AJPS
A Research of the Environmental and Social Effects of the Adoption of Biotechnological
Practices for Soybean Cultivation in Argentina
detrimental to urban and rural environments as they have
negative consequences that do not coincide with the sus-
tainable rural development model that this technology
intends to defend.
4. Methodology and Design
Research was divided into three main parts:
a) Research of the background surrounding the topic
of technology adoption in the Argentine farming world,
especially in relation to DS and its impact on the labour
market as well as on the environment in the core region
of soybean farming.
b) Discussion of the nature of the theoretical and op-
erational limitations identified and the development of
complementary conceptual constructions.
c) Conducting interviews with producers, agrarian
science professionals in contact with this topic, technical
advisors, input suppliers, researchers studying the topic
of rural labour, official agricultural engineers who con-
duct activities directly related to the technology herein
studied and that work in the core soybean farming region
in Argentina. It is hoped that this information provides an
inter-subjective view of the problems, which in turn of-
fers an interdisciplinary view of the topic as well as sig-
nificant qualitative conclusions.
d) Field experiments in the core region of soybean
farming studied soil compaction produced by DS ma-
chines traffic (tractors and planters). The region of soy-
bean farming utilizing DS in Argentina is understood to
be that region located between 24˚45' to 37˚55' south
latitude and 64˚01' to 58˚31' west longitudes (Figure 1).
Statistical analyses were performed utilizing the Statgraf
program 7.1. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) was
carried out on the data and Duncan’s multiple range test
was used to analyze the means.
5. Results and Discussion
The following paragraphs will discuss the nature of the
theoretical and operational limitations that arise when
adopting the complete technological practice: DS, appli-
cation of Glyphosate and the utilization of genetics
modified organisms (GMOs) varieties.
5.1. Impact of adoption: Environmental and
In Argentina although the practice for DS is defended by
its promoters as an example of sustainability and devel-
opment superior to the traditional model of agricultural
development presented by the Green Revolution. Never-
theless, problems begin to be identified associated with
the utilization of glyphosate and transgenic seeds only
several years after its adoption, in addition to the effects
Figure 1. Core region of soybean farming under DS system.
on producers and rural communities cited in the follow-
ing paragraph.
There is proven evidence of the risks that permanent
and systematic application of Glyphosate can have to hu-
man health and the environment. Glyphosate is a broad-
spectrum herbicide used to kill crop weeds. It is used on
a wide variety of annual, biennial and perennial grasses,
broad-leafed weeds and woody shrubs. Unintentional
chemical drift of this product can affect trees and bushes
located near crops. Most products that contain glyphosate
are made or combined with a surfactant (known as POEA)
which helps the glyphosate to penetrate plant tissues.
This gives the commercial formula toxicological charac-
teristics dissimilar from those of glyphosate alone. It has
been determined that the surfactant in Roundup is the
main cause of the formula’s toxicity. POEA, whose acute
toxicity is three times greater than that of glyphosate,
causes gastrointestinal pain, damage to the central nerv-
ous system, respiratory problems and the destruction of
red blood cells in humans. In addition, it is contaminated
with 1,4-dioxin, which has caused cancer in animals and
liver and kidney damage in humans [14].
One incident that affected a large number of small pro-
ducers involved sprayings with Roundup glyphosate. The
sprayings, conducted by agricultural company in Formosa
state, destroyed 23 plantations (yams, bananas, beans,
cassava, pumpkins, corn, citrus, cotton, etc.) owned by
families of small landowners and small farmers that form-
ed the “Civil Association of Pirané”. In this particular case,
following frequent use of agro-toxins, “the deaths of a
large number of farm poultry and other domestic animals
were documented, along with some equine that inhabitants
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. AJPS
A Research of the Environmental and Social Effects of the Adoption of Biotechnological 363
Practices for Soybean Cultivation in Argentina
utilize to perform farm labour”. At the same time, several
media sources reported a great loss of life among fish and
poultry in the neighboring towns of El Colorado and Gen-
eral Belgano [15].
The events unfolded as follows: in early 2003 the
small producers in Colonia Sené (Formosa state) reported
that the herbicides large companies utilized in DS were
killing their crops and poisoning their children. Colonia
Sené is a town of small agricultural producers, owners of
plots no larger than ten hectares. On their land their grow
corn, yams, pumpkins, melons and beans for family
consumption and they sell the surplus at an open market
organized every Saturday in the main square of the
nearby town of Pirané. They also plant cotton, albeit on a
smaller scale, as it is a crop that previously demonstrated
positive results. On February 2nd, on the farms of Colonia
Loma Sené, a small town of Formosa state, all the crops
were found scorched. A company had been spraying the
day before on the adjoining fields of soybean crops. The
wind blew northward, which scattered the spraying liquid
in a mist over several nearby hectares. Two inhabitants,
Eugenia Giménez and Cándida Fernández, remember the
vapors in the air immediately irritated their eyes. “Af-
terwards some of us had nosebleeds, others suffered from
respiratory tract problems and hives”. The crops dried up,
“the leaves on the red peppers shriveled up and shrank
like curly hairs. The looked like plastic. The cassavas
were lost, and the melons looked like someone had
poured hot water on them. The smallest farm animals,
like the hens, died.
The producers denounced that these effects were the
result of an herbicide mixture utilized in DS of transgenic
soybean. They now demand responsibility for the dam-
ages caused and for environmental studies to be con-
ducted considering they do not know what consequences
they may suffer from the contamination. Subsequently,
they obtained the ruling of El Colorado civil court judge,
Silvia Amanda Sevilla, who ordered an immediate halt to
sprayings with glyphosate in Colonia Loma Senés, 20 km.
from Ciudad de Pirané. In the same colony there are
some very large farms covering thirty hectares on aver-
age that in recent years have been leased to outside com-
panies dedicated to soybean farming with the DS method.
This fact, along with the mere proximity of these fields to
the small farms, which in many cases are only separated
by roads or wire fencing, and the utilization of herbicides
by outside companies generate serious damages on the
plantations of the local inhabitants”.
As regards the utilization of transgenic seeds of soy-
bean varieties, Argentina experienced an incredibly fast
adoption of transgenic soybean. This process began in
1996/1997, with 0.6% of land area sown with soybean
compared to 2000/2001 when the percentage was 90%.
The ideal rotation for the core region in terms of fertility
should be one year soybean, one year corn. At present, in
general, producers practise three years soybean, one year
corn. Due to the settling of nitrogen produced by the
soybean, the corn that follows it in rotation has greater
yield. However, it is not farmed for strictly economic
reasons as it is not as profitable a crop as soybean. Pro-
ducers attempted to farm butterfly corn as it has a higher
market value. In any case, there was quite a lot of doubt
surrounding GMOs. [16] Cite that many scientists ex-
plain that the ingestion genetically engineered foods is
not harmful. However, recent tests demonstrate that po-
tential risks exist from eating such foods. This is because
the new proteins produced by these foods can: act as
toxins and alter the metabolism of the plant that produces
the food, which induces the latter to produce new aller-
gens or reduce its quality. This fact was verified with
herbicide resistant soybean seeds. The seeds contain less
isoflavones, an important phytoestrogen that protects
women from a high number of cancers.
Up until not recently agrarian diversity had always
been increasing. However, in industrialized countries,
plant and animal genetic engineers, trading houses and
governments themselves combined forces to supply new
varieties and uniform breeds that would replace the tre-
mendous heterogeneity already existing.
This process of combining forces began at the end of
the eighteenth century. At the beginning of the twentieth
century the richest farming areas (i.e., best soils, favour-
able orography, water supply) of Europe and the USA
were sown with varieties that had been obtained or se-
lected by professional plant breeders. The reduction of
genetic variety, however, has led to numerous disasters
in the world (Table 1).
Table 1. Reduction of genetic variety: effects on farming ar-
Between years 1840-1850 more than two
million Irishmen died from hunger
Smut attack in
In USA in 1970 there were big losses of
corn (in some states > 50%). Fungi Diseases
In Cuba in 1980 there were big losses of
sugar cane (more than a million Tons). Rust attack
In 1943 in Bengala there was a great famine
when getting lost good part of the rice.
Diseases “it stains
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. AJPS
A Research of the Environmental and Social Effects of the Adoption of Biotechnological
Practices for Soybean Cultivation in Argentina
There is currently talked of a new revolution, the so-
called biotechnology. This consists of genetic manipula-
tion at a molecular level in order to obtain products (i.e.,
seeds, plants, embryos) that, apart from their secondary
characteristics, produce substantial profits for trading
houses. However, there are also numerous results that
can be considered disadvantages, such as higher crop
yields, substitution of natural raw materials (i.e., cocoa,
sugar, vanilla) for cheaper ones, and greater resistance in
conservation. These changes, achieved through the im-
plantation of genetic material in a living organism that
bypasses evolutionary barriers, which species took thou-
sands of years to create, may result in serious and uni-
maginable consequences for public health, the environ-
ment, and the overall agricultural system (Table 2).
It is worth adding that the degree of genetic uniformity
present in the agricultural sector is tremendous. For ex-
ample, there are six corn hybrids alone that account for
70% of this crop’s production worldwide [17]. This also
occurs in the world of stockbreeding, where just one
breed, Friesian, currently constitutes 60% of dairy cattle
in the European Union [18].
5.1.1. Impact on A gricul tural Soil
In North America during the 1980s, the standard tractor
sold increased from 200 kW to 300 kW and the largest
tractors available increased from 300 to 500 kW. The
Argentine market followed a similar trend where stan-
dard cereal farming tractors offered 90 kW and an avail-
able range of greater power reaching 260 kW [10].
These trends have indeed led to development. For
example, where industrial grain combines before had
boasted more than a 16 Mg load on the front axle, newer
ones, weighing in the area of 20 Mg, coupled with a sin-
gle-axle header trailer were capable of transporting 35.3
Table 2. Biotechnology: potentials impact.
The DNA can escape towards wild related plants, creating
plants of difficult control (major competitiveness on having
had resistance to herbicides, tolerance to the water stress ...)
The local varieties would be replaced by more uniform
varieties. This produces a change from the liberation of
varieties genetically modified varieties.
The genetically modified plants present the potential danger
of producing toxic secondary proteins.
The genetic modification can concern the host organism in
his aptitude to use substrates as the nitrogen or the lignin,
turning it in pathogenic and to alter the balance between the
same one and the ecologically related populations.
Mg of grain. The consequence of operating at these axle
weight-load levels is that producers run the risk of exces-
sive compaction of farming soil; this affects root growth,
crop yield, and the quality of the agro-ecosystem. Com-
paction is not only superficial, but can also be under de
surface, being sub-superficial, which is more expensive
to solve.
This occurs regardless of whether a machine possesses
sufficient vehicle size or is equipped with any other high-
flotation mechanism allowing it to operate with low sur-
face pressure in the area of tire/soil contact [10,11,19-21].
Soil is compacted when the proportion of total volume of
pores occupied by air in relation to soil does not permit
maximum crop growth. [1] Demonstrated that with the
farming methods in the Las Pampas region, due to the
traffic of machinery during harvesting, a loss to the pro-
ducer occurs that ranges between 9% and 38% of the
total yield per hectare of soybean crop (Table 3).
As previously stated, these extreme weights cause soil
compaction problems. Once soil is compacted, the solution
of deep tillage is then employed. This process, which is
also very expensive, provided questionable results [12,22].
Deep soil tillage below normal plowing depth is prob-
lematic. The solution to this problem, or at least the
method of combating it, is always extremely expensive.
In general, the process is complicated in technical terms
due to strong demands for more powerful, and less
common, farming equipment. It is sometimes impossible
to solve this problem in economically viable terms [20].
The bulk density and penetration resistance of soil are the
most commonly used indicators for determining soil
compaction. Both are sensitive to the effect of vehicles
with heavy axle weight-loads, similar, for example, to
what DS machinery weigh. Table 3 displays the changes
that occurred in soil bulk density depending on the vehi-
cles utilized. This soil parameter in the control area, with
no vehicle transit, registered high values in all profile
categories. On the superficial level, it surpassed the value
of 1.2 Mg·m3, indicated by [23] as the value necessary to
Table 3. Bulk density values (Mg/m3) and soybean yiel ds for
three traffic intensities (Pergamino county Argentina).
Traffic intensities
(passes) 6 8 10 Control plot
Soybean yields
(Mg/hectare) 2.8a 2.4b 1.9c 3.1a
Depth range (mm)Bulk density values (Mg/m3 )
0 - 150 1.38a 1.40a 1.51b 1.33a
150 - 300 1.60a 1.65a 1.60b 1.59a
300 - 450 1.88a 1.90a 1.97b 1.87a
Values with different letters (vertically) show significant differences among
treatments (P < 0.01 Duncan’s Multiple range test).
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. AJPS
A Research of the Environmental and Social Effects of the Adoption of Biotechnological 365
Practices for Soybean Cultivation in Argentina
achieve more rapid and complete emergence of wheat
crops. Below the surface, values were also found that
surpassed the critical levels of 1.46 Mg·m–3, cited by [24]
for root gramineae development, and 1.6 Mg·m3, which
is established as the radical growth threshold according
to [25]. In general, all the other treatments increased the
soil bulk density, in all soil profiles, with respect to the
control area, but only the area passed over 10 times ob-
tained statistically significant differences. When the trac-
tor passes 10 times, the soil bulk density increased 6.9%
and 5.4% in the strata of 150 to 300 mm and 300 to 600
mm, respectively. In relation to this parameter, unlike the
conclusions of [26], 10 passes was found to be the criti-
cal number at which a low axle weight-load can replace
the weight factor in terms of responsibility for subsoil
According to what has been stated it can be inferred
that the DS system reveals a high degree of consolidation
and/or compaction, natural or induced, which compro-
mises the introduction and development of crops. Crop
yield was also affected by repetitive transit. In the same
tire track, yield was different depending on the degree of
intensity applied. Also, Table 3 reveals that as traffic
intensity increased, soybean crop yield decreased.
5.1.2. Social Impact In General
As the previous paragraph states, there are several social
and economic consequences of the “biotechnology revo-
lution.” Some of these are the loss of buying power
among farmers who depend on external inputs that are
increasingly more expensive (while the price of produce
rose to a lesser degree and even fell), the deterioration of
diet among the inhabitants of nearby countries (with the
consequential rise in illnesses and death), and the loss of
homes among poor rural families (as many mortgaged
their property amidst highly dependent and unstable
production) [27]. This all combines to paint a very dark
picture: according to the Food and Agriculture Organisa-
tion there are close to a billion malnourished people in
the world [28].
The adoption of this technological practice not only
modified the production relationships of individual farm-
ing units, but it also affected the economic and social
spheres of rural communities. Also, it did not take long
to drastically transform the landscape, consequently in-
stalling a system of farming without farmers.
The extensive network of machinery contractors and
farming equipment parts salespeople, as well as local
input distributors and all of the cultural and social life
that accompanied small agro-industry disappeared leav-
ing immense vacant territories. The effects of this pro-
gressive loss of culture and deep-rooted community life
consequently have a direct impact on political and social
life in the rest of Argentina. There are currently 500
towns registered as abandoned or en route to disappear-
ing. This could possibly equate to the highest proportion
in the world experiencing the phenomenon of emigration
to poor urban areas. According to [29], there are cur-
rently an approximate 300 thousand registered evicted
producers and more than 13 million hectares that have
been seized due to unpayable mortgage debts. This crisis
has been so serious that recent statistical data reveal that
in the last decade the deterioration of family farming,
marked by the disappearance of a high percentage of
farms, has been even higher than in the grain growing
regions of more advanced capitalist countries such as the
United States [30]. In the town of Marcos Juárez, for
example, considered the cradle of DS, the National Ag-
ricultural Technology Institute concludes that the dete-
rioration of family income from farms (retail buying
power) reached 41% per hectare comparing the average
values of the 1990s to the 1980s. Farms smaller than 190
hectares, therefore, ceased to be “competitive”. As for
the town of Pergamino, one that can be used as an indi-
cator of the massive adoption of DS, there was a 24.2%
reduction in the number of farms. This occurred at the
expense of small and medium-scale farmers and is asso-
ciated with the consolidation of land into farming units of
more than 500 hectares (Table 4).
Table 4. Quantity and surface of the farms, according to
scale of extension, and variations 1988-1999.
Extension scale
1999 Variation Surface
Up to 5 50 31 –38.0 –44.0
5.1 - 10 59 33 –44.1 –45.4
10.1 - 25 150 89 –40.7 –42.7
25.1 - 50 277 195 –29.6 –28.9
50.1 - 100 343 242 –29.4 –29.1
100.1 - 200 330 250 –24.2 –23.6
200.1 - 500 289 245 –15.2 –11.8
500.1 - 1000 71 84 18.3 19.1
1000.1 - 2500 31 43 38.7 42.4
Más de 2500 5 5 0 3.8
Total 1605 1217 –24.2 –1.9
Source: Martinez Dougnac, 2001, Agricultural Experimental Census 1988
and 1999.
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A Research of the Environmental and Social Effects of the Adoption of Biotechnological
Practices for Soybean Cultivation in Argentina
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. AJPS
This analysis coinciding with [31] proceeds to reveal
that DS of soybean during the 1990s experienced sus-
tainable growth. However, the emergence of transgenic
seeds resistant to glyphosate proved to be a turning point
after which the adoption of this technique became more
widespread among producers. This can be seen in Table 5.
Finally in this point: the combination of DS and trans-
genic seeds represents a qualitative change in terms of
the technological model because of its impact on the kind
of fixed capital and labour organization necessary for
continuing with the production process. Obviously, this
concentration process cannot be attributed solely to DS.
It is also associated with the phenomena of falling prof-
itability, lack of financing, the burden of financial debt
accumulated over years, slow undercapitalization, price
instability, etc. However, the aforementioned change to
the implementation system and the direction of crops
which emerges with the generalization of DS directly
affects labour organization on farms and indirectly af-
fects demand for manual labour in communities. On Small Producers and Rural Workers
In order to address small producers this study utilizes the
concept created by [32]. They define rural people or
small producers as those socioeconomic agents whose
agricultural production unitsdomestic under any hold-
ing statusproduce for sale at market in conditions of
scarce natural resources (land and/or water, in quantity or
quality) and/or capital, and where labour is primarily
familiar. The result of the combination of these factors is
the absence of long-term economic profits, which pre-
vents capitalization of the production unit as well as ac-
cess to optimum living conditions for the family unit that
depends on it.
According to the last agrarian census, between 1991
and 2001, around 150,000 small producers disappeared.
This change led to the most immense concentration of
large estate owners in the history of Argentina: 6200
owners held 49.6% of all farm land in the nation, and
accompanying this process of concentration and produc-
tion manipulation by multinational companies, 160,000,000
hectares belong to foreign owners. On top of this it is
necessary to add the utilization of a large technological
practicemachinery, seeds, and chemical products all of
which is unattainable for the majority of small producers.
During the period of modernization, technological
change meant a reduction in manual labour among fami-
lies. The members of these families found work in other
sectors of the economy. This situation changed in the
second half of the 1990s when there was no longer a
thriving labour market. As a result, many people who had
emigrated from the agricultural sector did not have jobs
anymore. For example, if we consider that a DS planter
has a useful life of 12,000 hours or 15 years, this ma-
chine should be use for at least 800 hours per year. Also
considering that for conventional tillage works four em-
ployees are needed (tractor driver, mechanic and two
farm workers) and for seeding with the DS system you
only need two: tractor driver and mechanic.
According to [33] the difference between wages from
both systems is of 7410 $/year (1852 US$/year). Taking
in account the planter equalization point (800 hours/year)
DS equipment should be used over this point, and also
considering a mean work rate of 5 hectares/hour this
equipment works over 4000 hectares/year. With approxi-
mately 9,200,000 hectares worked under DS system,
annual losses rise, in the rural sector, 17,043,000 $/year
(4,260,750 US$/year). This means, according to [10],
4128 tractor drivers, 3926 mechanics and 4600 farm
workers, with an overall 12,000 rural workers.
Table 5. Historical sequence: land use and technological practice in the region under study.
Years Between
From 1990
up to today
Crop rotation Wheat Soybean Wheat Soybean Wheat, Soybean and Corn
Tillage systems Conventional tillage system
with moldboard plough
Chisel plough and minimum
tillage with light disk harrow Direct sowing
Direct sowing It is not realized Only soybean Partially in soybean, wheat and maize
Rotation agriculture and ranching Only in some establishmentsAlmost disappearance of the cattle
Location of the ranching in marginal
Types of herbicide Generic of low spectrum Specific, varied Glyphosate
Fertilizers Nitrogenous Maize. Nitrogenous Nitrogenous Phosphorus
Seeds Hybrids and varieties Hybrids and varieties GMOs
Source: Cloquell et al., 2000, South of Santa Fe state.
A Research of the Environmental and Social Effects of the Adoption of Biotechnological 367
Practices for Soybean Cultivation in Argentina
In this hand, [33] consider that the $17,043,000
(4,260,750 US$/year) is lost from the system as they are
not reinvested in the system itself. Also, tractor operators,
mechanics and labourers are not hired by machinery or
agrochemical factories.
The relocation of the rural worker to the urban centre
is a contradictory reality that emerges from increasing
rural depopulation and the growing need for a seasonal
work force in rural areas.
In the past it was common to see and talk about “ille-
gal settlements” in big cities. Today, however, it is com-
mon to observe this in small towns and villages, where
access to basic services and infrastructure is scarce due to
the extreme poverty predominant in these areas. It is seen
that the magnitude of these transformations not only con-
cerns rural areas but has markedly begun to shape a new
urban reality as well, at least for most countries. For this
reason, carrying out a strict division between urban and
rural problems weakens the analysis of these types of
The effect that recent transformations in the farming
world have had on the “world of rural labour” will now
be directly observed. These changes that have been
brought on by modernization of production processes,
expansion of agro-industrial complexes and the contin-
ued growth of the urban work force have all merged and
modified the characteristics of rural employment. The
job market, traditionally the setting for interaction be-
tween labour supply and demand, has been altered by
these transformations.
The overall complexity of the widely-used techno-
logical practice that this paper deals with is explained by
the continuous outsourcing of needs not met on the pro-
duction unit itself, generating a more pronounced divi-
sion of labour. Greater dependence on external inputs
drives producers to require technical advising in order
that the system may function correctly. Moreover, re-
garding manual labour requirements, it is important to
note the decreased demand for machine operators (with-
out a decrease in labour intensity) and the increased de-
mand for higher qualified personnel.
This study considers that the technological spreading
of DS as a successful example of a supposed new para-
digm of sustainable development is nothing more than a
corrected version of the modernization theory based on
agrarian capitalism with an industrial background, within
the framework of the environmental paradigm. For rea-
sons like these, sustainable development has become the
centre of attention in response to pressure from ecologi-
cal movements and strong social awareness of the bio-
sphere’s deterioration.
Having finished this discussion, it is worthwhile to re-
iterate the ideas of [13] who state that “a new paradigm
of sustainability is required. It must be ecologically friend-
ly, economically viable, socially fair, culturally flexible
as well as socio-culturally humanized.” As has been de-
monstrated up until this point, it is clear that the princi-
ples of sustainability discourse do not stand firm in prac-
tice. It can therefore be inferred from the bibliography
compiled as well as this study that there is sufficient evi-
dence to validate hypotheses 1 and 2.
6. Conclusions
Crops that are resistant to herbicides intensify and in-
crease dependence on the use of these same crops in
farming, which causes an increase in adverse environ-
mental effects on soils and waters and repercussions on
human health. At the same time, high axle load on ma-
chinery, which is utilized in the DS technological prac-
tice in order to increase the work capacity of equipment,
is causing severe soil compaction which is leading to a
situation that, due to costs, will be difficult to solve.
By means of development of technologies and the in-
crease in capital dedicated to agricultural production,
work productivity has been increased. Annual work cy-
cles have been altered causing a rise in temporary job
positions and a reduction in permanent job positions.
This in turn modifies relationships between those offer-
ing jobs and those looking for jobs.
However, all of these changes which have affected ru-
ral families and the environment have not appeared to
have achieved improvements in the standard of living of
wage earners and their families. On the contrary, they
appear to have allowed poverty to accompany moderni-
zation. In more direct terms, the productive readjustment
caused by modernization and industrialization has not
resolved the old problems linked to agriculture: poverty
has not diminished and land has come into the hands of a
small number of owners, which has brought about the
eviction of farming families and made wage earners the
largest and poorest group in the farming world.
The State should implement strategies that focus on
the most vulnerable sectoragriculturewhich affects
so many people. The objective of these strategies should
be that of breaking continued poverty, making a sector
that is competitive internationally just as successful in-
ternally. On one hand, a sector exists that provides high
dividends to national and international companies that
operate in the area. However, on the other hand, a great
number of people suffer chronic poverty than surpasses
the national average. It is a paradox that could be avoided
through social policies, reserved for this group of rural
workers, seeking to reduce the high rate of poverty and
the number of unfulfilled basic needs.
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A Research of the Environmental and Social Effects of the Adoption of Biotechnological
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