Argentina convicts two over illegal agrochemicals use

File photo of field of transgenic soy in Argentina Agriculture has been key to Argentina's economic growth over the past decade

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An Argentine court has found two people guilty of illegally spraying chemicals on land near residential areas, in the first case of its kind in the country.

They were given conditional sentences of three years.

The case was closely followed in Argentina, where the economy is heavily dependent on agricultural commodities and herbicide use is widespread.

The trial came about after years of campaigning by local residents who say agrochemicals have harmed their health.

The court in Cordoba found farmer Francisco Rafael Parra and pilot Edgardo Jorge Pancello guilty of violating regulations that banned the use of farm chemicals near homes.

They were convicted of polluting the neighbourhood of Ituzaingo Anexo, on the outskirts of Cordoba in Argentina's central farming belt.

A third farmer, Jorge Gabrielli, was cleared of the charges.

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Campaigners welcomed the guilty verdict, which they said upheld the law that fumigating near residential areas was illegal.

One of the complainants' lawyers said more cases would now be brought using the Cordoba ruling as a precedent.

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But other activists, some of whom had camped outside the courthouse to await the verdict, reacted angrily to what they saw as light sentences.

A community organisation called the Mothers of Ituzaingo Anexo said their work to seek justice would continue.

The group was set up in 2001 when a local woman, Sofia Gatica, began investigations into local birth defects and infant deaths after her newly born daughter died from a rare disease.

A separate judicial inquiry in Argentina is considering the wider question of the effects of agrochemicals on health.

Casafe, a group representing companies that sell farm chemicals in Argentina, says herbicides and pesticides used in the country meet international safety standards as long as they are used properly.

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