Saturday, October 20, 2007

Another frontier in Wars on Terror and Drugs

The US is currently pressuring a reluctant Afghan government for permission to do aerial spraying of poppy fields.

As heroin exports rise and battlefield successes become rarer, the US intends to start doing what they have been doing in Colombia for years: Carpet bombing the drug crop fields with Monsanto-made glyphosate, Roundup Ultra. What could seem like a win-win strategy has many darker sides to it though.

"Aerial spraying is a bad idea, first because the Afghans have to do the eradication if it is to avoid a backlash from farmers and play into the hands of Taliban propaganda. Western aircraft spraying Afghan fields doesn't look like the government is responsible. There are also bound to be charges that people's health or animals have been affected and there is sure to be collateral damage to legal crops." - European counter-narcotics official in the Telegraph article

Read Telegraph / US officials push to spray Afghan drug crops, United States to begin Chemical Warfare operations in Afghanistan.

So, how has the Chemical War on Drugs fared in Colombia? Well, most biologically interesting is the appearance of a glyphosate resistant - "Roundup Ready" - variety of the coca bush (source: Wired, Wikipedia)! And yes, there has been reports of health problems in farmer populations and damage to legal crops. One lengthy, thorough and critical look at Plan Colombia is's Toxic Drift: Monsanto and the Drug War in Colombia (2001). From that article:

"The twelve indigenous peoples have been suffering under this plague as if it were a government decree to exterminate our culture and our very survival. Our legal crops -- our only sustenance -- manioc, banana, palms, sugar cane, and corn have been fumigated. Our sources of water, creeks, rivers, lakes, have been poisoned, killing our fish and other living things. Today, hunger is our daily bread. In the name of the Amazonian Indigenous people I ask that the fumigations be immediately suspended." - José Francisco Tenorio.

Of course, there is also a lot of information on Wikipedia: see entries Plan Colombia and Coca eradication.

A short, short summary is billions of tax payer's money have been spent, wide stretches of Colombian biosphere scorched, coca production is up, cocaine prices are down and abuse on the rise, the civil war is still raging and the Monsanto stock price is up and climbing. Of course, each of these results have been influenced by numerous factors, not just Roundup. But personally I fail to see the big success worth copying.


  1. Another blogger posting (updates) on this subject: US Herbicides Exact High Toll on Indigenous Populations By Thomas D. Williams / Dandelion Salad:
    "Despite years of ongoing, critical public health controversies in Colombia and Ecuador over the US-assisted aerial herbicide spraying of coca and poppy crops while trying to reduce illegal cocaine and heroin production, US State Department officials are pursuing that very same spraying strategy today."

  2. A quite well informed and updated comment on Colombia: Plan Colombia: Mixing Monsanto’s Roundup With Bush’s Sulfur

    "I went to Colombia, a few years back, as a member of a human rights delegation sponsored by the Colombia Support Network of Madison, Wisconsin, to investigate the effect of fumigation on the farmers or campesinos where the spraying was taking place.

    In the southern province of Putumayo, where the heaviest concentration of coca is grown and where the FARC is strong, we interviewed dozens of campesinos and compesino leaders. We saw the devastation of the countryside caused by the fumigation and saw the effects of the spray on children and adults in the region."


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