U.S. To Study Spraying Risks in Colombia

U.S. To Study Spraying Risks in Colombia
Posted by FoM on August 12, 2001 at 11:17:14 PT
By Paul de la Garza and David Adams
Source: St. Petersburg Times
To silence critics of U.S.-sponsored aerial spraying in Colombia, the Bush administration is launching a study intended to bolster its claims that herbicides used in the program are safe. However, if the plant killers are shown to be harmful to people, the study could backfire, putting the drug war and billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Bogota in jeopardy. With help from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the U.S. Embassy in Bogota is working with Colombia to set up a plan to evaluate the safety of the spraying program. The two federal agencies helped establish methodology for the study and will help oversee it once it gets under way. 
To underscore the sensitive nature of the task, there already is friction between the EPA and the State Department, which administers the $115-million spraying program. The EPA does not want the State Department using the agency for political cover. Results of the study, which is expected to take six months, could prove crucial in determining the fate of the drug war in Colombia. If it concludes that the chemicals used in spraying operations are not safe, the $1.3-billion U.S. aid package to Bogota known as Plan Colombia, along with future funding, could be derailed. "Any finding that any of these chemicals pose serious risks to human health would put the aerial fumigation program in jeopardy," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who requested the study. The Bush administration says aerial spraying is key to its anti-drug strategy in Colombia. Without it, future U.S. aid hangs in the balance, according to Anne Patterson, the American ambassador in Bogota. U.S. support for Colombia, she said, is part of a multiprong strategy that relies on alternative crop development, counter-narcotics training and aerial spraying, and military equipment for Colombia's armed forces. "The U.S. Congress approved funding to support Plan Colombia on those terms," Patterson said in a recent newspaper interview in Colombia. "If those terms were to change, I have no doubt that many voices in the U.S. Congress would call for an end to U.S. assistance to Colombia." Colombia is mired in a decades-old civil war, with Marxist rebels and right-wing paramilitary groups often aligned with government troops fighting it out. U.S. officials say the drug trade helps finance the rebels and the paramilitaries, with both sides raking in hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Part of the strategy under Plan Colombia is to wipe out the coca and poppy crop, used to make cocaine and heroin, to cut funding to the armed groups and force them to the negotiating table. In this climate, the truth often gets mangled. Aides say that's why Leahy pushed for the health study. As chairman of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he found it nearly impossible to get reliable information on the spray program. Leahy asked that the CDC be brought in. The State Department also turned to the EPA. The EPA agreed but stressed it was not comfortable with being drawn into a controversial review outside its jurisdiction. The agency questioned the wisdom of applying U.S. test standards to chemicals in Colombia used under vastly different conditions than in the United States. While glyphosate, a herbicide used in the spraying program has been tested in the United States and pronounced safe, Leahy said he has doubts about its use in Colombia. He and others are particularly concerned about the combination of glyphosate and the additive Cosmo-flux, which the State Department insists is safe. According to the State Department, glyphosate is "less toxic than common salt, aspirin, caffeine, nicotine and even Vitamin A." As a result, it routinely questions claims that aerial spraying in Colombia, including in the southern region of Putumayo where the bulk of the spraying is occurring, is making people sick. In congressional testimony last month, Rand Beers, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, cited a recent review by Colombia's leading toxicologist. "His report is not complete, since the evaluations were so recently done," Beers said. "However, the same physician completed a similar study in Narino (state) in May, concerning the same types of health problems as alleged in Putumayo, and found the several cases that he reviewed to be inconsistent with glyphosate exposure." In a letter dated April 17, however, Ambassador Patterson told Leahy that the type of review Beers would cite in his testimony was not "scientifically feasible." In her letter, Patterson pointed out that both the CDC and EPA had told her office it was impossible to determine if aerial spraying was making people sick without testing subjects before and immediately after the spraying "because there are no reliable biomarkers of glyphosate exposure." "That is," the ambassador wrote, "it is not found in blood, urine, or bodily tissue after about 7-10 days." The new study will test people before and immediately after spraying. Some people claim that aerial spraying causes skin rashes, diarrhea, and in extreme cases, deformities in children. Leahy said he asked for the study because he was concerned "about reports that the large-scale aerial spraying of glyphosate and other chemicals in Colombia may have caused health problems, particularly among children." "I do not know if these reports are true, but the CDC is the most reputable public health agency in the world, and I am confident that they will do a credible study." Last month, the British chemical giant Imperial Chemical Industries joined the debate over the safety of the spray solution. ICI, which manufactures one of the ingredients of Cosmo-flux, requested that the authorities in Colombia stop using the additive, saying it had not been properly tested for use in the aerial eradication of crops. While critics welcomed word of the U.S. study, they called for an immediate halt to aerial spraying in Colombia until the test results are in. Since December, when aerial spraying intensified, 123,500 acres of illicit crops have been destroyed. "The bottom line," said Kimberly Stanton of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Memorial Center for Human Rights in Washington, "is there's no place in the U.S. where a community would allow this kind of fumigation to happen to them." Military Captures 11 Rebels After Peace Talks Break Off Bogota, Colombia -- Colombia's military said it captured 11 rebels from the nation's smaller guerrilla army on Saturday during a nationwide operation against the group following a rupture in peace talks. The 11 fighters from the National Liberation Army, or ELN, were seized in the coastal city of Cartagena, navy Vice Adm. Fernando Roman told Radionet radio station. Roman said the combatants, among them a commander, were responsible for extortion, bombings and kidnappings in the northern region. At least 2,000 soldiers were also searching for rebels throughout the ELN's stronghold in Bolivar state, army Capt. Jorge Florez said. Troops were mounting smaller operations in eastern Arauca province. "There are orders for operations throughout the whole country," Florez said. President Andres Pastrana broke government contacts with the 6,000-strong group, the nation's second largest, on Tuesday. He accused its leaders of refusing to budge during talks aimed at opening formal peace negotiations. The ELN's leadership blamed the breakup of the peace talks on the government, saying it lacked the political will to pursue peace. Talks with the nation's largest rebel army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, have yielded few results. Two days after talks broke, presumed ELN fighters bombed northern San Francisco town, killing three children and injuring at least 35 people. Six ELN combatants died in clashes Friday with troops in northern La Bodega. Note: The EPA and Centers for Disease Control will examine the effect of herbicides on the peasant population.Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)Author: Paul de la Garza and David AdamsPublished August 12, 2001 Copyright: 2001 St. Petersburg TimesContact: letters sptimes.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Colombia Drug War News Works -- But Too Well? Sharpens on U.S.- Backed Drug Sprayings Orange, All Over Again
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #6 posted by kaptinemo on August 13, 2001 at 08:55:49 PT:
I'm afraid 4D may be right.
If you go to the this link read this over again:"Sources within the agency doubt that Whitman will support the proposal to study the effects of Roundup on civilians and the environment. An EPA spokesman acknowledged that Whitman's deputy administrator, Linda Fisher, is a former Monsanto vice president, but said the EPA has no role in the spraying."You have to wonder just how much Bush Cabinet members have invested in Monsanto (in "blind trust", of course... to prevent any possible 'conflict of interest'. Yeah, right!) for the putative Number Two at EPA (such a strategically placed position, don't you think? A fox couldn't do any better than this door to the proverbial henhouse.) They must be laughing their *sses off at Monsanto Corporate HQ; one of their own is riding herd on the only regulatory agency that could do them serious damage. Check and mate in one move. Pretty slick move, eh?I said it before in a previous comment: if anyone had any doubts as to the extent to which corporations are calling the shots in the Bush Too Administration, this should have cleared them up. Entertain any further doubts, and you are either a paid mouthpiece for them...or just plain stupid. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by Patrick on August 12, 2001 at 14:11:17 PT
Can you say hypocrisy?
No credible study shows MJ use is harmful. Government position. Ban it.No "credible" study shows spraying Herbicide on people is harmful. Government position. Go ahead and use it.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by dddd on August 12, 2001 at 13:27:40 PT
I Know What you Mean Mayan
......GREAT SCOTTT!!!!...GOOD LORD!!!!....After several years of varnishing Colombiawith an obviously deadly Monsanto cocktail,,the formula forwhich is probably in some vault with the recipes for Coca-cola,Silly putty,,Kentucky fried chicken,,Ritalin,,,Geritol,and Gatorade,,,(andthis vault is gaurded 24/7,by an elite battalion of attorneys),,,,,,,,,,,,,,now they are going to seriously look into it!!!!.....??ASTONISHING!!!,,,,,,Here's my typical,expected,prediction,,,,,,The study will be carriedout eventually,,but it wont even start for at least six months or so,,,andthen,,it will surely be carried out,and overseen by some subsidiaryof Monsantos',,,,,,,Then,,reports will come in.,that the study will take two,pr probably three years,,because how else will they be able to verifyany long term effects,,,meanwhile,,,supertankers full of glyphosate willcontinue to arrive,,,nice fresh batches of this harmless Monsanto productwill continue to be carelessly dispersed on the Colombian jungles,,much ofwhich supplies the water to the mighty Amazon,and its' tributaries.......eventually,,the proud announcement will be trumpeted throughout themedia....Yes,,it turns out that it really was safe!....According to the resultsfrom the samples that Monsanto supplied the research commitee,,the stuffis no more toxic than vinegar,,,and then,,in fine print at the end of the report,will be the same style disclaimer that we see on TV drug ads;.."Roundup is not for everyone.Do not use Roundup if you have a history ofbeing unhealthy.I some cases Roundup may have side effects.A small numberof people who use Roundup experience headaches,bloody stools,deformedbabies,and problems living.,,,almost the same as sugar pills."If they actually do a real,,actual,,unskewed study,,,they are BUSTED!!,,and if that happens,,then it will be blamed on the Clinton administration somehow.dddd 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by mayan on August 12, 2001 at 12:35:04 PT
It is ridiculous that we are just now going to study the effects of these chemicals after we have already sprayed thousands and thousands of acres!(& who knows how many people) This flawed policy is quite indicative of the arrogance & ignorace of the drug warriors.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by ekim on August 12, 2001 at 11:51:31 PT:
Transcript: Of Sanho Tree's Visit 
US: Transcript: Of Sanho Tree's Visit to NYT DPF ForumURL: Completely revised! See Wed, 08 Aug 2001Source: New York Times Drug Policy ForumWebsite: This, and the series of forums, is being archived at MAP as an exception to our web only source posting policies. Transcript edited by forum participants and the New York Times.Note: Sanho Will Be Visiting The Drugsense Chat This Sun. Aug 12, 2001 8 Pm Eastern - 5 Pm Pacific - guests in this series include George McMahon and Ann McCormick See for details.Related: 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by ekim on August 12, 2001 at 11:48:30 PT:
Sanho Tree of DPF 
sanho - Hi donaldway, I think the "collateral damage" from the drug war is a crucial point to include. As Kevin Zeese likes to say, the drug war is two degrees of separation from every major social problem confronting us today. I think when those "untouched" by the drug war realize how deep the impact goes, they will start to get involved. To mention but one example, birdwatchers are starting to get worked up over our war in Colombia because they are realizing that our aerial fumigation program is destroying the ecosystem of the country that has the most number of distinct bird species in the world. When the birdwatchers turn against the drug war, you know things are changing! 
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment