Halt Colombia Drug War Spraying

Halt Colombia Drug War Spraying
Posted by FoM on August 29, 2001 at 11:36:07 PT
A Times Editorial
Source: St. Petersburg Times
The U.S. effort to help Colombia eradicate illegal crops of coca and heroin poppy is making people sick -- literally. Children are developing sores on their skin, and adults are stricken with diarrhea from herbicide contamination of their drinking water. Poor farmers complain that their potato and onion crops are dying. Meanwhile, the drug lords simply relocate their coca crops to areas not yet poisoned by aerial fumigation. The Bush administration should listen to Colombian governors, farmers, human rights activists and others who see evidence that the herbicide spraying is harming people's health and poisoning their water and food supply. 
At the very least, the U.S. and Colombian governments should call a halt to the program until scientists can determine whether these environmental and health concerns are legitimate. As part of Plan Colombia, a $1.3-billion plan to fight drugs, the United States is assisting the Colombian national police in aerial spraying of Roundup Ultra, an enhanced version of the domestically popular weedkiller. When the original formulations of Roundup were ineffective, planners mixed it with soapy additives to make it more lethal to the coca plants. Unfortunately, there is evidence that the new mix may harm legitimate crops and people as well. The aerial spraying inadvertently drifts into areas where such crops as coffee and bananas are grown. Even worse, villagers in the path of the herbicide campaign are reporting skin rashes, headaches, eye infections, stomach problems and fevers. Doctors have noticed an increased incidence of leukemia in babies born since 1994 when the spraying began. These problems and the spraying may be unrelated. But until we can find out for sure, the spraying should be placed on hold. Drug-producing areas have been fumigated occasionally since the early 1990s, but health complaints became widespread only after Colombian officials ignored manufacturers' warnings and began using Roundup Ultra with the soapy additives. Manufacturers of one additive, Atplus 300f, were so concerned that their product had not been tested for use in aerial spraying, they halted its use. Such additives can be highly corrosive by themselves, and Monsanto, which makes Roundup Ultra, warned explicitly on its label that these chemicals should not be mixed with the weedkiller. Before spraying continues, authorities should investigate reports that that the mixture enhanced to penetrate leaves may also be more likely to penetrate human skin. Because the formula used in Colombia is far different in concentration and makeup from the domestic variety used in health tests, Monsanto's reassurances about Roundup's safety offer little comfort. The State Department has even admitted that the herbicide's main ingredient causes eye and skin irritation. Yet U.S. officials have accused local people of fabricating their ailments or suggested that their illnesses may be caused by the chemicals used to process coca. There may be something to that. Coca production has contributed to deforestation of the land, and the toxic chemicals use to convert coca into cocaine are often dumped into rivers and streams. Rand Beers, who directs drug policy for the State Department, has said if studies confirm a link between serious illness and Roundup, the spraying policy might be reconsidered. That is not good enough. Nor will compensation for lost crops, while helpful, undo the potential damage done by introducing this potent chemical into the environment. If spraying this mixture at the concentrations used in Plan Colombia is truly benign, then the U.S. and Colombia have nothing to fear from an independent investigation by scientific experts. While the health and environmental studies are being conducted, the Bush administration and the Congress should seize the chance to reconsider how the United States is waging war against illegal drugs in Colombia. Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL) Published: August 29, 2001 Copyright: 2001 St. Petersburg TimesContact: letters sptimes.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Colombia Drug War News in Colombia: Is it Safe? Works -- But Too Well? Articles - Glyphosate 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment