U.S. Insists Colombia Coca Spraying Is Safe

U.S. Insists Colombia Coca Spraying Is Safe
Posted by CN Staff on September 05, 2002 at 20:20:19 PT
By Elaine Monaghan
Source: Reuters
The United States, accused of risking people's health by spraying herbicide on coca crops in Colombia, believes the chemical it uses is safe but will use a less toxic one to allay concerns, a State Department report said on Thursday. It published findings of the government's Environmental Protection Agency that acknowledged possible minor symptoms from exposure to the spray and said any spike in such problems was likely to be "relatively small at most." 
The report also contained a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture saying the chemical used -- glyphosate -- was the most commonly-used herbicide, that it posed minimal risks to humans and animals and that it was environmentally benign. However the report said the EPA found a potential risk of acute eye toxicity with the particular formula used in Colombia, though primarily for those working with it, and recommended another product be used just in case. The State Department bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement found another formula registered in Colombia in July and widely used elsewhere, the report said. "INL expects to place an order for the new product early in Sept. 2002." U.S. officials said this would push the risk of eye damage from mildly toxic to slightly toxic. The Bush administration is clearly as determined as ever to continue an aerial eradication program launched in 1994 that has not stopped cocaine flows out of the war-wracked Andean nation, the world's biggest producer of the drug. "This is an extremely important program and we believe we will see positive results in terms of eradication this year," Acting Assistant Secretary of State Paul Simons said. The U.S. and Colombian governments, allied in a war against a highly lucrative crop that fuels the country's crippling conflict, plan this year to spray 370,000 acres of fields planted with the shrub -- a sharp increase on the 207,000 acres they sprayed last year. The spraying does not stop poor farmers replanting on the same area and it has had no noticeable impact on overall cocaine production and exports of the drug. The report resulted from a law pushed through by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, forcing the administration to certify that the spraying posed no unreasonable health or safety risks to humans or the environment. This meant that under U.S. law the administration had to deem the chemical safe if it was to keep buying it. On the basis of the report on Secretary of State Colin Powell ruled that the standards of the new law were met. Leahy, in a statement on Thursday after receiving the report late Wednesday, offered no assessment of the lengthy document. But he said further study was needed. SPRAY FIRST, WORRY LATER? "There are reports of health problems and food crops destroyed from the fumigation," he said. "Spraying a toxic chemical over large areas, including where people live and livestock graze, would not be tolerated in our country. "We should not be spraying first and asking questions later. We need to study this carefully, because we do not want to find out later that we caused serious harm to human health or the environment," he added. The EPA said some data suggested the eradication program could have resulted in "minor skin, eye or respiratory irritation and perhaps headache or other minor symptoms." It recommended that health effects should be tracked as it had lacked detailed information on timing, exposure and medical documentation. But it said there was no case of symptoms being confirmed as resulting from the spraying. It said it had no ecological toxicity data on a substance added in Colombia, Cosmo-Flux 411F, as it was not sold in the United States, but its ingredients had low toxicity. Source: ReutersAuthor: Elaine MonaghanPublished: September 5, 2002Copyright: 2002 Reuters UnlimitedRelated Articles & Web Site:Colombia Drug War News Herbicide May Cause Eye Damage Is Stepping Up Drive to Destroy Coca Wants Audit of Colombia Cocaine Spraying 
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Comment #1 posted by observer on April 07, 2005 at 23:56:52 PT
Roundup/ glyphosate unsafe for amphibians, also
"Safe" ... unless you're a living thing. In that case, it is poison.Roundup (glyphosate) highly lethal to amphibians, finds University of Pittsburgh researcher (03 Apr 2005) 
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