Kenyans Object to Fungal Control of Narcotics

  Kenyans Object to Fungal Control of Narcotics

Posted by FoM on July 25, 2000 at 17:14:51 PT
By Naftali Mungai 
Source: ENS 

In the latest effort to eradicate illegal drugs, American scientists are experimenting on genetically modified strains of fungi that will identify and destroy opium poppy plants, coca plants and cannabis. A representative of the environmental group, The Sunshine, told delegates to the fifth meeting of signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nairobi in May that the United States Department of Agriculture, and the American Department of Defence are jointly working on research they call "Operation End Smoke." 
Operation End Smoke's goal is to eradicate illegal drug plantations around the world. The fungi, Fusarium oxysporum, could target millions of hectares of narcotic crops in South America, Central Asia and Africa. Last week, ENS reported that the United Nations and the Columbian government are discussing potential cooperation to test mycoherbicides, fungal biological control agents that could be used to control coca cultivation. The United States, where the majority of Colombia’s illegal crop is sold, has allocated $3 million to the UN to help fund these tests. Environmentalists in Kenya are concerned that once highly infectious fungi are released, they may mutate and spread. Professor Wangari Maathai, the coordinator of the Green Belt Movement, says that Kenya should oppose such use of viruses and fungi because of their potentially profound effects on the environment. "Use of Fusarium fungi or any other laboratory multiplied virus should be opposed because of the potential harm they pose to biodiversity," said Maathai. "The use of these microbes is misguided. America's intentions are suspect. If it were genuine in the war against drugs, it would use all safe avenues available." Dr. Agatha Janet of International Science For Life agrees. "Fusarium may curtail the production of narcotics but the danger they pose to the biodiversity and livelihood of people who grow pharmaceutical plants of narcotic species surpasses the goodwill intended," she said. "Related species of plants might be attacked by the Fusarium fungi because there isn't any guarantee for crop target specification." Fearing a backlash, the U.S. wants to broaden participation in the project. "We urge the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) to solicit funds from other governments in order to avoid the perception that this is solely a United States government initiative," said U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in a cable message sent to UNDCP. Some countries have already passed legislation banning the use of biological agents in the elimination of narcotic crops. Peru passed a law prohibiting the use of biological agents in coca eradication. Bolivia and Thailand have banned the use of Fusarium fungi or related biological micro-organisms in the elimination of illegal crops. "The government of the U.S. is playing roulette with irreplaceable biological biodiversity," said Susana Pimiento, a Colombian lawyer with The Sunshine. "In Colombia where Fusarium fungi are to be used, four close relatives of coca are classified as endangered. This might be the last step to their extinction," said Pimiento. Ecologists and environmentalists at the Convention on Biological Diversity negotiations in May were concerned that some strains of Fusarium oxysporum can infect even distantly related plants and destabilize the ecosystem of living species, such as the prized butterfly Agrius, which depends on the coca's leaves for maturity and feeding. "Birds feeding on narcotic crops are endangered. If they consume these plants after Fusarium fungi have been released into the field, available data shows that they produce mycotoxins that are deadly," says Edwin Meme, a Kenyan toxicologist. If the Kenyan government uses Fusarium fungi to fight narcotics, especially bhang, otherwise known as cannabis, this could set back conservation of the ecosystem around Mount Kenya. Mount Kenya is a vital water catchment area, already reeling from the effects of deforestation to accommodate a huge acreage of bhang. Last year the government embarked on the large scale destruction of bhang plantations in Mount Kenya forest. Unable to curtail farming of the drugs, aerial spray was suggested as an alternative but abandoned after protests by environmentalists. Under the Cartagena Protocol, no country can release modified living organisms into the biodiversity of another country unless the recipient country is sure of the safety of the organisms being released, and adheres to the provision of environmental safety and clearing mechanisms. "If the United States releases these fungi without consulting any country, and finally the whole project turns disastrous to the biodiversity, who will be accountable since America is not a member to the Cartagena Protocol?" asked a delegate from Canada. A declassified report released by the U.S. government to allay fears that it is cloning virulent genes to combat narcotics says: "The U.S. government is not researching genetically engineered, but genetically modified strains, which are still being researched on. They are not yet released or about to be released to the field." In 1988, the United Nations Economic and Social Council stated that drug eradication programs should exhaust manual, mechanical or chemical herbicides for controlling weeds, but not biological agents. The U.S. government insists that the fungi being experimented on are for the global benefit since governments of the countries where narcotics are grown will shift scarce resources currently used to fight illegal plants to needy national projects. Biological control agents being considered for use on Columbia's coca crop will not proceed without the full cooperation and approval of the Colombian government. "Although initial excuses are that the fungi are not currently earmarked for application in Africa, this is not true. For the plan to eradicate narcotics to be successful, it must have universal application. Otherwise, there is no sense in application in some countries while others continue to grow them," said Jefferson Henry, a crop researcher. Email the Environment Editor Contact: news ens-news.comDirect Link To Above Article:, Kenya, July 25, 2000 (ENS)© Environment News Service (ENS) 2000. Related Articles:U.S. Presses Colombia to Use Herbicide on Coca Can Forget Testing Coca-Killing Fungus Control or Bio Warfare? CannabisNews Articles On Fusarium Oxysporum 

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Comment #10 posted by T215 on July 26, 2000 at 22:57:53 PT
fungal control of narcotics
This is scary! I agree with Chris about our government. They want to dictate to the world what should be done about the war on drugs. As soon as our wonderful government figures out how the pharmacuticals company's can control cannabis & we all know who backs them, then they will do something about leaglizing cannabis. How can we support them when they want to spray chemicals that may cause God knows what harm to humans & animals. What happens if this is done in USA & gets into the water table? As the agents said about Kentucky's proposed spraying of chemicals on marijuana plants, " So what if it kills a few kids, maybe it will teach them a lesson." This is the land of the FREE!
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Comment #8 posted by CongressmanSuet on July 26, 2000 at 18:58:51 PT:

oops, I meant Kenya, not Nigeria, but...

according to you know who, I think Kenya's problems are even worse....they have some kind of blood sucking bats that inject radioactive isotopes when they bite...ah, the internet, sometimes its better than all the National Enquirers, Stars, and Observers together!
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Comment #7 posted by CongressmanSuet on July 26, 2000 at 18:52:18 PT:

Being sprayed with herbacide...

is the least of the Nigerian's problems. According to Civil War2, the country has large numbers of roving cannibals who make human sacrifices at the drop of a hat, and kuru disease[from eating too much human brains] is rampant. Only kidding, Kap, dont have an aneurism! You gotta love some of this stuff!
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Comment #6 posted by Dan B on July 26, 2000 at 06:06:35 PT:

Kaptinemo Does It Again!

Great analysis, Kaptinemo, and great site about Fusarium (I could only get to the first site; the second came up with a page fault--might be this computer I'm using at the university). I almost always learn something new from your comments. Thanks.
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Comment #5 posted by kaptinemo on July 26, 2000 at 05:02:38 PT:

Something very nasty, indeed.

So Fusariums are safe, huh?Read this:US Wheat and Barley Scab initiative, read *this*. It's a good primer on BioWar.MALIGNANT BIOLOGY affect food crops. They can and do mutate under the influence of high UV-A. The ozone layer of the atmosphere in the Southern Hemisphere of the planet has been known to have degraded to about 80% of what it once was. Meaning the amount of UV received at ground level has been increasing. Needless to say, the potential of F. Oxysporum to mutate to a new and more virulent strain has increased. Particularly since this version of Fusarium has no native predators to control its growth to begin with. Introducing such a life-form into that area would be rank insanity, because since it will have every opportunity to mutate, IT ALMOST CERTAINLY WILL. And since Fusariums are so hard to kill, can be carried by birds and other vectors (which don't give a damn about national borders) and can wipe out entire food crops, I find this matter to be much more disturbing than just another dyspeptic DrugWarrior's wet-dream. We are talking about the very real possibility of causing widespread famine in an area already marginalized. It's hard enough to grow food when someone is shooting at you; it worse when what you grow has been made inedible by fungus.But, then, maybe that was the idea all along? Make an entire region subservent to US agribusiness?
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Comment #4 posted by Dan B on July 26, 2000 at 03:53:19 PT:


That should have said "in light of." 
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Comment #3 posted by Dan B on July 26, 2000 at 03:52:25 PT:

I agree, Chris S.

This project is quite dangerous. Some scientists have finally come out saying that fusarium fungi have ben known to cause infections in humans that are difficult to get rid of and can cause death in those with already weakened immune systems (interesting inlihgt of the recent study by Dr. Abrams which sowed that marijuana does not have adverse effects on the HIV-infected, immunosupressed patient).See this excerpt from a recent Reuters article reproduced here at Canabis News. Follow the link at the bottom to read the entire article.--"People who are severely immunosuppressed because of AIDS or cancer treatments, for example, are vulnerable to Fusarium infections, and a minor eye injury may lead to blindness if Fusarium is involved, said Rinaldi, who estimates he has seen at least 100 Fusarium oxysporum infections over 10 years.Ramon Sandin, director of microbiology and virology at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, said he had treated cancer patients with Fusarium infections, and had been frustrated to find anti-fungal treatments often did not work.`We're not very happy when somebody comes down with a Fusarium infection. We know the potential for demise,' he said. 'We've lost several in the past couple of years.'"Strange how the U.S. Government has no problem killing off HIV-infected people and cancer patients in the name of "protecting Americans from drugs."
U.S. Presses Colombia to Use Herbicide on Coca 
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Comment #2 posted by Chris S. on July 25, 2000 at 22:50:13 PT:

This is Scary

I can't believe what our government is up to now. Maybe its just me but this project seems pretty dangerous. What happens if this fungi mutates and harms people? Of course, the government would deny its part in this atrocity and cover itself up. Anyway, I just find it disgusting what our government will stoop to. I see why anarchy exists.
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Comment #1 posted by Dan B on July 25, 2000 at 18:41:08 PT:

Careful, Albright--The Truth Is Showing

--"'We urge the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) to solicit funds from other governments in order to avoid the perception that this is solely a United States government initiative,' said U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in a cable message sent to UNDCP." In other words, "we would like for the UNDCP, largely dictated to by the United States, to force other countries into this United States program so that the United States doesn't look so bad. We want other countries to share in our irresponsibility."She knows how bad this policy makes the United States look, which hints at the fact that she knows this is bad policy, so she wants to cover up blame for this policy by forcing other countries to join. Too bad she doesn't take the next step and abandon this doomed-to-disaster project in order to keep America from implementing yet another set of atrocities against not only foreign countries, but the welfare of the planet as a whole, ecologically speaking.
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