[Fwd: PANUPS: Biological Weapons Join Pesticides in Misguided "War on
Jeffrey A. Caldwell
ecosys at pacbell.net
Thu Aug 3 20:24:54 EDT 2000
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: PANUPS: Biological Weapons Join Pesticides in Misguided "War
Date: Tue, 01 Aug 2000 07:39:20 -0700
From: PANUPS <panupdates at panna.org>
Reply-To: panupdates at panna.org
To: PANUPS <panups at igc.topica.com>
P A N U P S
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service
Biological Weapons Join Pesticides in Misguided "War on Drugs"
August 1, 2000
In June 2000, the U.S. Senate approved a US$1.3 billion aid package
in support of Colombia's "War on Drugs." This paves the way for
large-scale U.S. military intervention in Colombia's decades-old
civil war, with the vast majority of the aid going to military and
police forces and only about 10% allocated for alternative
development projects that help farmers make the transition to
growing legal crops.
One element of the devastating War on Drugs is the use of chemical
pesticides to eradicate drug crops (see PANUPS June 19, 2000, and
September 23, 1999). Now the U.S. State Department wants to add a
new weapon to the drug war arsenal: a coca-killing strain of the
fungus Fusarium oxysporum. This misguided crop eradication strategy
promises serious, and possibly irreversible, consequences for human
health and biodiversity of key Amazonian ecosystems.
Between 1992 and 1998, Colombia's crop-dusters dumped nearly 2.5
million liters of Monsanto's herbicide Roundup (active ingredient
glyphosate) on 140,858 hectares of coca and 41,468 hectares of opium
poppies. In 1999, reports indicate that over 42,000 hectares of coca
and 8,000 of opium poppy were fumigated, and 50,000 is set as the
minimum target for the year 2000. Despite the spraying, net coca
cultivation roughly tripled during this same period. While failing
to control drug crop production, the spraying contaminates water,
poisons people and destroys non-target crops, and hence farmers'
abilities to sustain farm-based livelihoods.
The U.S. has also pressured Colombia to introduce stronger and more
hazardous granular herbicides into the crop eradication program.
Experiments with imazapyr and tebuthiuron have already taken place
on Colombian soil, in spite of stated opposition from the Colombian
Ministry of Environment.
Now, the U.S. is pressuring Colombia to accept a strain of Fusarium
oxysporum known as EN4 as a biological control agent. Coca-growing
areas would be sprayed with the Fusarium strain in an effort to make
the treated Amazon soil unfit for growing coca for up to 40 years.
Fusarium species, naturally abundant in temperate and tropical zones
around the world, kill plants by releasing fungal toxins
(mycotoxins) into the plant's roots. Some Fusarium species are also
known to cause human disease, especially in individuals with
compromised immune systems due to cancer, AIDS or asthma.
Little is known about possible dangers of a massive introduction of
these fungi into the environment, their potential to attack other
plant species or the health risks caused by the toxins they produce.
Massive applications of newly selected or genetically modified
strains may irreversibly alter the stability of the Amazonian
ecosystems in which the fungus is applied or to where it later
On July 6, 2000, Acción Ecológica and other environmental and human
rights groups staged a peaceful takeover of the Colombian Embassy in
Ecuador to demonstrate against the counter-narcotics and
counter-insurgency campaign the U.S. aid package will support. The
groups say the campaign will intensify armed conflict and exacerbate
the region's social, political, economic and environmental problems.
They call on the international community to urge the U.S. and
Colombia to replace this approach with programs that effectively
integrate environmental, economic, social and cultural drug control
methods and provide for civil society participation in their
development and implementation.
The Colombian government is reluctant to approve experimentation
with the new fungus strain, but has been under pressure to accept it
as a condition for military aid. As a compromise, the Colombian
government has proposed investigating native fungus varieties for
toxicity to drug crops.
The Seattle-based Sunshine Project has obtained a recent version of
Colombia's proposed plan for research into biological controls and
concluded that the still-secret proposal is insufficient to stop
U.S. deployment of biological weapons in the drug war. According to
Sunshine Project attorney Susana Pimiento, "Despite confusing
statements from the U.S. State Department, we are encouraged that
press reports and the document itself appear to indicate that plans
to immediately field test the dangerous U.S.-developed agents have
been stopped. But this counterproposal would only result in a delay,
not a prohibition, on the use of biological warfare agents in
Martin Jelsma, "The Vicious Circle: The Chemical Spraying of Drug
Crops in Colombia." http://www.tni.org/drugs/research/vicious.htm,
Unidad Ecológica Salvadoreña, "Latinoamericanos rechazan aplicación
del Plan Colombia de Estados Unidos." ECOLATINO, El Salvador, July
"U.S .Signs Up for Colombian War." Legislative Update, Latin America
Working Group, lawg at lawg.org, June 2000.
The Sunshine Project, "Biological Agents in the Drug War: Colombian
Response to U.S. Pressure for Biological Drug Eradication is
Inadequate; UN Role Questioned."
Ed Vulliamy, "U.S. Prepares To Spray Genetically-Modified Herbicides
on Colombians." London Observer,
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines/070200-01.htm, July 2, 2000.
Miami Herald. "A Dangerous Silver Bullet." July 11, 2000.
Jared Kotler "Colombia Against Using Fungus." Associated Press, July
The Sunshine Project. "Colombia's Agent Green Counterproposal
PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and
reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the
mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North
America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to
advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.
You can join our efforts! We gladly accept donations for our work
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