FWD/Alert - US backed Biowar in Colombia

Doug Bartley further at ***inh.co.jp
Sat Nov 25 06:45:52 EST 2000


Monsanto, US 'War On Drugs' Poisoning Columbia's Environment
By Brian Hansen - Environment News Service
http://www.corpwatch.org/headlines/2000/399.html
11-23-00
  
WASHINGTON, DC - The aerial fumigation program that has grown out of the
U.S. 
government's so-called "war on drugs" is endangering the fragile ecosystems

and indigenous cultures of Colombia's Amazon Basin, a coalition of groups 
warned today at a news conference on Capitol Hill. 
  
The fumigation program, which the U.S. finances as part of a $1.3 billion 
Colombian aid package approved this summer, is designed to eradicate coca
and 
other plants used to manufacture illicit drugs. 
  
But critics say the program indiscriminately wipes out legitimate
subsistence 
crops as well as natural plants, and kills birds, mammals and aquatic life.

  
The chemicals are applied by aircraft and frequently fall on Columbia's 
indigenous peoples, subjecting them to a variety of health afflictions, 
critics add. 
  
"This spraying campaign is equivalent to the Agent Orange devastation of 
Vietnam - a disturbance the wildlife and natural ecosystems have never 
recovered from," said Dr. David Olson, director of the World Wildlife
Fund's 
conservation science program. "And it is occurring on the watch of the 
current Congress and [executive] administration, supported by taxpayer 
dollars." 
  
Though carried out by Colombian police and military authorities, the aerial

fumigation program utilizes U.S. government aircraft, fuel, escort 
helicopters and private military contractors. 
  
The herbicide approved for the program, glyphosate, is manufactured by the 
U.S. based Monsanto Corporation and is commonly referred to by the trade
name 
Roundup. 
  
Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide, meaning that any plant exposed to
a 
sufficient amount of the chemical will be killed. The chemical has been 
sprayed over tens of thousands of acres in Colombia since the early 1990s, 
but the eradication program has done little to curtail the supply of
cocaine 
that comes into the U.S. every year. 
  
Still, Colombian officials - at the request of U.S. policymakers - are once

again gearing up to dump thousands of liters of glyphosate on Colombia,
this 
time targeting the country's southern state of Putumayo. 
  
Emperatriz Cahuache, president of the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of

the Colombian Amazon, came to Washington today to voice her opposition to
the 
plan. 
  
"Fumigation violates our rights and our territorial autonomy," the
indigenous 
leader said. "It has intensified the violence of the armed conflict and 
forced people to leave their homes after their food crops have been 
destroyed." 
  
As many as 10,000 Colombians could be displaced when the spraying begins
next 
month, noted Hiram Ruiz, a senior policy analyst with the U.S. Committee
for 
Refugees, a non-governmental group based in Washington. Ruiz, who toured
the 
Putumayo region in June, said that the fumigation program will make local 
residents vulnerable to the guerrillas and paramilitary groups that were 
spawned from Colombia's long running civil war. 
  
While the social repercussions of the fumigation program were perhaps the 
most poignant aspect of Monday's news conference, other issues - such as
the 
program's environmental consequences - also generated a great deal of 
concern. 
  
The World Wildlife Fund's Olson noted that the defoliating chemicals will
be 
applied by aircraft flying high above the forests, thus increasing the 
likelihood that unintended areas will be poisoned. 
  
"For every hectare of forest sprayed, another is lost to [pesticide] drift 
and another to additional clearing of displaced crops," Olson said. The 
destruction is extensive." 
  
Olson said that wildlife will be directly affected by the application of
the 
chemicals. Frogs and insects will be impacted immediately, and larger
animals 
will suffer weakening and sickness, he said. 
  
"If and when our [human] species matures, we will rightfully view such 
practices as abominations, crimes against our planet and ourselves, Olson 
said. 
  
Olson's point was echoed by Dr. Luis Naranjo, director of the American Bird

Conservancy's international program. Naranjo noted that Colombia has more 
species of wild birds than any other country, but he said that scores of
them 
are vulnerable to extinction because of U.S. led efforts to eradicate
illegal 
drugs. 
  
"Bird conservation is at the crossroads of the armed conflict in Colombia,"

Naranjo said. "Unless the current policies to face the drug problem in the 
country are revised, we will be facing the extinction of many of the 
organisms that make the country's biota so distinctive." 
  
Naranjo noted that as a non-selective herbicide, glyphosate will reduce
plant 
cover and food supply for many forest dependent birds. And because of the 
drift effect that occurs with aerial applications, the destruction of plant

cover will extend far beyond targeted areas, he added. 
  
"It has been estimated that for every hectare of coca sprayed, two hectares

of forest are affected," Naranjo said. 
  
The fumigation program will also drive rural communities that now grow 
illegal crops to migrate even deeper into the forest to clear new patches
of 
land in order to reinitiate their activities, further worsening the
region's 
environmental problems, Naranjo warned. 
  
The environmental consequences of the fumigation program were also
criticized 
by Francisco Tenorio Paez, president of the Regional Indigenous
Organization 
of Putumayo. Paez delivered an impassioned condemnation of the program, 
calling it an "attack against human life, the community and the
environment." 
  
Putumayo elected officials earlier this year declared their "overwhelming
and 
unanimous rejection" of the Colombian government's fumigation policy. The 
local leaders called on the national government to consider "manual and 
voluntary" methods to eradicate coca grown in the region. The leaders 
supported their argument by citing Article 79 of the Colombian
constitution, 
which declares that "All people have the right to enjoy a healthy 
environment." 
  
Appeals to stop the fumigation policy have also been made to President Bill

Clinton, who was sent a letter today signed by representatives of nearly 
three dozen environmental, human rights and public policy groups. The
letter 
urges Clinton to cancel the fumigation program, saying its "long term 
ecological effects could be severe." 
  
"The herbicide glyphosate has been blamed for destroying acres of trees and

contaminating wells, streams and ponds," declared the letter, which was
also 
sent to Colombian President Andres Pastrana Arango. 
  
Today's press conference was sponsored by a host of non-governmental
groups, 
including the Amazon Alliance, the Institute for Policy Studies, the 
Lindesmith Center, the U.S./Colombia Coordinating Office and the Washington

Office on Latin America. 







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