Colombia Halts Controversial Aerial Fumigations
By admin May 17, 2015

After two decades Colombia has announced that it will suspend controversial aerial fumigations of illegal coca plants, a key policy of Plan Colombia. This decision comes as several scientific reports increasingly suggest that the herbicide glyphosate is carcinogenic – cancerous to humans. This problem has also been highlighted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which carried out a study earlier this year in March, giving evidence that the herbicide used in Colombia’s aerial fumigations caused cancer in lab animals.

Referring to a vote taken by the National Narcotics Council on Thursday 14th May, the health minister Alejandro Gaviria explained that ‘’we’ve taken the decision by a majority of seven to one to suspend the spraying of areas with glyphosate.’’ He added that the spraying will be halted after administrative formalities are completed which could take several weeks.

Over 1.6 million hectares of land in Colombia have been sprayed using the chemical, resulting in immeasurable environmental damages as it contaminates rivers, plants and enters animal and human food chains. For years local communities have explained that exposure to glyphosate has caused serious illnesses including birth defects and cancer, only to be ignored by the Colombian and US governments.

Although Colombia is the USA’s closest ally in the region and one of the most committed countries on anti-drug policies, this decision will undoubtedly raise questions about the viability of long-accepted strategies in the war on drugs. This is especially true after the US government itself declared that the cultivation of coca had risen 39% in 2014 from the previous year despite the ongoing US funded aerial fumigations that has cost nearly $2 billion since it began in 1994.

For years aerial fumigations have been seen as the most reasonable way of eradicating crops is remote, mountainous areas that are difficult to access. However, some feel that the ongoing peace talks between the government and the FARC played a role in this decisions. On May 2014 President Santos and FARC leaders agreed on a plan to fight the drug trade which rests largely on FARC demands to end aerial fumigations as part of the final peace process.

Several Colombian anti-narcotic agencies including the defence ministry have been requested to offer alternative ways to fight and tackle illegal crops. Colombian officials have until 1st October 2015 to plan a new strategy to combat coca growing.

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