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Take Action: End U.S. Support for Colombian Coca Spraying

G(Beyond Pesticides, April 14, 2009) Groups are seeking an end to a failed U.S.-supported herbicide spray program that between 2000 and 2008 cost U.S. taxpayers more than half a billion dollars to apply the toxic herbicide glyphosate on approximately three million acres of land in Colombia—the world’s second most biodiverse country. The herbicide spraying, targeted at coca – the raw ingredient used to make cocaine, is toxic to people and wildlife, wreaks havoc on native ecosystems and has proven to be an ineffective tactic in the “War on Drugs.” Beyond Pesticides encourages you to join with EarthJustice and send a letter to the Obama Administration asking the government to stop supporting this destructive policy.

Colombian glyphosate spraying

Colombian glyphosate spraying

Colombia is the only country in the world that allows this kind of herbicide spraying—known as fumigation—as an anti-drug practice. Yet the spraying has been a complete failure. According to U.S. government studies, the area subject to coca cultivation has actually increased by 23 percent since the U.S.-backed fumigation began in earnest, and Colombia remains the leading supplier of cocaine for U.S. markets. Coca farmers simply spread out and relocate the crops, moving deeper into the forest and clearing new areas. The environmental impacts have been disastrous.

Further, the chemical mixture of glyphosate and surfactants used in Colombia has not been fully tested for environmental or human health impacts under these conditions. People on the ground in affected regions say that the spraying significantly harms both. The concentrations applied are much greater than those commonly used for aerial spraying, and the spray drift lands on food crops, water sources, and even humans. At least 10,000 farmers have reported food crops killed by fumigations, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Health said there is “credible and trustworthy evidence” that fumigations are harmful to human health.

In 2007, scientists from Pontificia Catholic University in Quito, Ecuador, completed a study of 24 residents living within three kilometers of the Colombian border – an area targeted by the coca spraying – and have found a wide variety of ailments. The study’s subjects suffer from symptoms that include intestinal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, numbness, blurred vision, skin irritation, rashes, and difficulty breathing. In addition, the damage to their chromosomes was 600 to 800 percent greater than that of people living 80 km away, which can signal possible conditions like cancer and reproductive effects like miscarriages.

Now is the time to cut U.S. support and funding for this inhumane, ineffective and environmentally destructive program. Send your letter to President Obama today.

Talking Points
• At the start of the program, Colombia promised a 50% reduction in coca production in two years. Instead, eight years later, production has increased.
• As a result of the spraying in Colombia, coca cultivation has increased in other countries in the region.
• Lasting solutions can only be designed by helping those whose subsistence is tied to coca farming find alternatives.
• The environmental and health analyses of the program incorrectly assume that the spray planes are able to avoid spraying water bodies or people.
• The plants usually grow back, so no end to this spraying is in sight.


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