Daily News Archive
From July 31, 2001

Judge Orders Halting of Aerial Spraying of Glyphosate in Colombia

A judge in Bogata, Colombia Friday ordered a suspension of the aerial spraying of the herbicide glyphosate, according to a New York Times article yesterday. The decision followed many farmers' complaints about skin rashes and destroyed banana groves, and lobbying, stemmed by constituent complaints, by the governors of four southern provinces in Washington and Europe.
However, the New York Times today reported that the chief of Colombia's anti-narcotics forces said on Monday he would continue aerial spraying of drug crops, arguing Friday's court-ordered suspension only applied to select tribal zones. In the court ruling obtained by Reuters, Bogota Judge Gilberto Reyes Delgado ordered ``the immediate suspension of the entire fumigation project with spraying of glyphosate.' There was no mention of any specific area of Colombia.
The ruling was issued in response to a petition by indigenous groups, who have declared glyphosate hazardous and asserted that it has caused a variety of serious maladies in areas where spraying has occurred. The labels of glyphosate products, such as Roundup™, clearly state not to apply the product in a way that will cause contact with people "either directly or through drift." Click here for more information about the health effects of glyphosate.
These concerns, in combination with the mixing of glyphosate with other chemicals without knowledge of the possible effects, have prompted officials like Eduardo Cifuentes, the Colombian human rights ombudsman, and Carlos Ossa, the nation's general comptroller, to call for a suspension of spraying. They have also prompted calls for hearings in the Colombian Senate over the spraying issues and have galvanized opposition among some lawmakers.
The farmers and their supporters, which include some members of the U.S. Congress, believe that spraying should be replaced by a program of voluntary eradication that would provide subsidies for farmers who replace coca and poppies with legal crops. Parmenio Cuellar, governor of Narino, where coca cultivation has increased with the heavy spraying in nearby Putumayo, said the government must offer a comprehensive assistance program that offers infrastructure, such as education, health care and markets for crops.
"We are not against eradication, just the fumigation," said Mr. Cuellar.
The U.S funded $1.3 billion of the crop-dusting program, which was supposed to destroy coca and heroin poppy crops. Ironically, Friday's ruling came as three of the first 16 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters arrived from the US - helicopters that are to move Colombian anti-drug troops on missions to regions where drug crops are protected by rebel or paramilitary fighters. Colombia will also receive 14 new aircraft in September to be used for spraying, and to add to 12 currently in use.