Colombia’s herbicide conflict

In 2000, the United States and Colombian governments jointly launched intensive and expanded aerial spraying operations to destroy the coca and poppy crops used to make cocaine and heroin. These spraying operations form a key component of the multi-billion dollar U.S.-financed program known as ‘Plan Colombia’. As part of this program, planes repeatedly spray herbicide over coca and poppy crops in forests, fields, and towns of rural Colombia. Between 2000 and 2008, more than 1 million hectares (2.7 million acres) were sprayed.

‘Plan Colombia’ is the US umbrella strategy to combat drugs and contribute to peace in Colombia, mainly through military means. The US government began granting large amounts of aid to Colombia in 2000 under the Clinton administration and since then the US has given Colombia over $5 billion with a large proportion going to Colombia’s military and police.

Roundup, the world’s most widely used herbicide that is manufactured by Monsanto, has been heavily used in ‘Plan Colombia’; however, on 20th March the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified Roundup as probably carcinogenic in humans.

The environmental and public health impact of the spraying has been a matter of substantial concern for indigenous groups, NGO’s and expert organisations, such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. A law has been recently passed banning the spraying of herbicides in Colombia’s national parks, with Colombia being an internationally recognised ‘biodiversity hotspot’. Jasper Humphreys

A much fuller report on the impact of herbicides in ‘Plan Colombia’ can be found at the Toxic Remnants of War web-site ‘blog’:

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