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Likely Impact on Amazon Ecosystems of the Use of the Fungus Fusarium Oxysporum to Eradicate Coca

Emilio Constantino

The fungus Fusarium Oxysporum is a severe pest for many farmers all over the world. It is known to attack a great variety of crops such as banana, corn, manioc, ornamental flowers and fruit orchards.

In the Andean Region, it is a recognized pest for over 125 cultivated species, including staple crops. In Ecuador, it led to the bankruptcy of the banana industry in the 1950s under what became known as the “Panamá Evil” which eradicated a variety called “Gross Michel”.

The infamous Plan Colombia has considered the possibility of applying this fungus on a mass scale as a biological weapon in the US-led War on Drugs carried out in Colombia with the acquiescence of the Colombian government.

The massive aerial application of this fungus would most likely take the spores to those areas where the indigenous peoples grow their crops. The US and Colombian governments have considered the possibility of applying this fungus in regions such as the High Putumayo el Alto Napo, el Alto Caquetá, la Amazonía occidental, el Alto Meta, el Catatumbo, las Laderas Orientales de la Cordillera Oriental, el Magdalena Medio, la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, el Chocó y Los Andes. That is, in some of the regions with the highest concentration of biodiversity in the world. Furthermore, these regions are not only what ecologists call biological “hot spots”, they are also -from a cultural point of view- centers where medicinal, magic or biochemical species are concentrated and where traditional knowledge regarding the use of these plants is held. The High Putumayo and Sobundoy Valley are internationally recognized as such.

This immense biodiversity and complementary traditional and chamanistic knowledge are being severely affected and endangered by the war strategies being implemented in these ecosystems.

Apart from the destruction caused to jungle ecosystems in South America as of demand for cocaine, chemical control of the Coca plant and the threat of biological warfare are endangering the peoples and sustainable development of the region, as has been pointed out by numerous scientists and ecologists.

Warmongering strategies, whether they be chemical, biological or conventional (that is with missiles and bombs) being currently applied in the most biodiverse and fragile systems of South America, are much like having a bunch of maniacs carry out a stone-throwing brawl in a crystal shop: surely some will suffer mortal blows, but the damage caused will not only be irreparable, it will ultimately affect us all.

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