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“The Wars in Colombia: Drugs, Guns and Oil”
Hemispheric Institute of the Americas
University of California, Davis, Mayo 17-19, 2001

Aerial Fumigation over Illicit Crops Is Certainly Dangerous —Approaching the Issue—

Elsa Nivia - Rapalmira[*]


The aerial application of wide-spectrum herbicides —in an attempt to eradicate illicit crops— causes severe and unnecessary health problems for people and animals. It pollutes the soil, water, air and food and destroys staple farm crops, livestock and fish which are at the basis of indigenous and peasant communities' subsistence. It furthermore endangers animal and plant biodiversity.

The environmental and health hazards caused by aerial fumigation —which has for the past quarter of a century proven to be a total failure towards controlling narcotics trafficking— compound the negative effects of the widespread use of pesticides for common agricultural purposes. Namely, the legal use given to these products as of the agricultural-production model known as the "Green Revolution," which has been fostered by states throughout the past century on the basis of one-crop farming and are dependent on an intensive use of toxic agrochemicals licensed for sale. Consequently, it is inconsistent for the government to justify illicit-crop "eradication" on the basis of the pollution generated by the use of pesticides since these same pesticides are used on licit crops all over the country and will, unfortunately, continue being used in an irrational manner as long as governments do not implement efficient policies to control the agrotoxin market and begin to foster organic, ecological production models.

When illicit crops are sprayed from the air with wide-spectrum herbicides, simultaneously, neighboring and intercalated staple crops are being fumigated as well as water sources, cattle, pets, schools, laborers, men, women, the elderly, children, wild animal and plant life from bordering jungle areas. No pilot, no matter how well-trained he is, can avoid indiscriminate fumigation when spraying with pesticides from a plane over areas which are inhabited by living beings.

This study focuses primarily on the potential health hazards —through a comparison of doses and acute toxicity problems— resulting from aerial fumigation with Roundup used in the forced eradication of illicit crops. After having carried out comparative analyses regarding

a) Results of studies on the acute toxicity generated by Roundup in animals;

b) Acute effects known to be caused by Roundup in humans, and;

c) The doses of Roundup Ultra and surfactants which are currently being applied.

we can sustain that there is no scientific precedent for the herbicidal aerial fumigation of illicit crops which is being carried out in Colombia.

This initial approach has demonstrated that aerial fumigations DO constitute a severe health hazard for humans and animals. It is therefore urgent that this degrading and failed policy be suspended immediately and that socially-concerted sustainable solutions —that lead to the gradual but true reduction of planting of crops considered illicit— be implemented.

Translated by María Mercedes Moreno,  Mama Coca

[*] Ingeniera agrónoma. Licenciada en biología y química. Directora Ejecutiva Rapalmira. Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y Alternativas – América Latina, RAP-AL. PAN-Colombia (Pesticide Action Network) rapalmira@telesat.com.co

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