Fungicidal Feds

Fungicidal Feds
Posted by FoM on May 15, 2000 at 11:09:48 PT
Drug war expanding to ecological attack
Source: MichiganDaily
At what point does the cost of escalating US efforts to eradicate drugs by force eclipse the benefit? Many would argue that the toll on our own population, from an exponentially increasing prison population, to a multi billion dollar "War on Drugs"engaged to combat the expansive black market has done little to curb drug use. 
After three decades of fighting drugs with force, thousands of Americans still deal with addiction and face death because the government refuses to consider reasonable and viable alternatives to a costly, all-out assault on substance abuse. In addition to annual budgets of $17.9 billion federally and $20 billion from states, the Senate is considering supporting drug czar Barry McCaffrey's goal of "supply reduction" abroad by using questionable herbicides and fungal agents to wipe out crops of illegal plants. "Fifty-two thousand Americans die every year from drugs," Clinton said in a speech May 2nd, pushing a $1.6 billion aid package, which would provide arms, resources, and capital to Colombia's democratic government in their war with guerrillas and drug cartels. Called "Aid Colombia," the package would also step up US efforts to eradicate cocaine and opium by spraying herbicides and fungal agents on Colombian coca and poppy farms. Because 90% of US cocaine comes from Colombia, reducing the amount of coca grown in that region is the main goal under the current drug elimination plan. But according to a study by the conservative RAND Corporation, treating cocaine users is 23 times more effective, dollar for dollar, than eliminating coca at its source. The Senate, as it debates the amount and terms of this aid package, should consider allocating less to the eradication of drugs and more to providing treatment. Drug eradication may temporarily cut cocaine flow, but for how long and at what cost environmentally? The environmental concern stems from an amendment to the Aid Colombia program, which requires Clinton and the Colombian government to agree to "implementing a strategy to eliminate Colombia's total coca and opium poppy production" with, in addition to herbicides, "tested, environmentally safe mycoherbicides." According to Mother Jones' News Wire, abundant evidence shows that the only mycoherbicide, or plant-killing fungus, being considered is Fusarium oxysporum, which Florida refused to test for its own drug eradication efforts after warnings from a state official that it could mutate, spread rapidly and kill other plants. With a fragile ecosystem and an economy based largely on rural agriculture, using oxysporum may be devastating to the long-term stability of the Colombian environment and its farming economy. In addition, this fungus may cause lethal infection in humans with weak immune systems in certain circumstances.Another effect of the US-sponsored herbicide use to eradicate coca and poppy fields is a threat to the stability of the farming population as well. The New York Times reported this month that many of the planes currently spraying Colombian coca and poppy farms are hitting legitimate crops as well, having the opposite effect on the level of cocaine production. While the US denies these allegations, farmers who agreed to grow legal crops may have little choice but to plant cash crops like coca when faced with devastating financial losses from crops hit by herbicides. It is becoming ever clearer that the present "war" is a misappropriation of resources. It is apparent that such militaristic efforts are incapable of producing significant change in the flow of drugs in this country. These heavy-handed tools of social management are eating capital and threatening the environment with the futile hope of eliminating illegal drugs instead of addressing the human side of the issue. With the number of deaths from drugs in the thousands, the United State's willingness to funnel more money into draconian interdiction initiatives instead of sane programs of drug education and rehabilitation ignores the reality of the situation. Involvement in supply reduction pursuits is dangerous to the environment and produces scant long-term benefits. Hopefully our government can learn from past mistakes in the War on Drugs and will not engage in such unwise interdiction efforts in Colombia. Originally on page 4 in the 5-15-2000 issue of the Daily. Letters to the Editor: daily.letters Comments to Online Staff: online.daily Published: May 15, 2000Copyright 2000 The Michigan DailyRelated Articles:Drug Control or Bio Warfare? FOCUS Alert # 171 May 3, 2000 New York Times: Drug War Poisons Communities The Helicopters: 5/9 Vote in Senate Committee 
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