Killer fungi

US and UN scientists are building biological weapons to wipe-out pot, poppies and coca.

From the US Department of Agriculture to a secret UN laboratory in Uzbekistan, scientists are working to create genetically modified fungi which will eradicate the world's coca, opium poppies and marijuana plants.
USDA vs nature

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have been studying the fungus known as Fusarium oxysporum for many years. Fusarium is a powerful fungus with many mutations, and attacks hundreds of food crops, including bananas, watermelons, tomatoes and chickpeas. Fungi like Fusarium which attack plants are called "mycoherbicides."

USDA press releases cite how their research is "helping plants to help themselves" by finding ways to inoculate tomatoes with a genetically modified "benign" strain of the Fusarium fungus.
Yet the USDA is not so open about other aspects of their research into Fusarium. For the past few years, they have been quietly developing strains of Fusarium designed to attack and destroy the world's crop of medicinal plants, specifically opium, coca and marijuana.

Head of the USDA's Biocontrol of Plant Diseases (BCPD) is Dr Robert Lumsden, who leads research into crop eradication with mutant strains of Fusaruim oxysporum. At the University of Montana, he and another USDA plant pathologist, Dr Bryan Bailey, are engaged in a five-year study on the toxic effects of Fusaruim and other fungi on marijuana and opium poppies.

Research by Dr Bailey and others has already identified the gene responsible for one strain of Fusarium's deadly effects on coca. This has led to research and experiments involving the direct manipulation of Fusarium's genetic code.

Drs Lumsden and Bailey have already developed a special anti-coca mycotoxin based on Fusarium. In 1995 they tested it in a government coca field in Hawaii, where it surpassed the "kill rate" of traditional chemical herbicides. USDA reports indicate that this was only one in an ongoing series of "small scale field trials." In 1996, Bailey and Lumsden completed experiments at North Carolina State University, where they concluded that their killer mutant fungus "kills only coca and does not harm other plants."

The USDA has commissioned a number of further studies into the Fusarium fungus. Their stated goal is to construct a complete genetic map of Fusarium, and then use induced mutations and genetic manipulation to develop strains with enhanced killing power. They intend to wipe out coca and other selected plants "using molecular genetic manipulations involving fungal proteins."

However, some USDA studies suggest that the modified Fusarium strains are not specific at all, and that they possess "broad genetic variability." They warn that the new strains could possibly attack adjacent crops and cause ecological damage, as well as mutate into unexpected forms. A supposed advantage of using fungi over chemical herbicides is that fungi reproduce and spread of their own accord. Yet this also makes a mutant strain of fungi that much more potentially damaging and impossible to control.

The fact that there has already been a number of small "field trials" is a serious concern. It seems quite likely that these mutated killer fungi would easily escape and spread from any outdoor test site.

It is almost certain that Fusarium has already been used for actual crop eradication.

A 1993 epidemic of Fusarium wilt in Peru is mentioned in one USDA report as the inspiration for their decision to genetically enhance the fungus. The documents states "a bioherbicide using Fusarium oxysporum which is effective against coca can be produced and proof of concept field tests are being initiated."

Yet earlier such "proof of concept" field tests may have actually been responsible for the Fusarium epidemic. Peruvian campesinos have testified that in 1991 they saw helicopters carrying DEA agents and Peruvian police dropping pellets with Fusarium fungus onto coca fields. There is no other solid evidence to support this allegation, although there are 1994 press reports of DEA and Peruvian police using Fusarium against coca plants.

From Cold War to Drug War

The idea of using biological weapons for drug wars or otherwise is not a new one. In the early 1970's, the Nixon administration asked Congress to fund research into insects which could consume poppy crops. Yet when officials couldn't be assured that the weevils in question would not consume other crops than just poppies, the idea was wisely dropped.

During the cold war, Soviet scientists gathered and examined a wide variety of fungi, bacteria and viruses, intended for use against America's food crops. They carefully sought out and collected blighted plants, isolating the agents responsible for the plant's condition for potential use as biological weapons.

This kind of research was secretly performed at the Institute of Genetics, Plants, and Experimental Biology in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Institute became yet another forgotten research centre without funds.

However, their collection of plant pathogens has now become a source for biological weapons against the new common enemy of all world governments: plants such as opium, marijuana and coca. During their research to develop horticultural killers, the Soviet scientists had come across a fungus that attacked and damaged opium poppies, named Pleospora papaveracea.

Ordinary Pleospora papaveracea is a nuisance to opium growers, but not a serious problem. But in the late 1980's the scientists at the Institute developed a more deadly strain of the fungus.

The UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP) didn't find out about this fungus until early 1998, but when they did they immediately saw the potential of the idea. "We've been looking for something like this for years and years," crowed the head of the UNDCP research lab.

The Uzbekistan Institute of Genetics, Plants, and Experimental Biology immediately came under UN direction, with the US and Britain teaming up to channel experts and cash through the UN to continue and expand the research.

The Institute has become a strictly-secured centre for studying and testing the fungus under UN control. The Institute's deputy director confirmed in June 1998 that the fungus had already been used to destroy trial poppy fields in Uzbekistan.

The stated goal of the fungus is not to simply wipe out opium crops, but to damage them so that they die slowly. The UN hopes this will force opium growers to do more work for less reward, ultimately forcing them out of business.

United Nations against plants

The UNDCP considers biological control agents to be an integral part of their massive Strategy for Coca and Opium Poppy Elimination (SCOPE), which aims to eradicate all coca and opium poppies from the universe by the year 2008. The absurd hypocrisy that the UN also drafted the International Convention on Human Rights seems lost on them as the try to eradicate three of the world's most sacred and beloved plants.

The use of genetically modified fungi as biological weapons is touted by US and UN officials as being "environmentally friendly" since it doesn't involve chemical herbicides. The drug-war herbicide of choice for many years has been glyphosate, produced by Monsanto Corporation under the brand name Roundup.

The US government has consistently and successfully pressured South American nations to use Roundup for coca and poppy eradication. At various times Peru, Bolivia and Columbia have each resisted using it, but they risk losing millions of dollars in US aid if they refuse. Humans exposed to glyphosate can suffer extensive damage to many of their internal organs.

Now the US is pushing a newer, more poisonous herbicide called tebuthiuron, produced under the brand name Spike by Dow AgroSciences (a merger of DowElanco and Eli Lilly). There is increased resistance from the target nations towards using the new product, so US officials hope that the "non-toxic" and "environmentally friendly" killer fungi will go over better with local governments.

In October of 1998 the US Congress passed a bill allocating $23 million for each of the next 3 years, towards researching killer fungi designed to eradicate marijuana, poppy and coca plants, both in the US and in other nations.

Although the Congressional resolution received some media coverage, no mention was made of any of the actual research being done right now. All of the coverage was superficial, and nothing in any articles led the reader to realize the magnitude or scope of the research presently underway.

There is a great deal of secrecy surrounding the fungus research. The US and UNDCP seem to be afraid of the negative publicity that might come if they are seen to be engaging in biological warfare against certain nations.

After an extensive article in the June 28, 1998 Sunday Times outlining the history and details of the UN fungal research, the UNDCP came out with an angry response. UNDCP Director Pino Arlacchi's spokesman admitted that research into pathogenic fungi was underway, but claimed it was "environmentally safe" and not in any way "biological warfare," preferring the careful term "biological control agent" instead.

The spokesman also claimed that the research is still in its "initial stages" and that there would be no results for "many months". However, this was almost a year ago, and there has been little media coverage of the project since. Who knows what demonic fungi they have created by now? Certainly not the taxpayers who paid for it.

Ultimately, in a worst-case scenario where these genetically-modified, mutant-killer fungi manage to completely wipe out the world's supply of coca, opium and marijuana, this would still not win the anti-fun warriors their insane "war on drugs". Much of what is currently sold as street heroin and cocaine is already synthetic, and if there were no natural plant drugs anymore then many users would simply switch to synthetic and likely more dangerous alternatives. But of course, forcing people to use patented synthetics instead of natural plant medicines is what the so-called war on drugs is all about.

Much of the information for this article can be found online at: www.worldcom.nl/tni/drugs/links/bwarfare.htm

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