A Colombian court has ordered the government to suspend a US-funded program to spray herbicides on suspected coca crops, until the effects of the herbicides on human health and the environment can be scientifically established.
The Colombian government is appealing the June 13 decision, and is not legally bound to stop spraying until the appeal has been settled.
In their lawsuit, farmers and indigenous groups claim that the herbicide has affected their health and killed off livestock, as well as affecting water and wildlife. As of this writing a special environmental review is underway, with the results expected in late September.
Government officials acknowledge that the final court decision could force the US and Colombia to halt the use of glyphosate, the only chemical herbicide approved for aerial eradication of drug crops.
The ruling comes six weeks after the nation’s Constitutional Court ordered the government to hold three months of meetings with indigenous communities about spraying drug crops on their reservations, which make up about a quarter of the nation’s territory. However, the government can still keep spraying during the consultation meetings, making them relatively meaningless.
While several court rulings have ordered suspensions of the spray program in the past, the government has successfully appealed each ruling and the herbicide continues to be used in eradication efforts.
Many other farming communities have also filed their own lawsuits against the government, demanding payment for losses they say they have suffered from the spraying campaign.
“The government claims that glyphosate doesn’t harm human health or the environment. We know this is not true,” said the mayor of Buesaco, a city in southwestern Colombia, quoted in the Dallas Morning News. “Our children started vomiting and developed skin rashes as soon as the spraying began. Our cattle developed respiratory infections, then started dying.”
Spraying campaigns are also underway within the US. In Oklahoma, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control agents have been spraying fields of wild-growing cannabis with weed killer laced with red dye.
The northwest part of Oklahoma has an abundance of wild-growing cannabis, because farmers in the area used to grow hemp as a basic crop.
“Because the plant reproduces itself, there are fields and fields of the stuff and it’s just a nuisance,” Bureau of Narcotics spokesman Mark Woodward told The Oklahoman.
Oddly, although authorities claim that marijuana itself is a dangerous killer, they are unconcerned about the effects of smoking herbicides. According to Woodward, studies show that a person would need to smoke “47 herbicide-laced cigarettes” before it would harm them. This isn’t actually very many joints, but Woodward didn’t seem worried.
When asked why they bothered going after these low-potency, wild hemp plants with toxic herbicides, County Sheriff Tom Schaffer said, “It is still a big problem with us, even though a lot of people don’t think it is.”
Also, Oklahoma farmers who want to get rid of wild hemp on their land can now get free herbicide from the Bureau of Narcotics.