In an titanic fit of myopia, the US House of Representatives has passed a bill that advances a US plan to wage biological warfare against Colombia and other countries where illicit narcotics are produced. If passed by the US Senate, the bill (HR 2829) will require the US Drug Czar to quickly formulate a plan to field test biological weapons designed to eradicate illicit crops.
The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) prohibits all biological warfare, including attacks on crops. The BWC has no exemptions – not for the Drug War, nor for the US Congress. The US eradication project thus violates the BWC’s Article I, which prohibits development and stockpiling of biological weapons.
The Sunshine Project will call upon the BWC to prevent violation of the treaty by the United States. In April, the Sunshine Project will distribute an Agent Green dossier to governments attending a preparatory meeting for the BWC’s upcoming 6th Review Conference. If the US bill is signed into law, the Sunshine Project will press for multilateral action by the BWC 6th Review Conference itself, when it meets in November.
Opposition in South America, the primary target of the plan, spans the political spectrum. When first confronted by US biowarfare pressure in 1999-2000, the Colombian government decided against testing and use of biological agents to eradicate illicit crops. Other Andean countries also oppose the plan, as do many environmental and peace NGOs. So do indigenous peoples who grow coca for cultural purposes unrelated to the drug trade, a constituency that includes Evo Morales, the recently-elected President of Bolivia.
Speaking to the Colombian daily El Tiempo on Monday, former Colombian President Andr?s Pastrana, now Bogot?’s Ambassador in Washington, emphatically reiterated Colombia’s opposition to the plan, telling the paper, “During my government we opposed it. And Colombia’s position, now under President ?lvaro Uribe, has not changed.”
The main biological weapons agents under US consideration are strains of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum that attack coca and other illicit crops. With its serious human health and environmental risks, F. oxysporum has been dubbed “Agent Green” by civil society opponents, who liken it to the defoliant Agent Orange that was used by the US in Vietnam. In the US conception, huge amounts of specially-formulated Fusarium would be sprayed from large military aircraft to blanket large portions of Colombia and, potentially, other countries.
The HR 2829 provision does not specifically mention Colombia or Fusarium, although it does specify that the testing plan should be for a “major drug producing nation”. This opens the possibility that the tests could be conducted elsewhere, such as Central Asia, where the US has supported development of biological weapons for use against opium poppy. Given past events, however, the bill’s language is widely interpreted to refer to Colombia.
The Sunshine Project hopes that the US Senate will catch this egregious mistake and that the provision will be struck from any related bill that it considers. With US fear about a biological weapons attack and spending on biodefense both at unprecedented levels, it is difficult to envision a more unwise US policy than for it to field test biological weapons and to seek to perpetrate a biological attack on other countries.
PDF copy (see page 30)
HR 2829, titled “An Act to reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy Act”, was sponsored by Rep. Mark Rep Souder, an Indiana Republican. The Agent Green provision was placed in the bill at the behest of Rep. Dan Burton, another Indiana Republican who is an enthusiastic supporter of using biological weapons against Colombia and other countries. As reported to the US Senate this Monday, the provision reads as follows:
SEC. 6. AMENDMENTS RELATING TO APPOINTMENT AND DUTIES OF DIRECTOR AND DEPUTY DIRECTOR. …
(n) REQUIREMENT FOR SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF MYCOHERBICIDE IN ILLICIT DRUG CROP ERADICATION.-Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall submit to the Congress a report that includes a plan to conduct, on an expedited basis, a scientific study of the use of mycoherbicide as a means of illicit drug crop elimination by an appropriate Government scientific research entity, including a complete and thorough scientific peer review. The study shall include an evaluation of the likely human health and environmental impacts of such use. The report shall also include a plan to conduct controlled scientific testing in a major drug producing nation of mycoherbicide naturally existing in the producing nation.
Sources for Background information
The Sunshine Project maintains an Agent Green web page, including a detailed background report (updated in September 2005) on the human health and environmental risks at: www.sunshine-project.org/agentgreen
Independent researcher Jeremy Bigwood has also extensively investigated the issue. His Agent Green website is: www.mycoherbicide.info
In 2000, the BBC’s flagship investigative journalism program Panorama interviewed proponents of the plan, including the US “inventor” of Agent Green, who concedes that it constitutes biological warfare and says that it should be applied by force: News.bbc.co.uk