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News > Latin America

Colombia Justifies Use of Drones in Glyphosate Fumigations

  • Aerial fumigations have been denounced by communities that claim they have adverse effects on their health and the environment.

    Aerial fumigations have been denounced by communities that claim they have adverse effects on their health and the environment. | Photo: EFE

Published 5 September 2018

Colombian defense minister told senators they would continue aerial fumigation of illegal crops.

Colombia’s Defense Minister Guillermo Botero defended Tuesday the army’s use of drones to fumigate illegal crops with the controversial herbicide glyphosate.

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In 2015, Colombia halted aerial fumigation due to unintended contamination of legal crops and water sources. A year before the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that if there was evidence of negative consequences the government had to stop using that method to fight the illegal crops.

Recently, the multinational and glyphosate producer Monsanto was sentenced to pay US$289 million to gardener Dewayne Johnson, who a court ruled had terminal cancer due to the use of a glyphosate-based herbicide. In 2015, the World Health Organization classified the chemical as “potentially carcinogenic for humans.”

In 2008 Ecuador, Colombia’s southern neighbor, successfully sued Colombia before the International Criminal Court in The Hague over “grave genetic damages cause to the population in the border who was exposed by Colombia to glyphosate.”

Despite all this, in January the Colombian government resumed the use of the chemical in widespread fumigations.

Fumigations were expected to increase after the United States Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) reported a record increase in coca plantations and ONDCP deputy director Jim Carroll said in June "President Trump's message to Colombia is clear: the record growth in cocaine production must be reversed."  

Botero’s remarks were made during al debate in the Senate in which several legislators rejected the use of the herbicide while others stressed that the problem of illicit crops needed a political and economic response.

Resuming fumigation also goes against the peace accords signed in 2016 between the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government of Colombia, which establishes that voluntary eradication in agreement with the communities involved would be favored over mandatory and coerced eradication methods.

Colombia’s Defense Minister argued that the chemicals used for the production of cocaine cause more environmental damage than fumigation, and told senators use of drones will continue. He also claimed other army units are prompting productive projects to help communities to substitute illicit crops.

However, members of the FARC and peace activists have criticized the former government for lack of progress in state-sponsored economic and productive programs for affected communities.  

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