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Drug Crop-Killing Fungi Too Risky, Scientists Say

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #712)
Politics & Advocacy

Using pathogenic fungi to eradicate coca, opium, or other illicit drug crops is too risky because there is not enough data about how to control them and what effect they could have on people and the environment, according to a panel of scientists commissioned to study the subject by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office).

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The finding came in a report, Feasibility of Using Mycoherbicides for Controlling Illicit Drug Crops, which was released November 30 by a panel of scientists convened by the National Research Council (NRC). ONDCP requested the report after it was required do to so by Congress in its 2006 budget authorization bill.

Mycoherbicides are killer fungi that can be targeted at specific plants and reproduce themselves, staying in the soil for years. Hard-line drug control advocates have urged their use against coca in Colombia and opium in Afghanistan, seeing them as a potential "magic bullet" that could eliminate drug problems at the source. But Colombia rejected the use of mycoherbicides in 2002 and the Afghan government has strongly signaled that it is not interested in using them there.

The NRC scientists found that the evidence base to support using mycoherbicides was scanty. "Questions about the degree of control that could be achieved with such mycoherbicides, as well as uncertainties about their potential effects on non-target plants, microorganisms, animals, humans, and the environment must be addressed before considering deployment," they said.

The panel did not reject outright the use of mycoherbicides; instead, it recommended "research to study several candidate strains of each fungus in order to identify the most efficacious under a broad array of environmental conditions." But it warned that "conducting the research does not guarantee that a feasible mycoherbicide product will result, countermeasures can be developed against mycoherbicides, and there are unavoidable risks from releasing substantial numbers of living organisms into an ecosystem."

The use of mycoherbicides would require meeting multiple domestic regulatory requirements, as well as possible additional regulations and agreements before being used on drug crops in foreign countries, the report noted. That might also prove problematic because "approval to conduct tests in countries where mycoherbicides might be used has been difficult or impossible to obtain in the past."

Congressional and bureaucratic drug warriors are going to have to look elsewhere for their "magic bullet" to win the war on drugs -- unless they're in the mood to appropriate more funds for more research that may or may not come up with a workable mycoherbicide. Then all they would have to do is sell the idea to the government of the country they want to spray it on.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


KeLeMi (not verified)

For those of you who aren't old enough to remember Vietnam, we tried using "Agent Orange", a defoliant in Vietnam to wipe out foliage that gave the NLF (AKA Viet Cong) sanctuary. Thousands of American and Vietnamese died of cancer as a result of this. Yes, I opposed the war in Vietnam then the way I oppose the war in Iraq and on Drugs now. Massive defoliants were a bad idea then and a bad idea now.

Sat, 12/03/2011 - 10:10am Permalink
Moonrider (not verified)

Problem is our so called "leaders" in DC are stupid enough they just might ignore this sensible warning and do it anyway. The only one of them with any common sense at all is Ron Paul -- he has tons of common sense as well as honesty and consistency, and he absolutely opposes the federal war on drugs.

Sun, 12/04/2011 - 4:41am Permalink
Carmen Brown (not verified)

In reply to by Moonrider (not verified)

Ron Paul would end the federal war on drugs in a major hurry. He has always voted against any and every part of it.
Fri, 12/09/2011 - 9:01pm Permalink
Giordano (not verified)

There are few things more threatening than arbitrarily introducing a foreign life form into a new environment. 

Cane toads in Australia are one example.  Nematode infestations of American sugar beet crops force growers to use annual crop rotations on farmlands.  And now we have in the great history of prohibition debacles, fungi foreign to an area, a life form that will most likely compete with the natural fungi found in vadose zone soils, championed as Congress’s idea of a drug war solution.  Can anyone wonder why Congress currently has a 9% approval rating?

It was Senator (now VP) Joe Biden (D-DE), Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and the now disgraced, former U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), who collectively planned this evil assault on our precious environment.   

With Hatch and Biden still in public office, Americans should be horrified that these high ranking politicians have so little knowledge of science, or respect for the environment, that they would even think of promoting invasions of unnatural species into natural habitats.  This is know-nothingness at its worst.  Of course, know-nothingness is typical of prohibitionists, but I digress.

Several things can be done.  Ignorance in government can be treated like the government treats drug abusers.  Ignoramuses such as VP Biden and Senator Hatch can be placed in detention, stripped of their humanity, stigmatized, persecuted, their civil rights including gun ownership and options for full medical treatment and jobs eliminated, their property forfeited, their families placed on welfare, and of course, they themselves subjected to science treatment camps where they will be bombarded with facts 24/7 as punishment for being socially unevolved.

Or one might just email Joe Biden and Orrin Hatch and tell them to go read a book.  Here are their email addresses.

VP Joe Biden:

Senator Orrin Hatch:


Sun, 12/04/2011 - 2:38pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

Common sense biology. Poison the food supply by cross-pollination, take the land and ...... now what? Until those Satanic - Evil Bringing Plants are wiped off the Earth, there shall be no peace. God forbid that Man use a Plant to get a buzz when you have all this taxed alcohol and pills for sale at a corner near you. Remember this = I know a place that sell`s drug`s = Alcohol , tobacco , guns and pills , with children everywhere. It`s called Wal-Mart. Imagine the depravation that must occur at those locations. Sheer Madness at a minimum. When you allow the growing of a Plant to be considered a crime, then you know you have a problem. 2012.

Tue, 12/06/2011 - 2:01am Permalink
rocky (not verified)

trying to make a drug free world...good luck....the worst idea i have ever heard,talking about creating a virus, that's what will happen dumb f--ks

Wed, 12/07/2011 - 3:36pm Permalink
joebanana (not verified)

That's all the more reason for government to waste no time implicating this "new" program. I'm sure the panel that came to this conclusion will "move on to other things" like life long detention.

Thu, 12/08/2011 - 2:46pm Permalink

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