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AIDA Press Release: Plan Colombia Herbicide Spraying Not Proven Safe for the Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 21, 2006 CONTACT: Anna Cederstav, AIDA (510) 550-6700 [email protected] Astrid Puentes, AIDA (5255) 52120141 [email protected] PLAN COLOMBIA AERIAL HERBICIDE SPRAYING NOT PROVEN SAFE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Ecuador's concerns about border sprayings are well founded says international environmental NGO OAKLAND, CA, MÉXICO, D.F. - Last week, the Colombian government violated a bilateral accord with Ecuador when it sprayed a mixture of herbicides intended to destroy coca crops within 10 kilometers of the Ecuadorian border. Colombia is relying on studies by a team from the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States (OAS) to claim that the spray mixture is safe. However, an independent review of CICAD's recent studies shows that the pesticide mixture being sprayed has not, in fact, been proven safe for the environment, and that Ecuador has substantial cause to oppose the sprayings. According to the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), the first CICAD Environmental and Human Health Assessment of the Aerial Spray Program for Coca and Poppy Control in Colombia, released in 2005, did not assess many of the greatest potential ecological and human health risks posed by the aerial eradication program in Colombia. Because of these original omissions and the potential environmental risk of the spraying, the U.S. Congress requested further studies to determine whether the mixture is truly harmful to the environment. Preliminary results from the follow-up studies, released in August 2006, show that the mixture is indeed potentially harmful to the environment, and particularly to amphibians - the spray mixture killed 50 percent of the amphibians exposed within 96 hours. According to Earthjustice scientist and AIDA's Program Director Anna Cederstav, "Contrary to what is argued by the government, this study shows sufficient cause for concern to suspend the sprayings due to potential environmental impacts, especially considering that Colombia has the second highest amphibian biodiversity in the world and the most threatened amphibian species." Many other key questions about the environmental impacts of the spray mixture also remain unanswered, despite the U.S. Congressional mandate to conduct the studies. For example, the State Department has not provided adequate information about the location of and risk to sensitive water bodies and has done nothing to address whether other threatened species are likely to be harmed. Without these determinations, the claim by the Colombian government that the spray mixture is safe enough to spray along the Ecuadorian border is misinformed. "Based on the scientific evidence, and the fact that many questions remain unanswered, as well as the precautionary principle and the international obligation not to cause impacts to the territories of other States, the Colombian government should halt spraying and implement more effective and non-environmentally harmful alternatives for coca eradication," said Astrid Puentes, AIDA's Legal Director. Read AIDA's report regarding the omissions of the original CICAD studies here: http://www.aida- .pdf. Read AIDA's critique of the follow-up studies here: For background information and more about AIDA's work on Plan Colombia, visit:
Oakland, CA
United States

Official: Ecuador won't break ties with Colombia


Feature: Marijuana is America's Number One Cash Crop, Study Finds

A study released Monday finds that marijuana is now the nation's biggest cash crop, with the value of the annual harvest exceeding that of corn, soybeans or hay -- the country's top three legal cash crops. The study, conducted by public policy analyst and former National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws head Jon Gettman, used official government figures to arrive at an estimate that the annual pot crop is worth $35 billion.
indoor marijuana grow
According to the report, Marijuana Production in the United States (2006), US domestic marijuana production has increased 10-fold in the past quarter-century. This despite ever more intensive eradication programs at the state and federal levels that have seen more than 100 million pot plants seized and destroyed since the early 1980s.

Between 1981 and 2006, US marijuana production increased ten-fold, from 1,000 metric tons (2.2 million pounds) to 10,000 metric tons (22 million pounds), according to government figures cited by Gettman. The massive expansion of pot production in the face of increased eradication efforts suggests that "marijuana has become a pervasive and ineradicable part of our national economy" that should be put under a system of legal regulation, Gettman wrote.

And it is everywhere. While California, Tennessee, Kentucky, Hawaii, and Washington are the top producing states, pot is the top cash crop in 12 states and among the top three in 30 states. "There is a lot of demand for marijuana in the US, and it's only natural that production would increase here," Gettman told Drug War Chronicle.

But the increase is also a function of government enforcement efforts, Gettman argued. "In response to the government spraying Mexican marijuana with paraquat in the 1970s, people began to grow in California and Hawaii. Then the government starting flying helicopters and airplanes around looking for marijuana from the sky, so cultivation spread out," he explained. "By 1982, it was in 32 states. Now, it's in all 50 states. Growers also moved to smaller plots and to maximize production with the use of fertilizers, better genetic stock, and the production of sinsemilla, and they moved inside. Everything the government has done to stop marijuana production has caused growers to respond, and now we are at a point where we have diffused cultivation and small-scale production all over the country," the analyst argued.

"This report tells us our marijuana policy is not working very well, and that's an understatement," Gettman summarized. "These are the government's numbers, not mine, and they show there is absolutely no evidence their program is successful in any way, shape, or form."

"The fact that marijuana is America's number one cash crop after more than three decades of governmental eradication efforts is the clearest illustration that our present marijuana laws are a complete failure," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which spearheaded the media outreach following the report's publication. "America's marijuana crop is worth more than our nation's annual production of corn and wheat combined. And our nation's laws guarantee that 100% of the proceeds from marijuana sales go to unregulated criminals rather than to legitimate businesses that pay taxes to support schools, police and roads."

While Gettman did not estimate possible tax revenues from the regulated sale of marijuana, he suggested they would be substantial. "Legal production would bring down the prices, but the fact that people are buying marijuana at black market prices demonstrates that people value marijuana and will pay for it," said Gettman. "Marijuana can be heavily taxed and still provide lower prices than now while providing revenues to the government," he argued.

In California, the state's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) seized nearly 1.7 million plants this year, but based on seizure rates over the last three years, Gettman puts California's pot production at 21 million plants, worth about $13 billion and responsible for a whopping 38% of total US production.

The country should focus on regulating the lucrative trade instead of vainly trying to suppress it, Gettman concluded. "Like all profitable agricultural crops marijuana adds resources and value to the economy," he writes in the report. "The focus for public policy should be how to effectively control this market through regulation and taxation in order to achieve immediate and realistic goals, such as reducing teenage access."

Neither CAMP nor the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) returned Chronicle calls for comment on the study, but ONDCP's Tom Riley told the Los Angeles Times that while he wouldn’t argue Gettman's numbers, he disagreed with his conclusions. "Coca is Colombia's largest cash crop and that hasn't worked out for them, and opium poppies are Afghanistan's largest crop, and that has worked out disastrously for them," Riley said. "I don't know why we would venture down that road."

Chávez Backs Ecuador in Attacking U.S. Drug War

The New York Times

Latin America: Peruvian President Lauds Coca Leaf in Salad, Blasts Guerrillas

Peruvian President Alan Garcia had coca on his mind this week. In response to an attack Saturday by presumed Shining Path guerrillas working with drug traffickers that killed five police officers and two government coca control workers, Garcia called for the imposition of the death penalty. Just a day later, perhaps to indicate he is not anti-coca, he told a foreign press news gathering that coca would be wonderful consumed in salads.
coca seedlings
Peru is the world's second largest coca producer, after Colombia, and indigenous Peruvians have been growing the leafy bush for thousands of years for its sacramental, nutritional and mild stimulative properties. The plant is grown legally in some parts of the country under arrangement with ENACO, the National Coca Company, which holds a monopoly on legal sales and purchases.

But Peru is also the world's second largest producer of cocaine, which is derived from coca either grown legally and diverted from ENACO or grown illegally. For years, the country has embraced a policy of eradication of illicit crops, which has pleased Washington but left Peru's coca growers angry and frustrated. President Garcia in October pledged during a Washington meeting with President Bush to continue the policy of eradication.

Some coca growing areas have been under a state of emergency for the past two months, and the Garcia government announced this week that it would be continued for another two months after the killings, which took place in Ayacucho province. The attack, described as a carefully-planned ambush, took place during a police crackdown on unsanctioned coca growing in the region. More than 20 police have been killed in similar attacks in the past year.

Two days after the attack, Garcia told lawmakers they should allow the death penalty for such crimes. Currently, the death penalty in Peru is allowed only in cases of treason during war-time. Congress should "give the necessary tools to the judges and to the executive branch to definitely eliminate these leftover [Shining Path rebels]." They should be dealt with using "the most energetic and harshest sanction that the law... permits," Garcia said.

But the next day, Garcia defended the coca leaf and his drug policy to foreign reporters. Coca leaf is great in salads, Garcia said. "I insist that it can be consumed directly and elegantly in salad. It has good nutritional value." Garcia added that one of the country's best-known chefs, Gaston Acurio, had recently served several coca-based dishes at the Government Palace. "He offered us some tamales and pies made with coca flour. He offered us a coca liqueur cocktail," Garcia said. "Could eating coca leaf be harmful? No, absolutely not."

Such talk aligns Garcia with Bolivian President Evo Morales and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Those two leaders are touting the industrial uses of coca and collaborating on a production plant in Bolivia.

Garcia told reporters that Peru's anti-drug policy is based "fundamentally" on controlling the sale of precursor chemicals used for cocaine production, but that Peruvian police must also do a better job of combating the cocaine traffic. As much as 90% of Peruvian coca goes to the cocaine trade, not the coca industry.

Marijuana Defeats Mexican Soldiers in Battle

From The Washington Post:

Soldiers trying to seize control of one Mexico's top drug-producing regions found the countryside teeming with a new hybrid marijuana plant that can be cultivated year-round and cannot be killed with pesticides.
Soldiers fanned out across some of the new fields Tuesday, pulling up plants by the root and burning them, as helicopter gunships clattered overhead to give them cover from a raging drug war in the western state of Michoacan. The plants' roots survive if they are doused with herbicide, said army Gen. Manuel Garcia.

You gotta hand it to these brave soldiers for standing their ground against such a resourceful enemy.

Research into marijuana hybridization has largely been conducted in secret, but it's well understood that this plant is particularly amenable to genetic modification. The abundance of diverse strains with silly names is more than a marketing scheme. Marijuana grows and breeds vigorously, thus it's relatively easy for knowledgeable people (who aren't in jail) to design marijuana plants that are ideal for certain growing conditions.

The ability to withstand chemical warfare is marijuana's most impressive achievement yet, although curing all sorts of diseases is pretty cool too.

I always feel a bit nutty when I say this, but it's true: marijuana is arguably Mother Nature's most impressive botanical accomplishment. Its ability to make people feel good has earned it some enemies among the anti-fun crowd, but that's only one of its many useful properties. You can also make nutritious food out of it, which is a great quality in a plant that grows so resiliently.

In this case, innovation was inspired by the drug war, but under other circumstances it's easy for sane people to assume that other noble purposes could be achieved by experimenting (scientifically) with marijuana. It requires great foolishness to miss the point that this magnificent plant is supposed to be used for something.

…and greater foolishness to think that it can be made to go away.

United States

Mexicans weed out new super marijuana

Lazaro Cardenas
Chicago Sun-Times

Mexican Officials Find Nearly 1,800 Marijuana Fields

Fox News

Afghanistan: Government Warns of Possible Poppy Crop Spraying

United Nations Integretated Regional Information Networks (IRIN News)

Bad Science: Congress Passes Measure Okaying Mycoherbicide Testing, But Limits It to US Labs

As part of last Friday's passage of the reauthorization bill for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Congress authorized the testing of mycoherbicides -- toxic, fungal plant killers -- for use against illicit drug crops in Latin America. But in what the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) called a "significant reform," the legislation was modified to restrict testing to laboratories in the United States.
fusarium-ravaged grain demonstrates the danger
The brainchild of drug warriors Reps. Mark Souder (R-IN) and Dan Burton (R-IN), the measure passed the House in July 2005. Thanks to the efforts of Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Joe Biden (D-DE), it was attached to the ONDCP bill and passed last week.

As DRCNet reported earlier this year, government agencies are not jumping on the mycoherbicide bandwagon. Agencies including the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, the Department of Agriculture, the State Department, the CIA and even the DEA, have rejected the idea as dangerous for health and the environment as well as likely to meet with resistant strains of poppy and coca against which it would be ineffective.

DPA began organizing against the measure this spring, and when it got fast-tracked this month, drug reform groups including DRCNet, DPA and others raised the alarm. "This a huge victory because it means the people and environment of Latin America will be protected," a DPA bulletin noted. "We have you to thank for this reform because so many of you called Congress asking for the provision to be changed."

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