Environmental News Network reports that the Colombian government has begun fulfilling one of its obligations under a $1.3 billion U.S. aid package approved last summer and stepped up its aerial spraying of herbicides in southern Colombia.
The Colombian army estimates that about 75,000 acres of coca plants have been eradicated through intensive spraying of Roundup Ultra. ENN reports that the herbicide is being sprayed indiscriminately and so also wipes out non-narcotics crops as well including corn and yucca plantings.
Four Colombian governors recently traveled to the United States to demand an end to the program, with Guillermo Jaramillo Martinez, governor of Tolima, stating the obvious that, “The farmers are the weakest in the narcotics traffic chain. They are cultivating illegal crops because they have no other alternative.”
And, of course, even if the eradication program is effective it will still have a perverse effect on Colombian agriculture. Any resulting decline in cocaine supply to the United States would simply cause an increase in prices which would provide ever more incentive for farmers to find ways to grow coca in spite of the spraying (not to mention fueling more violent drug-related crime in the United States that usually accompanies increases in drug prices).
That economic theory of drug demand and supply is confirmed by the fact that since the eradication efforts began seriously in the early 1990s, the amount of land cultivated for coca has tripled.
Like an addict who thinks that just one more hit will make everything better, however, the U.S. government can’t seem to get enough of its attempts to use chemicals to make its domestic drug abuse problem go away.
War on drugs takes toll on environment. Margot Higgins, Environmental News Network, March 21, 2001.