Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Colombia to Resume Use of Glyphosate in Cocaine Fight

Health + Wellness
Colombia to Resume Use of Glyphosate in Cocaine Fight

A government official in Colombia announced that the country will once again use the controversial herbicide glyphosate to destroy illegal coca plantations, the crop used to make cocaine.

But instead of aerial fumigation by American-piloted crop dusters, glyphosate will be applied manually by eradication crews on the ground, the Associated Press reported.

"We'll do it in a way that doesn't contaminate, which is the same way it's applied in any normal agricultural project," Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas told La FM radio.

The move is a sharp turn from President Juan Manuel Santos' decision less than a year ago to suspend glyphosate due to the weedkiller's infamous link to cancer.

"I am going to ask the government officials in the National Drug Council at their next meeting to suspend glyphosate spraying of illicit cultivations," Santos said last May.

"The recommendations and studies reviewed by the Ministry of Health show clearly that yes, this risk exists," he added, referring to The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) classification of glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic."

Following the decision to end aerial spraying, the United Nations' Office on Drugs and Crime reported a sharp increase in Colombian coca cultivation. The report said:

The net coca cultivation area was up 44 percent year-on-year from 48,000 hectares in 2013 to 69,000 a year later, while the potential cocaine production, in turn, rose from 290 to 442 metric tons in the same period representing a 52 percent increase.

Villegas did not explain why the government reversed its stance, however he pointed out that increased coca production would affect the entire cocaine supply chain in Colombia and abroad.

Colombia is the largest supplier of cocaine to the U.S. and the spraying program was part of a two-decade long antidrug campaign backed by the U.S. to destroy the cultivation of coca. About 4.32 million acres have been sprayed since 1994 when test fumigations began, Newsweek reported.

A Change.org campaign was initiated to suspend aerial spraying with glyphosate and other harmful chemicals in Colombia. Photo credit: Jeremy Bigwood/AIDA

However, as Newsweek pointed out, critics called the program a disaster:

The people have been “sprayed like cockroaches” says Noel Amilcar Chapuez Guevara, governor of the council of Awa Tatchan, one of the many indigenous farming communities in Putumayo.

Often, wind would carry the pesticides to neighboring Ecuador, which eventually filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, arguing that the sprayings had caused serious damage to people, crops, animals and the environment. In 2013, the case was settled out of court for $15 million. But Colombia's citizens and victims have never seen a single peso for the damage done by the fumigations.

According to the Associated Press "the ban was heralded by leftists and members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia who have long compared the program to the United States' use of Agent Orange in Vietnam."

Glyphosate is used in products such as Monsanto's Roundup. The agritech giant has repeatedly insisted on the safety of their flagship product that's also the world's most widely used herbicide.

Experts insisted to the Associated Press that the better method to eradicate illegal coca is one that's already in place where workers pull up coca bushes by the roots to ensure plants can't grow back. The government has been promising to scale up this approach.

Meanwhile, glyphosate made another set of overseas headlines last week. Reuters reported that a European Parliament motion supported renewal for seven years instead of 15 and urged a ban on non-professional use, as well as in and around public parks and playgrounds.

European Parliament explained their resolution in a April 13 press release stating:

Given concerns about the carcinogenicity and endocrine disruptive properties of the herbicide glyphosate, used in many farm and garden applications, the EU Commission should renew its marketing approval for just 7 years, instead of 15, and for professional uses only, Parliament says in a resolution voted on Wednesday. MEPs call for an independent review and the publication of all the scientific evidence that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) used to assess glyphosate.

Glyphosate use is opposed by some EU member states such as France, Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands. Britain and Germany reportedly are in favor of its use.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

GMO Mushroom Sidesteps UDSA Regulations

Glyphosate Found in Popular Breakfast Foods

9 Ways Climate Change Is Making Us Sick

Costco Lends Money to Farmer to Buy More Land to Meet Growing Demand for Organics

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

This image of the Santa Monica Mountains in California shows how a north-facing slope (left) can be covered in white-blooming hoaryleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius), while the south-facing slope (right) is much less sparsely covered in a completely different plant. Noah Elhardt / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.5

By Mark Mancini

If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.

Read More Show Less
Flames from the Lake Fire burn on a hillside near a fire truck and other vehicles on Aug. 12, 2020 in Lake Hughes, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.

Read More Show Less
Although heat waves rarely get the attention that hurricanes do, they kill far more people per year in the U.S. and abroad. greenaperture / Getty Images

By Jeff Berardelli

Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020

If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.

Read More Show Less

A film by Felix Nuhr.

Thailand has a total population of 5,000 elephants. But of that number, 3,000 live in captivity, carrying tourists on their backs and offering photo opportunities made for social media.

Read More Show Less
Scientists have found a way to use bricks as batteries, meaning that buildings may one day be used to store and generate power. Public Domain Pictures

One of the challenges of renewable power is how to store clean energy from the sun, wind and geothermal sources. Now, a new study and advances in nanotechnology have found a method that may relieve the burden on supercapacitor storage. This method turns bricks into batteries, meaning that buildings themselves may one day be used to store and generate power, Science Times reported.

Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.

The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.

If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.

The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.

"A solar cell on the roof of your house has to store electricity somewhere and typically we use batteries," D'Arcy told The Guardian. "What we have done is provide a new 'food-for-thought' option, but we're not there yet.

"If [that can happen], this technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries," D'Arcy added. "It would be a different world and you would not hear the words 'lithium ion battery' again."

Aerial view of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Gamboa, Panama, where a new soil study was held, on Sept. 11, 2019. LUIS ACOSTA / AFP via Getty Images

One of the concerns about a warming planet is the feedback loop that will emerge. That is, as the planet warms, it will melt permafrost, which will release trapped carbon and lead to more warming and more melting. Now, a new study has shown that the feedback loop won't only happen in the nether regions of the north and south, but in the tropics as well, according to a new paper in Nature.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods speaks during a press conference after a shooting at Forest High School on April 20, 2018 in Ocala, Florida. Gerardo Mora / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

A sheriff in Florida is under fire for deciding Tuesday to ban his deputies from wearing face masks while on the job—ignoring the advice of public health experts about the safety measures that everyone should take during the coronavirus pandemic as well as the rising Covid-19 death toll in his county and state.

Read More Show Less