Pubdate: Mon, 23 Mar 2015
Source: Mercury, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2015 Davies Brothers Ltd


BOGOTA: The recent labelling of the world's most popular weed killer 
as a likely cause of cancer is raising more questions for an aerial 
spraying programme in Colombia that is the cornerstone of the 
US-backed war on drugs.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a French-based 
research arm of the World Health Organisation, has reclassified the 
herbicide glyphosate as a result of what it says is convincing 
evidence the chemical produces cancer in lab animals and more limited 
findings that it causes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in humans.

The ruling last week is likely to send shock waves around the globe, 
where the herbicide Roundup is a mainstay of industrial agriculture.

In Colombia, there is an added political dimension stemming from the 
fierce debate which has raged over a programme that has sprayed more 
than 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares) of land in the past two 
decades to kill coca plants, whose leaves are used to produce cocaine.

The fumigation programme, which is financed by the US and partly 
carried out by American contractors, has long been an irritant to 
Colombia's left, which likens it to the US military's use of the 
Agent Orange herbicide during the Vietnam War.

Daniel Mejia, a Bogota-based economist who is chairman of an expert 
panel advising the Colombian government on its drug strategy, said 
the new report was by far the most authoritative and could end up 
burying the programme.

A paper he published last year, based on a study of medical records 
between 2003 and 2007, found a higher incidence of skin problems and 
miscarriages in districts targeted by aerial spraying.

Colombia has already been scaling back fumigation in favour of manual 
eradication efforts amid mounting criticism.  Sapa-AP
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