Colombia’s government decided on Monday to resume using the controversial weed killer that was suspended less than a year ago amid cancer concerns, while upholding a ban on aerial spraying.
President Juan Manuel Santos banned the use of the chemical substance glyphosate last year following a World Health Organization warning that the chemical glysophate is potentially a carcinogen.
The chemical was used to eradicate coca, the plant used to make cocaine, but has been criticized for years after numerous complaint the Monsanto-produced chemical was randomly killing crops and affecting farmers’ health.
Colombian Defense Minister explained on Monday that the chemical will return to use but will be applied manually on the ground rather than being sprayed from the air by crop dusters.
“We’ll do it in a way that doesn’t contaminate, which is the same way it’s applied in any normal agricultural project,” Villegas told La FM radio, adding he hoped final approval to initiate the work would be completed this week.
The ban of the substance last year was praised by the country’s left-wing groups who likened the program to the United States’ use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a French-based research arm of WHO, reclassified the chemical as a carcinogen citing evidence that it produces cancer in lab animal.
Experts from the IARC also concluded that exposure to glyphosate has been associated with non-hodgkin lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, renal tubular carcinoma, skin tumors, and pancreatic adenoma.
Monsanto and other manufacturers of glyphosate-based products strongly rejected the ruling. They cited a 2012 finding by the US Environmental Protection Agency that the herbicide is safe.
The effectiveness of the use of the allegedly carcinogenic pesticide in Colombia’s fight to combat coca production has been hotly debated.
After six straight years of declining or steady production, the amount of land under coca cultivation in Colombia jumped 39 percent in 2014 and again in 2015 to 159,000 hectares (392,000 acres), according to the U.S. government.
Incidentally the justice minister, Yesid Reyes pointed out at the time of the ban that “after spraying 1.5 milion hectares in the past 12 years, the total reduction of coca crops was just 12,000 hectares.”
Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, he added: “Insanity is to continue doing the same thing and expect different results.”
Despite these conclusions just a year ago, the Santos administration have taken the decision to resume using glyphosate.
In a letter to the Justice Minister Yesid Reyes on Tuesday, the Inspector General questioned why the policy against illegal crops has not reduced the number of hectares and facilitates of illegal trafficking.
“The result could not be worse. According to the estimate of the amount of coca by the CNC in 2015, the country is literally swimming in cocaine. This report indicates that coca cultivation increased by almost 100% in two years, returning to 2007 levels, ” said Alejandro Ordoñez.
The decision on glyphosate use comes before a United Nations conference this week in New York to debate global strategies in the drug war.
President Santos will present a range of proposals to the UN calling for an overhaul of international drug policy, calling for member states to depart from previously failed initiatives.