HomeNewsBriefReport Linking Pesticide to Cancer Could Undermine Colombia Coca Eradication
BRIEF

Report Linking Pesticide to Cancer Could Undermine Colombia Coca Eradication

COCA / 24 MAR 2015 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

World Health Organization affiliated scientists have declared that the weed killer used to aerially eradicate coca crops in Colombia is probably carcinogenic, raising questions about whether the government can justify continuing with its controversial policy.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has published a report stating that glyphosate, the chemical sprayed onto Colombia's coca plantations by crop dusting planes, causes DNA and chromosomal damage in human and animal cells studied in laboratories and is likely carcinogenic.

The IARC's analysis of workers exposed to the chemical also suggested a correlation between exposure and an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The agrochemical manufacturer Monsanto contested the findings, pointing to conclusions by other regulatory agencies including US Environmental Protection Agency rulings on the safe use of glyphosate, reported Al Jazeera America.

In 2013, Colombia sprayed glyphosate on 47,053 hectares of coca, according to the United Nations coca cultivation survey. While this has dropped from a 2006 high of 172,025 hectares, it still accounted for 68 percent of Colombia's total eradication efforts for the year.

InSight Crime Analysis

Colombia is the only coca producing country that allows aerial fumigations, and spraying illegal crops has been a highly controversial policy since it was first introduced in 1994.

Communities in affected areas complain that the fumigations kill off their legal food crops planted nearby, as well as destroying the livelihoods of coca farmers, who only see a tiny fraction of the profits from the cocaine trade.

For years, rural populations have also complained that the spraying has caused health issues such as skin and respiratory problems, birth defects and miscarriages. While this has proven difficult to verify, research has shown a correlation between spraying and rising incidences of skin disorders and miscarriages.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Coca

Critics of the program, which span the spectrum from the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to the president of the Colombian government's special advisory commission on drug policy, have long called for a reevaluation of the policy, and the IARC report will make it increasingly difficult to ignore these calls.

In addition, the study raises the possibility that those exposed to the potentially carcinogenic substance could take legal action. Colombia has already settled out of court with its neighbor Ecuador, which took Colombia to the International Court of Justice at The Hague over alleged damage to Ecuador caused by spraying near the border. The Colombian authorities agreed to pay $15 million in damages and to place restrictions on aerial fumigation near the border.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 27 JUL 2017

On April 3, 2014, a dozen plainclothes police officers crashed through the door of Norbert Reinhart's Medellín apartment brandishing an…

COLOMBIA / 10 NOV 2016

In the wake of Donald Trump's surprising victory in the US presidential election, InSight Crime considers the impact his administration…

COLOMBIA / 14 NOV 2012

Over the years, the Cifuentes Villa family has collaborated with one drug trafficking cartel after another, from the AUC to…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.