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AIDA celebrates historic decision to suspend fumigation with glyphosate in Colombia
AIDA calls on the National Environmental Licensing Agency to immediately cancel the permit authorizing the chemical spraying program. Thanks to more than 24,000 people who signed a petition on Change.org to suspend fumigation and to colleagues and organizations that participated in the campaign.
Bogota, Colombia. The Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) welcomes the Colombian government’s decision to suspend the aerial spraying of coca and poppy crops with glyphosate in the country. To implement this decision, the National Environmental Licensing Agency must rule immediately and cancel the permit granted to the chemical spraying program.
"This is a historic moment for health, the environment, and respect for law in Colombia," said Astrid Puentes Riaño, Co-Director of AIDA. "We know it was a complex decision, but in light of a policy that has proved ineffective and caused serious damage, it was also a smart decision to change course and find real solutions."
AIDA has followed the Illicit Crop Eradication Program in Colombia since the late 1990s. We have repeatedly decried the serious damage to health and the environment caused by the glyphosate mixture applied in Colombia, and advocated more appropriate alternatives to eradicate coca and poppy crops.
The decision to suspend the spraying, made last night by the National Narcotics Council with an overwhelming majority of seven votes to one, will become effective if the National Environmental Licensing Agency revokes the permit authorizing the program. AIDA believes that the permit should be canceled immediately because the program was designed to use glyphosate, and without it the program no longer makes sense.
One day before the decision, AIDA delivered a petition to suspend the spraying, with more than 24,000 signatures, to the Minister of Justice, who also chairs the Narcotics Council. The petition, posted on Change.org, was sponsored by AIDA in conjunction with the Institute for Studies of Development and Peace (INDEPAZ) and the Observatory of Crops and Growers Declared Illicit, with support from Washington Office on Latin America and Latin American Working Group. In one week the petition received 24,933 signatures.
"We thank everyone who signed and those who for years have requested this change in policy; this is a shared achievement," said Hector Herrera, AIDA attorney and coordinator of the Environmental Justice Network in Colombia. "We look forward to creation of a technical committee to make recommendations and hope that it is participatory and transparent."
The suspension of the fumigation program followed a finding, issued by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, that glyphosate may be carcinogenic. This finding led the Ministry of Health to recommended suspending the program, which Colombia’s Constitutional Court and other national courts had unsuccessfully requested years before, citing the precautionary principle.
This principle, found in international environmental law, was incorporated into Colombian legislation in 1993. It holds that in the absence of scientific certainty, when a risk of serious or irreversible health or environmental damage may be present, the authorities should take steps to avoid that risk.
In the case of spraying, the requirements for applying the precautionary principle are met. Although there is no absolute scientific certainty of causal harm, more than 15 years of evidence points to possible serious and irreversible damage to health and the environment, including risk of cancer and skin diseases, damage to amphibians and fish, and damage to forests and food crops. The Colombian government, for the sake of caution, finally suspended spraying to prevent further damage.