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More than 20,000 petition Colombia to stop aerial spraying of herbicides
Less than 24 hours before the National Narcotics Council decides whether to suspend the spraying, organizations deliver a citizens’ petition seeking a halt to social and environmental damages.
Bogota, Colombia. A coalition of nongovernmental organizations delivered a petition with more than 20,000 signatures to the Ministry of Justice today, urging a stop to widespread aerial spraying of glyphosate and other harmful chemicals over large swaths of land in Colombia with the objective of eradicating coca and poppy crops. The petition highlights the need to protect the environment and human health from damages caused by the spraying, which is done over forests, homes, farms and water sources.
Organizations sponsoring the petition, which was posted on the website Change.org, include the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (INDEPAZ), the Observatory of Crops Declared Illicit, the Washington Office on Latin America, and Latin American Working Group.
“In just a few days we received more than 20,000 signatures saying ‘no’ to the fumigation, not only with glyphosate, but with any herbicide used as an instrument in the war against drugs,” said Camilo González, Colombia’s former Minister of Health.
The National Narcotics Council, chaired by the Ministry of Justice, will meet today to decide whether or not to suspend the spraying.
“The Council should make its decision on the basis of law, considering scientific and technical evidence about the harmful impacts of spraying and the lack of desired results,” concluded Hector Herrera, attorney for AIDA and coordinator of the Environmental Justice Network of Colombia.
Alongside sponsoring organizations, the signers of the petition emphasize that the spraying should come to an end because it:
Causes serious health impacts: The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that glyphosate may cause cancer in humans. Independent studies have also documented other serious health effects from the spraying, such as skin diseases and problems during pregnancy.
Has not achieved its objective: Over more than 15 years, the spraying has failed to reduce the cultivation of coca and poppy crops for illicit use.
Causes serious environmental impacts: Spraying has been done indiscriminately over homes, farms and water sources. As a consequence, it has damaged biodiverse ecosystems and the species that live in them (fish, amphibians, rodents, insects, and endemic plants), polluted water, destroyed forests, and damaged food crops, a source of subsistence for many communities.
Displaces people: Having no alternatives to coca and poppy cultivation, entire families have left their land because of the spraying.
Ignores national and international socio-environmental standards: National tribunals such as the Constitutional Court have requested the suspension of spraying based on the precautionary principle. Colombia compensated Ecuador for the damages the spraying has caused along the border, and promised to suspend the practice in that region.
National and international experts explained these and other reasons to halt the aerial spraying program in a seminar today at the Center for Memory, Peace and Reconciliation in Bogota.
“For 40 years, the spraying of pesticides has been the subject of academic, scientific and legal analysis, which, though recommending the end of their application, have not always been public. These analyses have been dominated by politics of security and public order, but have left out health, environmental and legal recommendations. This approach has denied the existence of the socio-economic problems that persist in communities where crops are grown; it has denied the importance of recognizing the human rights of rural communities; and it has not recognized the new approach recommended by the United Nations Development Program to contain the expansion of illicit crops,” explained Pedro Arenas, coordinator of the Observatory of Crops Declared Illicit, who moderated the discussion group.
The Ministry of Health, the provincial and district secretaries of Health, the Ombudsman, and the Attorney General’s Office, among other authorities, agree with the thousands of people who signed the petition and the organizations that have promoted it.