For 15 years beginning in 2000, the United States and Colombia sent airplanes to spray toxic pesticides over Colombian coca and poppy fields. The multi-million-dollar program was called Plan Colombia.
The pesticides drifted over homes, vegetable fields, livestock, rivers, and forests. Indigenous and other people who lived in the area suffered health problems, as did fish, amphibians, rodents, insects, and plants. Entire families left their land because of the spraying.
After a decade and a half of spraying, cultivation of coca and poppy crops remained as widespread as ever.
During those years, AIDA collaborated with many organizations, institutions and individuals to:
- Inform authorities in Colombia and the United States of the social and environmental damages Plan Colombia caused;
- Request more thorough environmental and health assessments;
- Bring an end to spraying in Colombia’s natural parks and on the Ecuadorian border;
- Document environmentally sustainable projects that are more effective at curbing cultivation of illicit crops;
- Present to Colombia’s Constitutional Court two technical reports about the environmental and public-health impacts of aerial pesticide spraying – which helped convince the court to rule in favor of people harmed by the spraying in two court cases.
In April 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate, the main pesticide used, as probably carcinogenic to humans. On the basis of this decision, Colombia’s Ministry of Health recommended suspension of spraying operations to the Ministry of Justice.
Within weeks, AIDA and partners gathered almost 25,000 signatures on a citizens’ petition to urge the National Narcotics Council to suspend spraying – which it did in May 2015.
The National Environmental Licensing Agency made that decision final when it revoked authorization of the spraying program in September 2015.