Pubdate: Mon, 18 Dec 2000
Source: Holland Sentinel (MI)
Copyright: 2000 The Holland Sentinel
Contact:  54 W. Eighth St., Holland, MI 49423
Fax: (616)392-1717
Author: Pamela Nordhof


To the Editor:

Last summer Congress approved $1.3 billion in aid to Colombia as part 
of our "war on drugs." Part of this money is being used to provide 
the chemicals, aircraft and personnel for aerial fumigation of coca 
plants used to manufacture drugs. Although this sounds like an 
expedient way to eradicate these plants, it is proving to be an 
ineffective and costly procedure.

The chemical being used, glyphosate, is a non-selective herbicide. 
This means that any plant exposed to a sufficient amount of the 
chemical will be killed. Since it is being sprayed on large tracts of 
forest from the air, pinpointing only coca plants is not possible. 
Plants necessary to sustain wildlife are being affected as are food 
crops of the native farmers. Corn and banana plants are especially 
being hurt.

As the chemical is sprayed it also contaminates water, killing 
aquatic life. It harms birds and insects. It also has caused health 
problems for the indigenous peoples living in the area. One 
scientist, Dr. David Olson, is comparing the damage done by this 
spraying campaign to that of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Scientists have estimated that for every hectare of coca sprayed, two 
hectares of forest are affected because of the drift that occurs. 
There is also evidence that the growers of coca move deeper into the 
forest as the fumigation process continues. This in turn causes more 
disruption of the environment. I'm not sure this is the best way for 
us to deal with our drug problem.

We have spent billions of dollars over the years trying to eradicate 
drug crops and yet we have a growing drug problem in our country. 
We're told that there isn't enough money to provide treatment for 
those addicts wanting to quit. How can this be when we have enough to 
fund the destruction of an ecosystem?

Pamela Nordhof,

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