Fumigations: more serious than misinformation is misinformation

Fumigations: more serious than misinformation is misinformation

By Ing. Elsa Nivia

It was impossible for the national and international community to continue indifferent, in the face of the serious assault on human rights, the integrity of communities and families, food security and the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity, which are involved in aerial spraying of chemicals. toxic, in failed attempts to control drug trafficking.

This unsuccessful strategy in terms of drug trafficking control has been based on mistaken interpretations and on the unfair targeting of those who present scientific information on the risks or, worse still, of those affected in the flesh, including the elderly to babies. Some of the most common questions are discussed below:

-That glyphosate is less toxic than common salt or vitamin A? Claim probably valid if applied alone. But glyphosate is not formulated alone but with a surfactant five times more toxic, POEA (polyoxyethylamine) And its main formulation, Roundup, has been shown to be up to 22 times more toxic to humans than glyphosate to rats. In the case of "illicit" crops in Colombia, this acquires alarming dimensions, because according to the US State Department, Roundup Ultra (43.9% glyphosate + POEA) is applied, also adding another surfactant, Cosmo-Flux 411F, which can quadruple the biological action of the pesticide. According to the National Narcotics Council, in this mixture glyphosate can be in concentration 26 times higher than that recommended in agriculture, with its action increased by the help of surfactants.

-That these surfactants used in agriculture are comparable with a shampoo for children or a detergent for dishes? False! Detergency is a cleaning process without causing abrasion or corrosion. Non-detergent surfactants like POEA and Cosmo-Flux interact chemically or biologically with the surfaces of organisms causing corrosive effects.

-That glyphosate does not enter the body through the skin, therefore it does not cause poisoning? It is true if it were applied alone, because being a water-soluble compound, it does not cross the lipid or greasy components of skin and membranes. But for the same reason the waxy surface of the leaves would not pass either. To achieve its penetration is that surfactants are added, which with their corrosive action alter the waxes on the leaf surface, opening channels through which the pesticide enters. Unfortunately, they act in a similar way at the level of the skin and mucous membranes, contributing to serious skin conditions and other symptoms of intoxication.

-There are no investigations in the country to show that these fumigations cause environmental and health impacts? At present it is no longer totally true. If the same symptoms such as fevers, vomiting, serious eye and skin conditions, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems, widespread damage to crops and deaths of domestic animals, are triggered in the areas and times of fumigation, do they suggest nothing to the health authorities ? How do health, agriculture and environment authorities handle the concept of epidemic? So many coincidences and no cause-effect correlation? How many more experiments with humans and food crops are required?

-Counter-question: Is there research that shows that aerial applications of glyphosate in concentrations 26 times higher than those recommended in agriculture, mixed with POEA surfactants and Cosmo-Flux 411F, do not cause damage to the environment and health? Can the government show that food, soil and water are not being contaminated? The US EPA Environmental Protection Agency tolerates very low residues of glyphosate in food, up to hundredths of parts per million; and considers that exposures to glyphosate residues in waters above the maximum authorized limit of 0.7 mg / liter, can cause accelerated respiration and lung congestion, kidney damage and reproductive effects in humans.

-That glyphosate only destroys illicit crops, as stated by the Environmental Audit for the Eradication of Illicit Crops in Colombia, in a promotional brochure distributed internationally? False! Glyphosate is a non-selective, broad-spectrum herbicide. This means that it can attack all kinds of plants, because it inhibits essential enzymes in protein synthesis, which is why plants wither and die; or they are weakened and more easily attacked by a complex of pests and diseases, causing large and unfair losses to farmers.

-That small peasant farms are not fumigated? Resolution 005 of August 11, 2000, of the National Narcotics Council, introduced modifications to Resolution 001 of 1994, to allow fumigations on "areas of illicit crops where crops are checked: fractioned and / or mixed with licit crops , forms of cultivation used to evade the actions of the eradication program with the herbicide ". Fractional crops are defined as "That area of ​​land that is divided by living and / or artificial barriers, a sequence of licit plantations, pancoger crops or native forest, with illicit crops." And the mixed ones as "That illicit plantation that presents legal and illegal plants within its planting area." It is convenient to bear in mind that intercropping is a common practice in traditional peasant agriculture, very important in agroecological or organic production systems.

-What those who oppose aerial herbicide spraying are drug traffickers? Argument used repeatedly to try to silence those who present scientific arguments, which shows that these fumigations do cause serious impacts on the health of people and animals and on the biodiversity of flora and fauna, and could be a risk for endangered species if they are they apply in areas where they live. The same statement was heard from former president César Gaviria Trujillo in 1992, when former president Misael Pastrana Borrero (q.e.p.d.) filed a tutela action and today's president Andrés Pastrana Arango ordered the government to suspend such aerial spraying.

-That the complaints about damages are false, orchestrated by armed groups and drug traffickers? In the neighboring country of Ecuador these groups are not present and the same symptoms of intoxication and damage to food crops occurred on the border with Colombia, and deaths of animals and children, coinciding with the fumigations of the first months of the year. For this reason, the Ecuadorian government demanded that Colombia respect at least a 10-kilometer strip of the border line.

-That with the 110,000 hectares fumigated this year, 300 billion pesos in cocaine have not been produced? It may be true, but at what costs? How much have the applied poisons cost, the flight hours of light aircraft and pilots and other personnel? How much are the current losses and at least during the following year, due to losses in the production of food crops, domestic animals, fish and other aquatic animals, and wildlife? How much was the fertility of the soils affected? How much does the health and lives of thousands of people, men and women, adults and children cost? Is causing so much poisoning, pain and suffering to our rural communities, including children, justified based on the health risks of those who voluntarily use cocaine? With the downward trend in cocaine prices in the international market, to what extent do these fumigations help the business?

-What with the fumigation strategy can "illicit" crops be eradicated? The reality after many years of spraying has shown the resounding failure.

Conclusion: Aerial fumigations DO constitute a serious risk to human and animal health and to the environment in general. It is urgent that they be suspended, but the suspension does not mean for the State to stop acting on the problem. What is requested is a change in strategies, and that concerted social and sustainable solutions be implemented, leading to the manual and gradual, but effective reduction of the planting of crops considered illicit, including policies that end the profitability of these crops .

* Agricultural engineer. Graduated in biology and chemistry.
Executive Director Rapalmira. Pesticides and Alternatives Action Network - Latin America, RAP-AL. PAN-Colombia (Pesticide Action Network)
[email protected]
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