Risks of Using Biological Agents in Drug Eradication A briefing paper with emphasis on human health.
Sunshine Project Backgrounder Series
Number 4, February 2001
A 16 page briefing paper with important new information on biological agents to eradicate crops ("Agent Green"). The paper includes new material on the human health risks of Fusarium (targeted at cannabis and coca) and Pleopsora (targeted at opium poppy). The report details dangers posed by fusariosis, mycotoxins, aerosolized spores, and skin infections caused by fungi as well as impacts on traditional medicine and farming communities. It also squarely confronts US and UN Drug Control Program arguments that Pleospora and Fusarium only pose human health dangers to a handful of patients in rich countries.
The report provides new information on US and UNDCP research, particularly on Pleospora, the fungus being studied in the US and Uzbekistan. When researchers discovered that the fungus was not entirely host specific, they coldly rationalized that damage to another species was acceptable, because the other plant is "a weed throughout Europe" ... despite the fact that the fungus is destined for application on other continents. When UNDCP's own researchers complained of respiratory difficulties apparently due to exposure to Pleospora, remarkably, the United Nations drug agency did not react with concern for the thousands of farmers, indigenous people, and their families who also might be exposed. Instead, safety equipment was purchased for scientists and work is proceeding. Final testing is due to be complete this year.
The report notes the broad international opposition to the use of biological agents in crop eradication and argues that the disregard for human health demonstrated by drug warriors is another important reason why the international community must take urgent action to stop these biological weapons from being used. The report concludes with recommendations for action by the World Health Organization, Convention on Biological Diversity, and Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention to decisively and permanently remove biological agents from the drug warriors' arsenal.
The report concludes that recent successes in averting development of anti-coca agents in South America offers no protection globally and should not be confused with the establishment of a clear international prohibition. If governments fail to act, it is only a matter of time before the few but powerful proponents of biological agents succeed in pressuring countries to escalate the Drug War with Agent Green, starting the world down a slippery and dangerous slope of biological weapons proliferation.
Available online at our website and as a PDF. Visit http://www.sunshine-project.org to view and download a copy.
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