“Aerial fumigation with glyphosate is an attack on Mother Nature and an attack on our food sovereignty” – AINI Women’s Association
Witness for Peace expresses grave concern over the return to aerial fumigation in Colombia and the United States’ continued pressure to return to tired drug war policies. These policies have historically been linked to increased militarization and repression of rural populations. This poses a direct threat to our partners in Colombia who are working to build peace from the ground up.
Breaking the government’s voluntary substitution agreement with small farmers, a cornerstone to the Peace Accord, Colombia’s new president, Iván Duque, will be resuming aerial fumigation of illicit crops using drones. The Trump administration has repeatedly pressured the Colombian government to crackdown on coca production in the country, even threatening to decertify Colombia in 2017, placing it on a blacklist of countries that are not addressing the global drug trade. The Trump administration’s return to ineffective drug-war policies runs contrary to widespread research indicating that supply side eradication does not work. Duque’s decision to resume aerial fumigation dovetails with Trump’s call for renewed eradication and was applauded by the U.S. administration. President Duque said that he is committed to tackling the issue by “air, sea and land” with the help of the United States. This aggressive anti-drug rhetoric sounds very similar to Plan Colombia, a failed counternarcotics strategy that ended up costing U.S. taxpayers 10 billion dollars, and cost Colombian their lives, homes and livelihoods.
Not only has this strategy been shown as ineffective, research has demonstrated that aerial spraying with glyphosate has detrimental health, community, and environmental impacts. Issues such as respiratory problems, miscarriages, and contamination of soil and water sources persisting in Colombia to this day. Due to its controversial nature, including reports of health impacts, pollution, community displacement, and the eradication of food crops, the Santos administration ended the fumigation program in 2015. Then, in April of 2017 the Colombian Supreme Court prohibited aerial spraying of glyphosate on illicit crops after the World Health Organization declared that the herbicide was carcinogenic to humans. Additionally, in 2018 in the United States, Monsanto, the agricultural giant that makes the herbicide, had to pay 289 million dollars in damages to Dewayne Johnson, a school groundskeeper who argued that herbicide had likely caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
An alternative solution to reducing coca production in Colombia was negotiated in Havana in 2016, as part of the peace agreement with the FARC. This alternative strategy seeked to work hand-in-hand with small growers and rural communities across the country. The plan, which has already enrolled more than 70,000 families (with another 150,000 waiting to opt in), would subsidize the voluntary removal of coca plants by members of communities in order to move towards a gradual reintegration into the legal economy. The subsidies would be followed by government infrastructure projects to help small farmers get their new products to market. We support this alternative and believe that the U.S. should as well. Unfortunately, the Colombian government has shown no intention of fulfilling its promises to thousands of rural families across the country.
The full implementation of point 4 of the Havana Peace Accords, which includes voluntary illicit crop substitution.
Strong condemnation by the US of the use of glyphosate in aerial crop fumigation.
Protection of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian territories from increased military presence