The Colombian government has ordered a halt to spraying herbicide on the country’s coca plants – the crop used to make cocaine – reversing course on one of the more important methods used to fight drug trafficking.
Colombia has been spraying coca plants for 20 years, but the government has decided to stop due to concerns that the herbicide used can cause cancer, the New York Times reported.
Prior to the decision to stop spraying, the US government had pressed Colombia to continue the practice. Last week US officials reported that the amount of land used to grow coca had increased by 39 per cent last year and spraying was on a decline.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has backed the decision to stop using the herbicide, which came as a result of a report from an agency of the World Health Organisation that said the chemical glyphosate probably causes cancer in humans.
Glyphosate is the chemical used in popular home herbicide Roundup and is the most widely used herbicide in the world. The US Environmental Protection Agency has said that there is a lack of evidence that shows it is a cancer risk to humans.
Despite US opposition to the new non-spraying policy, the American ambassador to Colombia has said this will not affect diplomatic relations between the US and Colombia, which is one of the closest American allies in Latin America.
“This is their sovereign decision to make, and we will respect that and we will continue to use the tools that are available to us, as Colombia wishes us to do, to continue to be a partner with them in this fight,” Kevin Whitaker told the Times.
“We have lots of tools to help Colombia address the problem of transnational crime and narco-trafficking.”
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