Biowarfare against drugs
2. Politics and Biological Escalation of the Drug War
2.1. The Controversy of 2000 - 2001
2.2. US Political Developments Since 2001
2.3. Happenings in Central Asia
3. Fungus Facts: About the Agents and Strategies for Their Use
3.1. Fusarium – a fungus targeting coca and cannabis
3.2. Pleospora – a fungus targeting opium poppy
3.3. Others – insects and viruses
4. Environmental Risks
4.1. The agents are likely to harm other plants
4.2. Ecosystem level impacts
4.3. Release into the environment is irreversible
5. Human Health Risks
5.1. Fusarium infections - an emerging, life-threatening disease
5.2. Fungal toxins
5.3. Other direct health risks
5.4. Indirect health effects
6. Violating the Ban on Biological Weapons
7. Economic risks – endangering legal production
This paper reviews the policy, legal, environmental, and health issues associated with the use of biological agents in drug eradication, detailing recent political developments and relevant scientific research.
Fungi that harm plants, dubbed Agent Green, have been developed over the past two decades for the purpose of destroying opium poppies, coca and cannabis plants. The fungi, as well as other biological agents under consideration (such as insects and viruses) pose severe risks to the environment and human health. The development and proposed use of these biological weapons, particularly in conflict zones such as Colombia and Afghanistan, is a threat to the global ban on biological warfare.
Facing a wave of domestic and international criticism and citing concerns about biological weapons proliferation, in 2000 US President Clinton halted US plans to field test biological eradication agents in Colombia. At the same time, other governments and the United Nations retreated from this highly controversial crop eradication strategy. But research and development have continued, and pressure on other governments to use these ill-advised and dangerous methods in drug eradication campaigns is again on the rise.
Since Agent Green last came to international prominence in 2000, technical and political contexts have changed. A ready-to-use fungus system has been developed for opium poppy eradication, shortening the time needed between a political decision and actual spraying. New leaders are in power in key countries including the US, Colombia, and Afghanistan. If the current proposal to field test biological crop eradication agents advances, either in its present form or attached to another law, a struggle will ensue between Agent Green proponents and non-governmental organizations, indigenous peoples, and others concerned about the environmental, health, and arms control impacts of this misguided drug war strategy.