Colombian authorities confirmed a return to using the possibly carcinogenic chemical glyphosate for spraying coca crops after initially banning it over public health concerns.
The Justice Ministry which oversees Colombia’s National Narcotics Council (CNE) confirmed that the National Police will be authorized to manually spray the coca leaves with glyphosate replacing the previous method of aerial spraying by aerial crop dusters.
Authorities involved in the procedure to destroy the crop used to make cocaine must adhere to strict health and safety protocol to reduce the risk of suffering ill-effects from contact with the controversial pesticide.
These measures will allegedly “serve to reduce the possible negative impacts and guarantee the protection of the people working on the ground, as well as the communities that live near the sprayed areas.”
President Juan Manuel Santos banned the use of the chemical substance last year following a World Health Organization warning that it is potentially a carcinogen.
The issue has been heavily debated with many opponents of the substance likening its use to that of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
In March 2008, neighboring Ecuador filed a lawsuit alleging that the weed killer was carried across the border in the wind damaging legal crops and contaminating the water supply.
The case was settled out of court in 2013, with Colombia agreeing to pay Ecuador $15 million aswell as agreeing to create an exclusion zone on their side of the border.
Earlier this week a former top narcotics adviser warned that “the land eradication with glyphosate will kill more people.”
However it seems his advice has fallen on deaf ears with Wednesday’s announcement that use of the pesticide will be resumed albeit through manual application.
The Justice Ministry confirmed that ground spraying will start to be used after the Environmental Management Plan is changed and “follow-up results are presented” of pilot tests being developed in the country.
The effectiveness of the use of the allegedly carcinogenic pesticide in Colombia’s fight to combat coca production has been hotly debated.
After six straight years of declining or steady production, the amount of land under coca cultivation in Colombia jumped 39 percent in 2014 and again in 2015 to 159,000 hectares (392,000 acres), according to the US government.