Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mycoherbicides -- US contemplates biological warfare

Congress will soon vote on whether to revive controversial research on the use of toxic, mold-like fungi called mycoherbicides to kill illicit drug crops in other countries.

This provision could unleash an environmental disaster of monumental proportions. But Congressman Mark Souder and Senators Hatch and Biden are rushing it to the House and Senate floors this week.

The bill being brought to the floor is a combination of a House and Senate bill, so it doesn't have a bill number yet. It will be brought to the Senate floor under a unanimous consent agreement and to the House floor under suspension of the rules--both of which limit debate.

Mycoherbicides have already been extensively studied over the last thirty years - and the results make it clear that they are not an option for controlling crops of coca or opium poppies. They attack indiscriminately, destroying fruit and vegetable crops, and sickening animals and humans as well. The toxins mycoherbicides produce contaminate soil for years, so that nothing can grow where they have been. Mycoherbicides are so destructive that governments have even stockpiled them as weapons!

Incredibly, the proposal now before Congress advocates using mycoherbicides in "field studies" in countries such as Colombia and Afghanistan - something the world would certainly see as an act of biological warfare.

Office of National Drug Control Policy head John Walters spoke out against further mycoherbicide research last year, but this terrible proposal is now part of the ONDCP Reauthorization Act.

For more information on mycoherbicides, read the recent report commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance, "Repeating Mistakes of the Past: Another Mycoherbicide Research Bill" (PDF: ).

Here's the full text of the mycoherbicide provision in the ONDCP Reauthorization Act:

Sec. 1111 Requirement for Scientific Study of Mycoherbicide in Illicit Drug Crop Eradication

Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this act, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall submit to the Congress a report that includes a plan to conduct, on an expedited basis, a scientific study of the use of mycoherbicide as a means of illicit drug crop elimination by an appropriate Government scientific research entity, include a complete and thorough scientific peer review. The study shall include an evaluation of the likely human health and environmental impacts of mycoherbicides derived from fungus naturally existing in the soil.
I see that the Tea Pad's last post has been quoted in a couple of Web forums. I feel the need to say that the whole thing was cut-and-paste from a notice sent out by the Drug Policy Alliance.

In one of the forums someone made the comment that this will never happen, that it's just a big pork barrell project. I hope that's really the case.


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