Drug Crop Eradication and Alternative Development in the Andes
CRS Report for Congress
Drug Crop Eradication and Alternative
Development in the Andes
November 18, 2005
Analyst in Latin American Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Drug Crop Eradication and Alternative
Development in the Andes
The United States has supported drug crop eradication and alternative
development programs in the Andes for decades. Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru
collectively produce nearly the entire global supply of cocaine. In addition, Colombia
has become a producer of high quality heroin, most of it destined for the United
States and Europe. The United States provides counternarcotics assistance through
the Andean Counterdrug Initiative (ACI). The program supports a number of
missions, including interdiction of drug trafficking, illicit crop eradication, alternative
development, and rule of law and democracy promotion. From FY2000 through
FY2005, the United States has provided a total of about $4.3 billion in ACI funds.
Since 2001, coca cultivation in the Andes has been reduced by 22%, with the
largest decrease occurring in Colombia, according to the State Department. Opium
poppy crops, grown mainly in Colombia and from which heroin is made, have been
reduced by 67%. However, the region was still capable of producing 640 metric
tons of cocaine, and 3.8 metric tons of heroin in 2004, according to the White House
Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Congress has expressed a number of concerns with regard to eradication,
especially the health and environmental effects of aerial spraying, its sustainability
and social consequences, and the reliability of drug crop estimates. With regard to
alternative development, Congress has expressed interest in its effectiveness, its
relationship to eradication, and the long-term sustainability of programs once they are
Drug crops are eradicated either manually or by aerial spraying of a herbicide
mixture, the main ingredient being glyphosate, used commercially in the United
States under the brand name of Roundup®. Eradication can be conducted with the
voluntary agreement of growers, or involuntarily. Peru and Bolivia do not allow
aerial eradication, which has proven to be controversial. Critics believe it poses risks
to the environment and the health of inhabitants living in sprayed regions.
Proponents believe it is the most effective and safe means to defoliate large areas
being used for drug crop cultivation, thereby removing a lucrative source of income
from the illegally armed Colombian groups.
Providing alternatives to drug crops is believed to be crucial to achieve effective
eradication. This often includes technical support for farmers, marketing assistance,
and strengthening the transportation infrastructure in order to get crops to market.
The U.S. approach to alternative development (AD) is to link it to eradication.
Growers who agree to eradicate are eligible for assistance.
This report will not be updated. For more information on the Andean
Counterdrug Initiative, see CRS Report RL32337, Andean Counterdrug Initiative
(ACI) and Related Funding Programs: FY2005 Assistance; and CRS Report
RL32774, Plan Colombia: A Progress Report, both by Connie Veillette.
Extent of Drug Crop Cultivation..................................3
Alternative Development Programs................................7
Issues for Congress................................................9
Health and Environmental Effects of Herbicides.....................9
Studies on Glyphosate.....................................10
Toxicity of Additives......................................12
Spraying in National Parks.................................13
Reliability of Drug Crop Estimates...............................15
Effectiveness and Sustainability of Aerial Eradication................15
Compensation for Accidental Spraying........................18
Effectiveness and Sustainability of Alternative Development ..........20
Alternative Development Challenges.............................21
Linking Eradication and AD................................21
Appropriate Crop Substitution...............................23
Appendix A. Map of the Andean Region..............................24
List of Figures
Figure 1. Coca Cultivation 2004as Percent of Global Total.................4
Figure 2. Cocaine Production 2004 as Percent of Global Total...............4
List of Tables
Table 1. U.S. Drug - Related Foreign Assistance to the Andean Region,
Table 2. ACI Funding Eradication versus Alternative Development,
Drug Crop Eradication and Alternative
Development in the Andes
The United States has provided support to drug crop eradication programs in the
Andes since the 1980s and for alternative development (AD) since at least the 1970s.
Since 2000, the centerpiece of the U.S. counternarcotics policy has been the Andean
Counterdrug Initiative (ACI), with Colombia the major recipient. The ACI program
is the centerpiece of U.S. support for Plan Colombia, a six-year plan developed by
Colombian President Pastrana in 1999. ACI supports a number of missions,
including interdiction of drug trafficking, illicit crop eradication, alternative
development, and rule of law and democracy promotion in the Andes.
The three main producers of cocaine — Colombia, Bolivia and Peru —
collectively produce nearly the entire global supply. In addition, Colombia has
become a producer of high quality heroin, most of it destined for the United States.
Colombia became the main producer of coca and cocaine in the Andean region in
1997, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) World Drug
Report 2005. Peru was the leading producer of coca and coca paste until that time,
which its growers shipped to Colombia for processing into cocaine. Bolivia is the
third largest producer of coca.
The United States has made a significant commitment of funds and material
support to help the Andean region fight drug trafficking since 2000. (See Table 1.)
Congress passed legislation providing $1.3 billion in assistance for FY2000 (P.L.
106-246) for Colombia and its neighbors. From FY2000 through FY2005, the
United States has provided a total of about $4.3 billion from the Andean Counterdrug
Initiative account. For FY2006, the Administration requested, and Congress
approved, $734.5 million in ACI funding (P.L. 109-102). The Department of
Defense has spent approximately $1.2 billion from FY2000 through FY2005 from
its counternarcotics account, managed by the U.S. Army Southern Command. The
State Department’s International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INL)
bureau is responsible for managing the ACI account. The countries considered part
of the ACI include Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and
Venezuela,1 with most funding allocated for Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.
1 Panama and Brazil are not considered Andean countries, but share borders with Colombia.
Additional funding for the Andean region is provided through the Foreign
Military Financing (FMF) program and the International Military Education and
Training (IMET) program, both managed by the State Department. FMF provides
grants to foreign nations to purchase U.S. defense equipment, services, and training.
FMF assistance to Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia has the objective of establishing and
strengthening national authority in remote areas that are prone to drug trafficking, and
related activities of illegally armed groups. Some FMF funding has been used for
infrastructure protection of oil pipelines in Colombia. The IMET program provides
training for foreign militaries. Its objectives are to improve defense capabilities,
develop professional and personal relationships between U.S. and foreign militaries,
and influence these forces in support of democratic governance. Training focuses on
the manner in which military organizations function under civilian control, civil-
military relations, military justice systems, military doctrine, strategic planning, and
Table 1. U.S. Drug - Related Foreign Assistance
to the Andean Region, FY2000-FY2006
(in millions U.S. $)
FY ACI FM F IM ET Total
FY20001,174.8 — 2.41,177.2
FY2001154.8 — 2.8157.6
FY2002 651.0 3 .5 3.0 657.5
FY2003 842.5 21.1 3 .2 866.8
FY2004 726.7 102.5 2 .3 831.5
FY2005 725.0 103.2 3 .1 831.3
FY2006 734.5 94.0 3 .5 832.0
To t a l 5,009.3 324.3 20.3 5 ,353.9
Source: Congressional Budget Justifications, Foreign Operations FY2002-FY2006; U.S. Department
of State’s Washington File, “U.S. Support for Plan Colombia, FY2000 Emergency Supplemental
Appropriations,” July 5, 2000.
Note: ACI figures reflect funding for all nations considered a part of the Andean Counterdrug
Initiative. FMF and IMET figures are for Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. FY2006 figures for
FMF and IMET are amounts proposed by the Administration in its budget request.
ACI funds are divided between programs that support eradication and
interdiction efforts, as well as those focused on alternative development and
democratic institution building. On the interdiction side, programs train and support
national police and military forces, provide communications and intelligence
Bolivia is an Andean country, but does not border Colombia.
systems, support the maintenance and operations of host country aerial eradication
aircraft, and improve infrastructure related to counternarcotics activities. On the
alternative development side, funds support development programs in drug crop
growing areas, including infrastructure, and marketing and technical support for
alternative crops. It also includes assistance for internally displaced persons,
promotion of the rule of law, and expansion of judicial capabilities.
Table 2. ACI Funding Eradication versus Alternative
(in millions U.S. $)
Co lo mbia Peru B o liv ia
FY Er adic. AD Eradic. AD Er adic. AD
FY2000 686.4 208.0 55.0 25.0 57.0 101.0
FY200148.0 — 21.027.032.020.0
FY2002 243.5 136.4 75.0 67.5 48.0 39.6
FY2003 412.0 168.2 59.5 68.6 49.0 41.7
FY2004 324.6 159.3 66.3 49.7 49.2 41.8
FY2005 310.7 152.1 61.5 53.9 48.6 41.7
FY2006 310.9 158.6 59.0 49.0 43.0 37.0
To t a ls 2,336.1 982.6 397.3 340.7 326.8 322.8
Note: Eradication figures include interdiction programs; AD figures include institution building
programs. The FY2006 figures are the amounts provided in the FY2006 Foreign Operations
Appropriations Act, P.L. 109-102. Other figures are drawn from Foreign Operations annual
congressional budget justifications, FY2002 through FY2006.
Extent of Drug Crop Cultivation
The State Department reports that the area under coca cultivation in the Andes
in 2003 was 428,595 acres, down from a high point of 552,763 acres in 2001,
representing a 22% decline. The largest decrease has occurred in Colombia, with a
32% decline in coca cultivation since 2001, the year that Colombian production
reached its peak.2 For 2004, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)3
reported no decrease in Colombian coca cultivation.
2 Some analysts use 1999 as the pre-Plan Colombia baseline, which would show a 7.5%
reduction instead of 32%. U.S. State Department, International Narcotics Control Strategy
Report, Volume I, Drug and Chemical Control, March 2005.
3 White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, “2004 Coca and Opium Poppy
Estimates for Colombia and the Andes,” March 25, 2005.
The eradication of opium poppies, grown mainly in Colombia, has resulted in
crop decreases from about 16,000 acres in 2001 to nearly 5,200 acres in 2004,
representing a 67% decrease. The largest portion of the decrease occurred from 2003
to 2004 when cultivation was cut in half.4
Both Peru and Bolivia allow a small level of legal cultivation for indigenous
use. Coca leaf use is a deeply rooted cultural tradition in which the leaf is chewed
or made into tea, and is used as a stimulant, appetite suppressant, and treatment for
stomach ailments. It is also used to ease altitude sickness. When chewed or used as
tea, coca does not have a hallucinogenic effect, and has been compared to the effects
of coffee. Bolivia’s Law 1008 allows nearly 30,000 acres of legal coca, while Peru’s
1978 General Law on Drugs permits about 28,000 acres. In Bolivia, coca cultivation
is legal in the Yungas region and some parts of Chapare. Growers may sell their
product to intermediaries who are licensed by the government drug agency that also
controls two legal coca markets. Peruvian law requires that growers are registered,
and obligates its 14,463 registered growers to sell their coca leaf to the state-owned
firm, National Coca Enterprise (ENACO). In neither country are there clear
demarcations for which exact cultivation areas are legal versus illegal. For example,
while Bolivian law permits coca cultivation in the Yungas region, authorities have
not identified which fields should be counted toward the 30,000 acre limit.5
Figure 1. Coca Cultivation 2004Figure 2. Cocaine Production
as Percent of Global Total2004 as Percent of Global Total
Colombia 50%Colombia 56%
Bolivia 18%Bolivia 16%
Peru 32%Peru 28%
Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Coca Cultivation in the Andean Region: A
Survey of Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, June 2005.
There are two types of eradication programs. Aerial eradication, often referred
to as fumigation, involves dispersing the chemical glyphosate, an herbicide mixed
with water and the surfactant Cosmo Flux 411F, from low-flying aircraft over illicit
4 Ibid., U.S. State Department, INCSR, March 2005, and ONDCP, March 25, 2005.
5 Coca, Drugs and Social Protest in Bolivia and Peru, Latin America Report No. 12,
International Crisis Group, March 3, 2005.
crops to kill or inhibit their growth. Drug crops can also be manually eradicated,
often with the agreement of the grower, but also without his consent. Both aerial and
manual eradication takes place in Colombia, while Bolivia and Peru allow only
manual eradication. U.S. support for eradication programs is managed by the State
Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL),
and the Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) of U.S. embassies. Spray missions are
conducted by U.S.-hired contractors, through the State Department’s Office of
Interregional Aviation Support.
Colombia. Unlike Peru and Bolivia, Colombia has no legal market for coca
leaf, with all of it destined for processing into cocaine. There are few indigenous
communities that use coca leaf for traditional, cultural, or medicinal purposes.
Putumayo has been the principal coca growing area, but cultivation has now spread
to more than 20 of Colombia’s 32 regions.6 Opium poppy is grown mainly in the
mountainous regions of Tolima, Huila, Cauca, and Nariño. Poppy is grown on very
small plots of land and interspersed with other crops, making its detection and
When Plan Colombia began in 2000, the aerial eradication of coca and poppy
crops with a glyphosate herbicide mixture became a key component of the
Colombian and U.S. efforts to reduce the supply of illegal drugs entering the U.S.
market. Glyphosate had previously been used aerially in the successful eradication
of marijuana in the 1980s in Colombia. Spray operations are conducted by the
Colombian National Police with U.S. support through the State Department’s Office
of Interregional Aviation. The United States provides technical and scientific advice,
herbicide, fuel, spray aircraft, and a limited number of escort helicopters. Spray
aircraft are piloted by U.S. citizens, Colombian, or third-country national contractors,
and are accompanied by escort helicopters that carry combined U.S. civilian
contractors or third-country nationals, and Colombian National Police crews. Spray
aircraft use global positioning computer systems to identify locations of crops, with
areas for spraying chosen by the Colombian government. There are currently 17
fixed-wing and 26 helicopters devoted to spraying operations. Aircraft are flying7
missions from three forward operating locations (FOL) in Colombia.
Reductions in coca and opium poppy cultivation began to be seen by 2003.
Some areas where aerial eradication took place experienced marked decreases —
Meta, Caquetá, and Putumayo. But, these successes have been accompanied by
increases in other areas — Antioquia, Nariño, and Guaviare.8 Areas that have been
manually eradicated, Vichada, Bolívar, and Cauca, have had lower rates of reduction.
While manual eradication does not carry as many risks as the aerial program, the rate
of eradication is much slower and requires more manhours with operations in rugged,
6 Contreras, Joseph, “Failed ‘Plan,’”Newsweek International, August 29, 2005.
7 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Drug Control. Specific Performance Measures
and Long-Term Costs for U.S. Programs in Colombia Have Not Been Developed, GAO-03-
783, June 16, 2003; and Contreras, Joseph, “Failed ‘Plan,’”Newsweek International, August
8 “Drugs in Latin America: What Kind of Turning Point?,” Latin American Special Reports,
[http://www.latinnews.com], November 2003.
inaccessible, and often hostile territory. A 1988 Government Accountability Office
(GAO) report concluded that manual eradication had been unable to keep pace with
new plantings, and so had a minimal effect on cultivation.9 The United States
Agency for International Development (USAID) supports voluntary agreements with
communities in coca growing regions, whereby the communities themselves
eradicate their drug crops in exchange for development assistance. More recently,
the government of Colombia has used demobilized right-wing paramilitary fighters,
flying them to coca regions to manually eradicate crops.
Peru. Peru’s support for eradication programs has varied historically, based on
the political conditions in the country and the resolve of national governments.
While once the largest producer of cocaine in the Andes, it is now second to
Colombia. The traditional areas of coca cultivation are the Upper Huallaga/Monzon
and the Apurimac/Ene Valleys, although the State Department has reported that
dense cultivation is increasing in other areas. It also reports that there is an upward
trend in opium poppy cultivation in northern Peru. Coca cultivation has decreased
in Peru from its peak in 1995 and is considered an Andean success story. Some
observers believe the reduction was due to several factors other than the eradication
operations, including the following: the appearance of a soil fungus, Fusarium
oxysporum in the Huallaga Valley; the decline of Colombia’s dependence on
Bolivian and Peruvian coca; and the successful dismantling of Colombia’s drug
cartels that were the principal buyers of Peruvian coca. This led to a collapse in coca10
prices in the early 1990s. The government of Peru allows only the manual
eradication of drug crops.
By the end of the 1980s, Peru was the world’s leading producer of coca leaf,
supplying 60% of world supply. Early in President Fujimori’s government (1990-
2000), he adopted an approach that emphasized alternative development and land
titling, incorporating coca farmers into the formal economy, while de-emphasizing
forced eradication. As his administration proceeded, Fujimori adopted policies that
gave more authority to the military in drug matters, and combined counterinsurgency
and drug control missions. Forced eradication was restarted in 1996 and increased in
tempo toward the end of the 1990s. Eradication operations provoked the
mobilization of coca growers, especially in light of unsubstantiated claims that
spraying of crops was occurring. This led Fujimori to sign a decree prohibiting the
use of chemical or biological defoliants in 2000. Under the Toledo government
(2001 to present), alternative development programs using voluntary agreements
have become again widely utilized, although forced eradication continues. Assistance
for growers is provided, as long as they sign agreements to fully eradicate their crops.
If an agreement is not signed, forced eradication occurs, and the grower reaps no
assistance. The State Department reports that in 2004, about 18,500 acres were
9 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Drug Control: U.S.-Supported Efforts in
Colombia and Bolivia, GAO/NSIAD-89-24, November 1988.
10 Isaías Rojas, “Peru: Drug Control Policy, Human Rights, and Democracy,” in Drugs and
Democracy in Latin America: The Impact of U.S. Policy; Coletta A. Youngers and Eileen
Rosin (Eds.), 2005; and Coca, Drugs and Social Protest in Bolivia and Peru, Latin America
Report No. 12, International Crisis Group, March 3, 2005.
forcefully eradicated, while another 6,000 acres were part of the alternative
development/voluntary eradication program.
Bolivia.11 Political instability in Bolivia has resulted in the uneven application
of counternarcotics policy over the years. Despite this, Bolivia has seen some
successes in reducing cultivation, but some observers would argue, at the expense of
social unrest.The two main coca growing regions are Chapare and Yungas. Since
the beginning of Plan Dignidad in 1998, the counternarcotics policy of former
President Banzer (1997-2001) that focused on increasing forced eradication,
cultivation in the Chapare has decreased. It has, however, dramatically increased in
the Yungas. The State Department reports that the increase is far above the legal
limit. As in Peru, indigenous Bolivians believe coca is a cultural right and use it for
cultural, spiritual, and medical purposes.
Total coca cultivation in Bolivia decreased from its peak in the mid-1990s of
118,000 acres to around 36,000 acres in 2000, but in 2001, coca cultivation began to
increase again and to expand to new areas. In 2004, the State Department estimates
that there were nearly 61,000 acres of coca crops.12 Bolivian law states that only
manual and mechanical methods can be used to eradicate, and prohibits the use of
“chemical means, herbicides, biological agents, and defoliants.”13 While interim
presidents have reaffirmed their support for counternarcotics policy, continuing
political instability and the mobilization of coca growers’ organizations, especially
in the context of an upcoming presidential election, have led some observers to
question the resolve of the national government. Both the State Department and the
UNODC reported increases in coca cultivation during 2004.
Alternative Development Programs
Providing alternatives to drug crop cultivation is believed to be a crucial
component to achieve effective eradication. U.S. alternative development programs
are managed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and often include
technical support for farmers agreeing to give up their drug crops, marketing
assistance, and the strengthening of transportation infrastructure in order to get crops
Alternative development began in the mid-1970s in Bolivia, (Chapare region)
and in the early 1980s in Peru (Upper Huallaga Valley), as coca crop substitution.
The United States was the principal donor, with UNODC involvement beginning in
1984. U.S. alternative development strategies played a modest role in Colombia until
2000, when the United States started investing in AD as part of its support for Plan
Colombia. The legal framework for AD in Peru is Law 22095, which outlaws all
11 For more information on Bolivia, see CRS Report RL32580, Bolivia: Political
Developments and Implications for U.S. Policy, by Connie Veillette.
12 According to UNODC World Drug Report 2005, there were 124,291 acres in 1990 and
13 Betsy Marsh, Going to Extremes: The U.S.-Funded Aerial Eradication Program in
Colombia, Latin America Working Group, March 2004.
coca cultivation except that grown by farmers registered with the government agency,
National Coca Enterprise (ENACO). Bolivia’s Law 1008 permits legal coca
cultivation only in traditional coca-growing areas. Under these laws, alternative
development programs benefit farmers growing illicit coca, while those cultivating
legal coca for traditional purposes fail to receive assistance.
The main feature of U.S.-supported alternative development programs is that
they are tied to agreements by farmers and communities to eradicate coca crops.
USAID’s objectives are to encourage farmers to grow alternative crops and become
part of the legal economy. After farmers agree to eradicate illicit crops, they receive
support for food crops, while plans for future cash crops are made. In a recognition
that crop substitution is insufficient to realize sustainable development, projects are
also undertaken to improve an affected area’s infrastructure, such as road, water
systems, schools and municipal buildings, which also provides employment
opportunities for former coca farmers. Education, infrastructure, and health services
are provided to make sure that coca and poppy growing regions would attract and
support other economic activities.
Colombia. USAID works to strengthen Colombia’s National Alternative
Development Plan and the capabilities of local non-governmental organizations. By
increasing licit economic opportunities, it is believed coca and poppy growers will
be able to permanently give up illegal crops. Over the past five years, USAID reports
that it established 62,964 hectares of legal crops, 31,461 hectares of forest land, and
completed 918 social and productive infrastructure projects, benefitting over 54,780
families, in collaboration with local NGOs. In 2003, USAID started to support
small- and medium-sized agribusiness and commercial forestry development
activities. Projects cover areas such as wood projects, cocoa, coffee, rubber, oil
palm, exotic fruits, medicinal herbs, and handcrafts in 30 of the 32 departments.
Since 2000, the United States has allocated about $976 million for AD programs.
Peru. USAID describes its programs in Peru as a multi-sector approach that
seeks to improve local governance, strengthen the rule of law, and increase the
economic competitiveness of coca-growing areas. Its programs focus on generating
temporary income to growers who voluntarily eradicate their crops, supporting basic
services, and promoting community organization. USAID then seeks to promote
sustainable economic and social development in and around primary coca-growing
areas. This includes infrastructure projects, technical assistance and training to small
farmers, private sector entrepreneurs, and government entities. The agency reports
in its annual congressional budget justification for FY2006 that more than 27,000
families have voluntarily eradicated nearly 18,000 acres of coca since October 2002.
Since 2000, the United States has supported more than $330 million in AD
programs. In 2004, USAID supported “legal productive activities” on about 49,000
acres, built or rehabilitated 134 schools, health facilities, and water systems, 205
kilometers of road, 12 bridges and irrigation projects, and brought electrification to
six communities. Support for the rehabilitation and maintenance of a major highway
out of the Huallaga Valley, a coca region, has eased the transportation of agricultural
products to national markets. In 2004, USAID reports that 20,000 families made
voluntary eradication agreements.
Bolivia. Bolivia has had the largest and longest running alternative
development program in the Andes with USAID making major investments there.
Since the start of the ACI, the United States has spent about $323 million on such
programs. In the Chapare region, a coca growing area, USAID has focused on
strengthening licit livelihoods, community development, legal land tenure, and access
to justice. More recently, and in response to the decrease in cultivation there, USAID
is adopting a more integrated approach that puts emphasis on sustainability and
increased participation by municipalities to develop, implement, and monitor
programs. In 2004, USAID assisted 28,290 rural families, and increased the number
of licit jobs by 9,300 and licit cultivation by 21,000 acres in the region. Similar
programs are conducted in the Yungas, along with assistance for coffee cultivation
and rural electrification projects.14
Issues for Congress
Congress has expressed a number of concerns with regard to eradication,
including the following: the health and environmental effects of aerial spraying; the
reliability of drug crop estimates; and the effectiveness and sustainability of
eradication. With regard to alternative development, Congress has expressed interest
in its effectiveness; its relationship with eradication; and the long-term sustainability
of programs. Both eradication and alternative development face a number of
challenges, some of which are general to the region, and others that are specific to the
country in which they are conducted.
Health and Environmental Effects of Herbicides15
Since the inception of aerial coca crop eradication, Members of Congress have
expressed concerns about the possible health and environmental effects of the
herbicides used. There is also concern with the proposed use of aerial eradication in
Colombia’s national parks, which is currently under consideration in Colombia.
Congress has directed in annual Foreign Operations Appropriation legislation that the
aerial spray program be certified by the U.S. State Department as causing no
unreasonable risk to the environment or health of people living in sprayed areas.
Congress has also directed that spraying in national parks can only occur if it is
consistent with Colombian law, and no other viable alternatives exist.16
14 Information on USAID programs in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia is drawn from USAID’s
Congressional Budget Justification for FY2006.
15 This section prepared by Linda-Jo Schierow, Specialist in Environmental Policy,
Research, Science and Industry Division, CRS.
16 The term “unreasonable” is used in several environmental statutes, including the statute
that authorizes EPA to regulate sale and use of pesticides, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide,
and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). It generally is interpreted to require regulators to balance
costs and benefits in making decisions.
The program in Colombia uses a mixture of Roundup Ultra Herbicide®,17 water,
and Cosmo Flux 411F, which is a blend of two additives, whose identities are
considered trade secrets.18 The Roundup® product contains the active ingredient
glyphosate, a surfactant — polyoxethylene alkylamine (POEA) — to aid penetration
of foliage, and another unnamed additive.19 The same herbicide mixture is used in
Colombia for eradicating both coca plants and opium poppy, although because poppy
is easier to eradicate, less glyphosate (relative to the amount of water) is needed in
the formulation. Roundup Ultra Herbicide® (but not Cosmo Flux 411F) is registered,
sold, and widely used in the United States, where it has generally been considered a
relatively safe and environmentally friendly herbicide.20
Studies on Glyphosate. The State Department consulted with the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and reported in 2002 and 2003 that the EPA
had found that “there is no evidence of significant human health or environmental21
risks from the spraying” in Colombia. The State Department has certified four
times since 2002 that the herbicide mixture poses no unreasonable risk to health or
the environment, and that usage in Colombia is consistent with applications in the
United States and with label recommendations.22
Both the EPA and the State Department have acknowledged that unintentional
spraying of legal crops and natural vegetation, due to spray drift, is likely to kill
17 The Roundup formulation was determined based on the registration date (1994, according
to U.S. EPA, Office of Pesticide Programs, “Details of the 2003 Consultation for the
Department of State: Use of Pesticide for Coca and Poppy Eradication Program in
Colombia.” June 2003. p. 12. (Hereafter cited as U.S. EPA.)) and the concentration of
glyphosate (41%, according to the Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics
and Law Enforcement Affairs, “Updated Report on Chemicals Used in the Colombian®
Aerial Eradication Program,” December 2003). Roundup Ultra Herbicide is the only
glyphosate product that fits that description, according to EPA’s database, the National
Pesticide Information Retrieval System at [http://ppis.ceris.purdue.edu/htbin/rnamset.com],
visited Oct. 20, 2005.
18 Manufacturers improve the performance of their pesticide products by adding substances
that increase stickiness, tendency to spread so as to improve coverage, and other properties.
“Adjuvant” is the term usually applied to such additives. The identity of these so-called
“inert” ingredients often is kept secret to protect business interests, but is known to the
federal agency that registers the product, which is EPA in the case of pesticide products.
19 U.S. EPA, p. 13.
20 The product name varies depending on concentration of the ingredients, but is most
commonly known as Roundup®. Vision® is another name for the glyphosate plus POEA
21 EPA’s statements regarding the safety of the herbicide product support the State
Department’s position, but stipulate that they are based on information provided by the State
Department about the pesticide formulation, application rates, and application methods in
Colombia. In its 2002 report to the State Department, EPA requested field investigations
of health complaints by Colombians, while the 2003 EPA report requested that such
investigations be standardized and better documented.
22 These certifications are available at [http://www.state.gov/p/inl/rls/rpt/aeicc/].
plants downwind of coca fields.23 But the State Department argues that such damage
is reversible (that is, the forest re-grows and new crops may be planted) and not an
unreasonable price to pay for drug eradication, given the severity of environmental
and health impacts of coca production, processing, and distribution. Chemicals used
by coca growers and processors include pesticides, herbicides (2,4-D and paraquat),
kerosene, sulfuric acid, ammonia, and acetone.24
The State Department’s 2005 certification is supported by a recent study by the
Organization of American States (OAS).25 The Inter-American Drug Abuse Control
Commission (CICAD), an OAS agency, undertook a “science-based risk assessment
of the human health and environmental effects” of glyphosate in response to a
request from the United States, United Kingdom, and Colombia. The report
concluded that neither glyphosate nor Cosmo Flux 411F presents “a significant risk
to human health.” With regard to the environment, CICAD determined that risks
were minimal in most circumstances, but that spray drift poses moderate risks to
aquatic organisms in shallow or static water. (Risks to aquatic life are discussed
below.) The probability and extent of such impacts is unknown. The report
concluded that based on available data, glyphosate has less environmental impact
than cocaine and poppy production and processing, which also cause deforestation,
displacement of flora and fauna, and damage to non-target plants and animals. (The
risks of certain additives are discussed below). However, the report also
recommended testing of other additives that might pose less risk to aquatic life as
well as further study to better understand the potential for adverse effects on human
health or the environment.
The annual certifications by the State Department and the CICAD study have
been criticized by environmental groups and some researchers.26 Criticism often
centers around the composition of the herbicide mixture used in Colombia, which
is different from that applied in the United States.27 However, EPA knows the
identities of the ingredients in Cosmo Flux 411F and has stated that they are
“approved for use in/on food by EPA.”28 The State Department’s certification
mentions that the application rate for Cosmo Flux 411F is within the manufacturer’s
recommended application rate. In addition, the State Department provided EPA with
data from six acute toxicity studies conducted using the mixture used in Colombia,
23 U.S. EPA, Executive Summary.
24 Charles W. Schmidt, “Battle Scars: Global Conflicts and Environmental Health,”
Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 112, no. 17, Dec. 2004.
25 OAS, CICAD, “Environmental and Human Health Assessment of the Aerial Spray
Program for Coca and Poppy Control in Colombia,” p. 121, at [http://www.cicad.oas.org/en/
glifosateFinalReport.pdf], visited October 20, 2005.
26 A number of organizations have been active in pressing for further studies of the
glyphosate mixture used in Colombia, among them The World Wildlife Fund and Friends
of the Earth.
27 One additive in the blend sprayed in Colombia after 2002 is different from, and less toxic
than, the adjuvant used prior to 2002, when EPA recommended a switch to a less toxic
28 U.S. EPA, p. 14.
as well as information about health complaints. Of the 5,000 health complaints
received through 2004, half were “rejected as invalid, because it was determined that
spraying did not take place in the areas in question on the dates claimed.”29
Compensation for lost crops was paid in 12 cases. In no instance did the U.S.
embassy or the Colombian government determine that spraying caused harm to
human health or wildlife.30 Based on this information, EPA concluded in its 2003
report that “there are no risks of concern from [sic] dietary, mixer/loader/ applicator
or field workers, or bystanders (including children).”31
Others who disagree with the conclusions reached by the State Department and
CICAD question the applicability of toxicity data gathered in the United States to a
tropical environment and its ecosystems. Rather, it is argued, studies should be
conducted to assess effects on the forests and wildlife of Colombia, and information
should be gathered from Colombians. One such study, requested by the Colombian
Ombudsman’s Office, and conducted along the Ecuador-Colombian border, reported
that blood samples taken from 22 women showed genetic damage. The incidence of
damage was far greater (500% and 800%) than found in two control groups.32 The
State Department is cooperating with the Colombian government to collect data on
health complaints in the areas where spraying occurs, but such information is difficult
to collect and to interpret.
Toxicity of Additives. Several recent scientific studies have led to
conclusions that apparently conflict with those of previous studies and raise the
possibility that spraying might lead to adverse effects on human health or the
environment. The weight of recent evidence seems to be pointing not to glyphosate,
but rather to POEA, the surfactant in Roundup®, as a potential hazard.33 One study,
at the University of Caen, France, found that human placental cells are sensitive to
Roundup® at concentrations lower than those found in agricultural use. This study
found that the effects of Roundup® were greater than those of glyphosate alone,
indicating that adjuvants had their own effect, either independently or in combination34
with glyphosate. A Chinese study found that POEA was more toxic to aquatic
29 Charles W. Schmidt, “Battle Scars: Global Conflicts and Environmental Health,”
Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 112, no. 17, December 2004.
31 U.S. EPA, Executive summary.
32 Adolfo Maldonado, Daños Genéticos en la Frontera de Ecuador por las Fumigaciones
del Plan Colombia, November 2003.
33 For example, see “Are Pesticide ‘Inerts’ an Unrecognized Environmental Danger?,” by
Rebecca Renner in Environmental Science & Technology Online News, September 7, 2005.
Also, the CICAD study cited above concluded that the toxicity of the Roundup plus Cosmo-
Flux is greater than the toxicity of Roundup alone. Older studies that found adverse
environmental effects due to Roundup or other glyphosate formulations are not cited here
because they may have involved additives or contaminants that are no longer constituents
of herbicide mixtures being sprayed in Colombia.
34 Sophie Richard, Safa Moslemi, Herbert Sipahutar, Nora Benachour, and Tilles-Eric
Seralini, “Differential Effects of Glyphosate and Roundup® on Human Placental Cells and
creatures and algae than Roundup, which in turn was more toxic than glyphosate.35
Another study, by a University of Pittsburgh biologist, reported that Roundup® may
be “extremely lethal” to amphibians. The researcher’s experiments with North
American tadpoles produced high rates of mortality.36 Similarly, experiments with
young adult frogs and toads indicated a potential for significant toxicity.37
Spraying in National Parks. Because of the eradication program, some
drug crop cultivation has moved to national parks. It is estimated that 28,000 acres
of coca are being grown in Colombia’s 49 national parks, a more than doubling of
the 11,000 acres under cultivation three years ago. The Colombian government is
now considering lifting its ban on spraying in the national parks. Critics fear that
spraying will also kill many plant species in the jungles and mountains, and could
also harm amphibians, mammals, and birds. Colombia’s national parks contain a
large number of diverse plant and animal species.38
Proponents of spraying in the national parks argue that coca cultivation does
more harm to the environment than eradication. The processing of coca leaf into
cocaine base is also harmful to the environment. Growers often clear forested land
in order to plant crops, while traffickers do the same to build transportation routes
and landing strips. The State Department reports that over the past 20 years, coca
cultivation in the Andean region has resulted in the destruction of at least 5.9 million
acres of rainforest. The processing of coca leaf into cocaine base involves the use of
harsh precursor chemicals such as kerosene, ethyl ether, sulfuric acid, potassium
permanganate, acetone, and thousands of tons of lime and carbide, which are allowed
to seep into the water supply and soil, and contaminate the food chain. According
Aromatase,” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 113, no. 6, June 2005.
35 M.T. Tsui and L.M. Chu, “Aquatic Toxicity of Glyphosate-Based Formulations:
Comparison Between Different Organisms and the Effects of Environmental Factors,”
Chemosphere, vol. 52, no. 7, pp. 1189-1197.
36 Rick A. Relyea, “The Impact of Insecticides and Herbicides on the Biodiversity and
Productivity of Aquatic Communities,” Ecological Applications, vol. 15, no. 2, 2005, pp.®
618-627, and Rick A. Relyea, “The Lethal Impact of Roundup on Aquatic and Terrestrial
Amphibians,” Ecological Applications, vol. 15, no. 4, August 2005, pp. 1118-1124.
37 Rick A. Relyea, Nancy M. Schoeppner, and Jason T. Hoverman, “Pesticides and
Amphibians: The Importance of Community Context,” Ecological Applications, vol. 15, no.
4, August 2005, pp. 1125-1124. For criticism of the earliest of these amphibian studies, see
the paper “Response to `The impact of insecticides and herbicides on the biodiversity and
productivity of aquatic communities,’” posted on the Monsanto website at
[ h t t p : / / www.monsant o.com/ monsant o / c ont ent / p r oduct s / p r oduct i vi t y/ r oundup/
bkg_amphib_05a.pdf]. The biologist’s response also is posted on the Internet at
[http://www.pitt.edu/~relyea/Roundup.html], visited Oct. 18, 2005. In part, the researcher
and pesticide company disagree on the likelihood that concentrations of glyphosate product
might approach toxic levels in bodies of water where amphibians lay their eggs and larvae
38 Kim Housego, “Colombian Cocaine Blight Spreads into Nature Parks, Threatening Their
Survival,” Associated Press, September 27, 2005.
to the Colombian government, traffickers have dumped more than one million tons
of chemicals since the mid-1980s.
Alternative Methods. While the effects of coca and poppy production and
processing may be more damaging to the environment and human health than crop
eradication with glyphosate and Cosmo Flux 411F, eradication may motivate coca
growers who lose their crops to start over in other, more remote parts of the forest,
causing still more ecosystem destruction. If eradication is, nevertheless, the best
option, then alternative methods of crop eradication might arguably be more benign.
Some alternatives, such as eradication by hand, might be impractical, due to the
terrain and hostility of drug growers.
Other methods might hold more promise. Biological controls for drug crops
were discussed in a 1993 report to Congress by the Office of Technology39
Assessment. Biological controls use living things or their byproducts to reduce the
target plant pest to a tolerable level. The living things may be native to an area and
natural enemies of the target plant, or they might be imported. In either case, to be
effective in controlling pests, they first must be identified and then established in
sufficient numbers in proximity to the targeted plants. At the same time, it is
important to ensure that such biological agents are controlled to keep them from
attacking or competing with non-targeted, native plants and animals. It also would
be necessary to consider the potential susceptibility of any live biological controls to
pesticides that might be available to coca or poppy producers. In sum, development
of potential biological controls could require significant investments in research and
A form of biological control that has received attention is the use of
mycoherbicides, which are naturally occurring fungi that infect and kill plants. In theth
109 Congress, the Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drugs
and Human Resources approved an amendment to H.R. 2829, the Office of National
Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2005, that authorizes a study on the
health and environmental effects of mycoherbicides. The mycoherbicide Fusarium
oxysporum (species erythroxyli, known as FoxyE) has received the most attention as
a possible means of controlling drug crops. It was discovered on diseased coca plants40
in a research facility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the 1980s. Some
have advocated substitution of this fungus for glyphosate in aerial applications in
Colombia, because, they argue, it is endemic to Andean countries, non-toxic to
people and animals, does not attack non-target plants, and persists in the
environment. However, other species of fusarium attack a wide range of plants and
39 “Alternative Coca Reduction Strategies in the Andean Region,” Chapter 6, OTA-F-556,
July 1993, at [http://www.wws.princeton.edu/ota/], visited October 27, 2005.
40 For example, see the press release from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. “Colombia y ONU
tratan cooperación micoherbicida contra coca,” at [http://bogota.usembassy.gov/
wwwsfu00.shtml], visited October 27, 2005; and J.A. Gracia-Garza, D. R. Fravel, B. A.
Bailey, and P. K. Hebbar, “Dispersal of Formulations of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp.
erythroxyli and F. oxysporum f. sp. melonis by Ants,” American Phytopathological Society,
vol. 88, no. 3, pp. 185-189, 1998, [http://www.apsnet.org/phyto/abstract/1998/pma
some fear that the coca-specific species might mutate.41 The Colombian government
has not approved its use.
Reliability of Drug Crop Estimates
Producing reliable estimates of illegal crop cultivation is difficult for several
reasons relating to the methodologies used and the changing nature of cultivation.
Several organizations monitor the cultivation levels of drug crops, often using
different methodologies and producing different results. A 2003 Government
Accountability Office (GAO) report examined the differences in methodology
between the ONDCP and the State Department’s Office of Aviation. In one area, the
two organizations differed in the identification of drug crop fields by 79%. The
discrepancy was largely based on differences in definition of what should be counted
as a coca field. As a result, the report concluded that there are reliability problems
with the both surveys. Neither had in place a statistically rigorous accuracy
assessment, commonly known as an error rate, for their respective methodologies;
and the technologies were insufficient for the purposes they were being used.42
The U.S. government data also often differs from that of the U.N. Office on
Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which has consistently reported higher eradication rates.
For example, the United States estimates that coca cultivation in Colombia decreased
from 336,000 acres in 2000 to 282,000 in 2004, a 16% reduction. The United
Nations reports that cultivation went from 403,000 acres to 198,000 in the same
period, a 51% reduction. U.S. figures show that in 2004, Colombia cultivation
remained stable, while UNODC reported a 7% decrease. Likewise, the United
Nations reported increases in Bolivia (17%) and Peru (14%), while the United States
reported decreases. ONDCP reports that estimates are made using survey-sampling
techniques and satellite imagery, that it argues is similar to techniques used to
estimate agricultural crops in the United States. The United Nations report interprets
satellite images taken over a five month period, and verifies the results with aerial
surveillance and on-the-ground observations. Margins of error can differ based on
the resolution of satellite images, neglecting to include areas of new plantations, and
missing areas where coca has been interspersed with licit crops. Opium poppy, grown
in small plots and at high altitudes with nearly permanent cloud cover, are
particularly difficult to survey.
The nature of cultivation is also changing as a result of eradication efforts.
Growers are reducing the size of their crops and interspersing them among food crops
in order to avoid detection. It is estimated that around half of Colombia’s coca is
41 C.E. Swift, E.R. Wickliffe, and H.F. Schwartz, “Vegetative compatibility groups of
fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cepae from onion in Colorado,” Plant Disease, vol. 86, no. 6, pp.
606-610, 2002; David C. Sands and Alice L. Pilgeram, “Enhancing the Efficacy of
Biocontrol Agents Against Weeds,” in M. Vurro et al. (eds.) Enhancing Biocontrol Agents
and Handling Risks, pp. 3-5, 2001; and Eric Fichtl, “Washington’s New Weapon in the War
on Drugs.” Colombian Journal Online, 2000, at [http://www.colombiajournal.org/colombia
42 Government Accountability Office, Drug Control: Coca Cultivation and Eradication
Estimates in Colombia, GAO-03-319R, January 8, 2003.
grown on fields of less than 7.5 acres. Further, there is some evidence that farmers
are increasing the density of plants per acre.43
Effectiveness and Sustainability of Aerial Eradication
Whether aerial eradication is an effective means to curb drug production has
been a matter of intense debate. Even when eradication programs have been unable
to reduce cultivation, as occurred in 2004 in Colombia, officials argue that drug
production has still decreased because newer crops, planted to replace eradicated
ones, are less productive. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy,
the eradication program in Colombia has resulted in potential cocaine production
decreasing by 7% in 2004 to 430 metric tons of pure cocaine. This is down from its
peak of 700 metric tons in 2001. The same report indicated that potential cocaine
production throughout the Andes has fallen 5% in 2004. Total regional cocaine
production is estimated at 640 metric tons, dropping nearly 30% from its peak of 900
metric tons in 2001. Potential heroin production in 2004 decreased by 51%.44
Some observers caution that the propensity of farmers to replant coca and poppy
is a troubling indication with regard to the sustainability of eradication programs,
demonstrating that no lasting change in preferences is being achieved. John Walters,
the head of ONDCP, stated in 2004 during a trip to Colombia that 85% of crops
sprayed are replanted very quickly. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
reports that the herbicide glyphosate has no residual effect; plants that would be
susceptible to glyphosate can be planted shortly after its application.45 Other
observers believe that decreases in cultivation in one area will result in increases in
other areas. For example, successful eradication programs in the Putumayo region,
the traditional coca growing area of Colombia, have been accompanied by increases
in other regions. While both the ONDCP and the State Department report that a
balloon effect — coca cultivation moving from one area to another as eradication
proceeds — has not been observed across borders, there is evidence that some
cultivation has moved across borders, although not yet in size that would indicate a
large shift in cultivation patterns.46
In Bolivia and Peru, cultivation has been sensitive to changes in price. When
prices have been depressed, growers have abandoned their crops. When prices
43 “Drugs in Latin America: What Kind of Turning Point?,”Latin American Special Reports,
[http://www.latinnews.com], November 2003, and Pablo Bachelet and Steve Dudley, “Coca
Crop Figures Raise Questions Over Drug War,” New York Times, April 6, 2005.
44 U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, “2004 Coca and Opium Poppy Estimates for
Colombia and the Andes,” March 25, 2005.
45 “‘Balloon Effect’ is Boosting Coca Production in Peru, Bolivia, and Even Colombia,”
Weekly Report, at [http://www.latinnews.com], January 11, 2005, and U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, Office of Pesticide Programs Details of the Consultation for Department
of State Use of Pesticide for Coca Eradication Program in Colombia, August 2002.
46 “More Eradication to Counter ‘Balloon Effect,’” Daily Security and Strategic Review,
Latinnews.com, May 2005.
increase, abandoned crops have been reactivated.47 In Peru, the head of its antidrug
agency reported that the price of coca leaf had increased from 80 cents per dry ton in
1980 to around $4 in 2005. Part of the price increase was attributed to the aerial
eradication campaign in Colombia which had forced traffickers to turn to Peruvian
suppliers.48 The price, purity, and availability of cocaine and heroin have generally
remained stable since 2000. However, the ONDCP reported in November 2005 that
cocaine prices were beginning to show increases across the country. This
complements earlier data indicating a recent increase in heroin prices in some parts
of the United States.49 Some studies question the effect of eradication on drug prices.
Even if increased eradication forced coca prices to double, the retail price of cocaine
would likely be negligible. Since the mid-1990s, coca leaf prices in the Andes have
increased, while the retail price of cocaine has not.50 This may be due to the fact that
coca leaf represents a very small fraction of the retail price. A 1994 study showed
that coca leaf represents just 2% of the street price.51
Some Members of Congress have urged that the Colombian government take
over the operation of the eradication program that is now provided by the United
States. A 2003 GAO report found that neither the Colombian military nor the police
are able to sustain the current program “without continued U.S. funding and
contractor support for the foreseeable future.”52
Each country presents its own challenges to successful eradication. In
Colombia, the armed conflict among illegally armed groups who profit from the drug
trade and who control vast territory complicate eradication missions.53 Other
challenges there include difficulties with regard to the conduct of aerial eradication
and criticism of the compensation system for accidental spraying of food crops. Peru
47 “Drugs in Latin America: What Kind of Turning Point,” Special Report, at
[http://www.latinnews.com], November 2003.
48 Ibid., Weekly Report, Latinnews.com, January 11, 2005, and Security and Strategic
Review, at [http://www.latinnews.com], May 2005.
49 Pablo Bachelet, “Plan Colombia Hampers Drug Trade; The Bush Administration Claimed
that Higher Cocaine Prices Showed the Drug War is Being Won,” The Miami Herald,
November 18, 2005.
50 Boyum, David and Peter Reuter, “An Analytic Assessment of U.S. Drug Policy,”
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 2005.
51 James Painter, Bolivia and Coca: A Study in Dependency, Boulder: Lynne Rienner
Publishers, 1994. See also Kathryn Ledebur, “Bolivia: Clear Consequences,” in Drugs and
Democracy in Latin America, edited by Coletta A. Youngers and Eileen Rosin, Lynne
Rienner Publishers, 2005.
52 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Specific Performance Measures and Long-Term
Costs for U.S. Programs in Colombia Have Not Been Developed, GAO-03-783, June 2003.
53 It is estimated that up to 40% of the country is controlled to some degree by illegally
armed groups. For more information, see CRS Report RL32774, Plan Colombia: A
Progress Report; and CRS Report RL32250, Colombia: Issues for Congress, both by
and Bolivia face growing indigenous movements that are becoming formidable
politically and are pushing for an end to eradication, and in some cases, for
legalization of cultivation.
Spray Drift. Because Colombia allows aerial eradication of drug crops, there
have been complaints about food crops, and even alternative development sites being
sprayed.Supporters of the program contend that the targeted fields are identified
with high precision, and the areas sprayed are electronically documented. Further,
the spray drift is supposedly minimized by the use of large droplets, making the
likelihood of accidental spraying from drift less than 1% of the total area sprayed.54
While the State Department reports that “occasional errors are unavoidable,” it
argues that every effort is made to minimize human and mechanical mistakes.55
Spray missions are not to be conducted when wind speed at the airport is above 10
m.p.h., relative humidity is below 75%, and the temperature is more than 90 degrees.
Spray planes fly at low altitudes, generally less than 100 feet, when releasing the
herbicide. According to the Colombian government, the Colombian National Police
does not spray regions that are identified as present or future alternative development
However, there are numerous reports of spray drift affecting licit crops and
forestland. The Colombian Ombudsman’s Office reported that the Indigenous
Organizations of Putumayo (OZIP) complained spraying had taken place in the Nasa
Chamb community in Puerto Asis, and that the area has no coca cultivation. The
office also reported complaints from other parts of Putumayo in 2001 and 2002 that
areas with corn, fruit trees, and grasslands had been sprayed. The Comptroller’s
Office reported in 2004 that forests near targeted areas had been damaged by spray
drift, and Ecuador has complained that spray drift has affected crops across its border
Compensation for Accidental Spraying. The U.S. Congress has included
provisions in the annual foreign operations appropriations legislation57 requiring the
evaluation of complaints of harm to licit crops, or human health caused by aerial
eradication, and for fair compensation to be paid for “meritorious” claims.
Colombian law also provides for compensation in such cases. Complaints of
potential harm to licit crops are investigated by the Colombian government, with
nearly 50% of cases eliminated after verifying that the specific places during the
54 Organization of American States, CICAD — Inter-American Commission on Drugs,
Environmental and Human Health Assessment of the Aerial Spray Program for Coca and
Poppy Control in Colombia, March 31, 2005.
55 U.S. Department of State, Chemicals Used for the Aerial Eradication of Illicit Coca in
Colombia and Conditions of Application, September 2002.
56 “Ecuador: Fumigation Compensation Demanded,” Latinnews Daily, July 19, 2005,
“Ecuador: Talks with Colombia Over Fumigations Achieve Little,” Latinnews Daily,
September 1, 2005, and “Ecuador Concerned by Colombia’s Herbicide Use,” Reuters,
September 19, 2005.
57 These are currently set forth in P.L. 109-102, the FY2006 Foreign Operations
dates reported were not fumigated. The remaining complaints are verified by field
visits, where it is often found that licit crops were planted near drug crops. Under
Colombian law, illicit crops that are interspersed with licit crops are legitimate
objects of aerial fumigation.
According to the State Department’s March 2005 International Narcotics
Control Strategy Report, the Colombian National Police Antinarcotics Directorate
(DIRAN), the agency responsible for aerial eradication operations, has received
approximately 5,500 complaints of accidental food crop and/or pastureland spraying
since 2001. Of these, 12 received compensation, resulting in about $30,000 in
compensation. DIRAN reported that as of June 2004, those filing reports were
residents of remote rural areas. Almost two-thirds were rejected because they were
filed late, or because coca plantings were found next to food crops, while one-third
were still under consideration. DIRAN also reported that peasants had filed
complaints in no spray zones, that some complaints of damaged food crops had coca
interspersed (and therefore subject to spraying under Colombian law), and that health
complaints were due to other unrelated factors.
Critics argue that the few claims for restitution that have been accepted do not
indicate the extent of the problem. They cite the “substantial security risks, time, and
expense involved in farmers traveling to town and filing claims.”58 Colombia’s
Ombudsman’s Office has indicated that the long distances, lack of roads and the
security situation constrain the registration of complaints as well as their verification
within specified deadlines. That office, and the Comptroller General’s Office (CGO),
has questioned the advisability of having DIRAN review compensation claims when
they are also responsible for eradication.59
Social Effects. Public opposition to eradication has contributed to the growth
in indigenous political movements in Peru and Bolivia. These movements have in
some cases undermined the political will of national governments to aggressively
eradicate, and have spurred movements to legalize cultivation. In Colombia, the
larger conflict, in which drug trafficking is a component, has produced a large
internally displaced population as people flee drug zones.
Public opposition has been most evident in Bolivia where eradication has met
with protests from coca growers (cocaleros) who have organized themselves in
legally recognized labor unions. Coca growers have also formed their own political
party, the Movement toward Socialism (MAS). The MAS presidential candidate,
Evo Morales, came in a close second in the last presidential election in 2002, and is
a candidate in the upcoming election scheduled for December 18, 2005. The
continuing protests in Bolivia, orchestrated largely by coca growing unions and their
supporters, have contributed to the resignations of two presidents, and continuing
58 Betsy Marsh, Going to Extremes: The U.S.-Funded Aerial Eradication Program in
Colombia, Latin America Working Group, March 2004.
59 Contraloria General de la Republica, “Plan Colombia: Quinto Informe de Evaluación,”
December 2004,and U.S. Department of State, Memorandum of Justification Concerning
the Secretary of State’s 2005 Certification of Conditions Related to the Aerial Eradication
of Illicit Coca and Opium Poppy in Colombia, April 22, 2005.
instability. Interim president, Eduardo Rodriguez, has made a commitment to not
increase the pace of eradication until a study is completed to determine the current
level of traditional coca leaf use. Cocaleros have also protested the use of combined
military and police units for eradication; conflicts with growers resulted in 33 deaths
of growers, and 27 police and military fatalities between 1998 and 2003.60
In Peru, there has been a growing movement to de-criminalize cultivation, above
the government-sanctioned legal limits. The region of Cuzco passed an ordinance in
June of 2005 to allow legal coca cultivation. This ordinance was accepted by the
national government on the grounds that it applied to areas where cultivation is
already legal. The Cuzco ordinance prompted two other regions to follow suit —
Puno and Huánaco — although the national government has stated that these
ordinances are incompatible with national law. With President Toledo’s low
popularity and growing discontent in coca growing regions, some observers believe
the government is unwilling to take on the increasingly assertive coca growers.61
In 2004, the Peruvian drug agency, National Commission for Development and
Life Without Drugs (DEVIDA), released a study on traditional uses of coca leaf. It
found that approximately 2 million Peruvians use coca leaf either habitually or
occasionally, with another two million using it for tea, or for traditional or ceremonial
purposes, demand that can be satisfied with about 9,000 metric tons. About 24,700
acres are needed to produce this amount, a slightly smaller land area than what is
allowed under current law. The study may form the basis for new legislation limiting
cultivation to that needed to supply the licit domestic demand.
In Colombia, the conflict among leftist guerrilla groups, rightist paramilitaries,
and the government has resulted in large numbers of displaced persons. Drug crop
areas are some of the most contested regions as groups fight for their control for
income generation. Some of the displaced relocate to other parts of the country,
while others cross the border into neighboring countries. The Colombian Human
Rights and Displacement Consulting Office (CODHES) and the Ombudsman’s
Office believe there is a direct link between eradication and the increase in internally
displaced persons (IDPs). The U.S. and Colombian position is that the drug trade
itself and the armed conflict that it continues to fuel are the causes of displacement
for those living in conflictive areas. According to the two governments, eradicating
drug crops and removing the availability of its profits for illegally armed groups will
result in the end produce peace and stability.
Effectiveness and Sustainability of Alternative Development
Congress has expressed interest in the effectiveness of alternative development
programs to promote general economic development, their level of funding in
relation to eradication programs, and their general ability to accomplish the objective
of sustainability in reducing or eliminating drug crop cultivation. It is difficult to
60 Kathryn Ledebur, “Bolivia: Clear Consequences,” in Drugs and Democracy in Latin
America: The Impact of U.S. Policy, Coletta A. Youngers and Eileen Rosin (Eds.) 2005.
61 “Policy Clashes and Vacillation Threaten the ‘War on Drugs’ in the Andes,” Security and
Strategic Review, [http://www.latinnews.com], July 2005.
assess the success of AD with regard to promoting economic development because
we do not know what poverty levels would be in the absence of alternative
development assistance. Even in the presence of such programs, it is difficult to
ascertain if they are helping to reduce poverty when there are so many variables that
can inhibit economic development. Many observers believe that without a sustained
alternative development program, eradication efforts will ultimately fail as farmers
will replant drug crops as their only viable means to support themselves.
With regard to achieving counternarcotics goals, USAID maintains that
alternative development is essential because it can foster political support for
eradication programs and provide incentives that, coupled with the eradication
disincentive, ensure the permanent eradication of illicit crops. Some observers,
however, contend that the value of alternative development lies in its conjunction
with “intelligent law enforcement, interdiction and community-based voluntary
eradication,” and that these three components are rarely adequately combined.62
Other observers believe that AD alone does not reduce cultivation, particularly when
it is not funded sufficiently or carried on for a long enough period of time.63
On the issue of sustainability, many foreign aid policy analysts believe that
alternative development programs need to be comprehensive with a long-term
commitment by sponsors. U.S. programs target a number of related problems, from
infrastructure development to basic health and education. Proponents of AD believe
that for results to be sustainable, programs must be oriented toward poverty reduction
with a focus on generating both agricultural and non-agricultural income. Toward
that end, they recommend including education, basic health care, land titling, and
Alternative Development Challenges
Challenges to AD programs in the Andes include the isolation of sites of
production, poor transportation infrastructure, and the lack of access to marketing
opportunities. Critics maintain that the United States too closely links the receipt of
AD assistance on voluntary eradication, and puts more resources into eradication
rather than alternative development. With regard to AD programs in Colombia, the
Government Accountability Office reported that obstacles included difficulty in
marketing products, poor soil conditions, security constraints, lack of territorial
control that impedes the development of infrastructure, and lack of established
markets and private sector investment. In addition, GAO mentions that individual
projects reach a small group of families, are rather localized and small, and may not
62 Coletta A. Youngers and Eileen Rosin (Eds.), 2005; and Coca, Drugs and Social Protest
in Bolivia and Peru, Latin America Report No. 12, International Crisis Group, March 3,
64 James C. Jones, “An Overview of Alternative Development in the South American
Andes,” U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, September 2004, and “The Role of Alternative
Development in Drug Control and Development Cooperation,” U.N. Development Program,
International Conference, January 2002.
be sustainable. While the report’s focus was Colombia, many of its conclusions may
be applicable to Peru and Bolivia.65
Linking Eradication and AD. In Colombia, the United States considers
aerial spraying a prerequisite for alternative development. For example, USAID
contends that growers in Putumayo showed little interest in participating in
alternative development until after parts of the region were sprayed involuntarily at
the end of 2000. This resulted in 37,000 families agreeing to sign up for voluntary66
eradication and alternative development support. While the threat of forced
eradication can act as an incentive to participate in alternative development67
programs, some observers argue that the two are contradictory, not complementary.
These observers believe that educating farmers on the negative impacts of illegal crop
production is a more effective prevention tool. Some believe that coca farmers would
prefer not to grow illicit crops because they understand the negative consequences
for their communities — the social impact of coca production, a spiral of violence,
and drug abuse — but feel compelled to do so in the absence of an alternative
U.S. alternative development programs, however, require that growers eradicate
all coca before being eligible for assistance. There have been complaints that AD has
not kept pace with eradication, that it has been unable to provide adequate income
for subsistence, and that poor soils and poor transportation infrastructure prevent
getting agricultural or other income generating products to national markets. GAO
has reported that USAID in Colombia is not sufficiently coordinating its efforts, with
implementing partners cited as being unaware of each other’s projects. The report
concluded that successful continuation of projects requires better coordination68
between USAID and its contractors and grantees.
In Bolivia’s two main coca growing regions — Chapare and Yungas — growers
have complained that they have not been able to benefit from alternatives to growing
coca, citing a lack of coordination between existing community organizations and
local governments, among other problems.69 The Bolivian Law to Regulate Coca and
Controlled Substances (Law 1008) authorizes forced eradication, but also requires
65 U.S. Government Accountability Office, U.S. Nonmilitary Assistance to Colombia Is
Beginning to Show Intended Results, But Programs Are Not Readily Sustainable, GAO-04-
66 U.S. Government Accountability Office, Drug Control: Efforts to Develop Alternatives
to Cultivating Illicit Crops in Colombia Have Made Little Progress and Face Serious
Obstacles, GAO-02-29, February 2002.
67 Testimony of Eduardo Cifuentes, Defensor del Pueblo, before the Colombian Congress,
68 U.S. Government Accountability Office, U.S. Nonmilitary Assistance to Colombia Is
Beginning to Show Intended Results, But Programs Are Not Readily Sustainable, GAO-04-
69 Linda Farthing, “Rethinking Alternative Development in Bolivia,” Andean Information
Network and Washington Office on Latin America, February 2004.
simultaneous alternative development programs. Bolivia’s 1998 Plan Dignidad
stated that alternative development should accompany forced eradication.
Resources. Critics say that the resources devoted to alternative development
programs are insufficient to provide a long-term alternative to illicit crops, and that
the ratio between drug-related programs and development assistance is skewed
toward the former. Since 2000, alternative development funding has been a little
more than half that for eradication and interdiction programs. For Colombia, Peru,
and Bolivia combined, spending on eradication has totaled about $3 billion, while
total spending on alternative development is $1.6 billion. In Peru and Bolivia, the
ratio between eradication and AD programs is approximately equal. In Colombia,
eradication far outpaces AD programs. The cost of the aerial eradication program in
Colombia may account for differences with Peru and Bolivia, where aerial spraying
is not permitted. (See Table 2).
GAO reported in 2004 that funding constraints adversely affect nonmilitary
assistance and complicate sustainability efforts. While USAID estimated in 2001 that
a program for 136,600 families could cost up to $4 billion, the United States has
allocated about $1.6 billion since 2000.70 Both proponents and critics of AD
programs believe that the continuation of financial and technical support is necessary
for them to reach a sustainable momentum.
Appropriate Crop Substitution. Some observers have questioned the
viability of crops recommended for alternative development programs. The head of
Peru’s antidrug agency, DEVIDA, has stated that crop substitution programs fail
because the land is acidic and not conducive to other crops. The Peruvian agriculture
minister also stated that programs to replace coca crops with alternative crops have
been a failure, because the crops used, such as papayas and pineapples, are not
profitable. While he proceeded to argue that AD would continue to be pursued, he71
recommended finding more profitable crops. Similar complaints have been heard
in Bolivia where some AD sites have been affected by falling global prices and a lack
of assistance in exporting some commodities, such as hearts of palm and pineapples.
70 U.S. Government Accountability Office, U.S. Nonmilitary Assistance to Colombia Is
Beginning to Show Intended Results, But Programs Are Not Readily Sustainable, GAO-04-
71 “Peru: Coca Replacement a Failure,” Latinnews Daily, May 18, 2004.
Appendix A. Map of the Andean Region