The US will distribute a toxic fungus over coca-producing regions in Colombia. As part of the 'war on drugs', large areas have already been sprayed with herbicides intended to destroy coca crops. Now the fungus Fusarium oxsporum EN-4 strain is to be used - causing alarm among scientists and health experts.
Eduardo Posada, head of the Colombian Center For International Physics, says in a letter of opposition to the Colombian Minister of the Environment: 'The mortality rate for people infected by Fusarium is 76 per cent.' Jeremy Bigwood, an ethnobotanist, adds: 'To apply a myoherbicide (such as Fusarium) from the air that has been associated with a 76-per-cent kill rate in hospitalized human patients is tantamount to biological warfare.'
The US Government and Dr David Sands, who developed the EN-4 strain as a fungal plant-killer, continue to maintain that the fungus is not harmful to humans, animals or plants other than the intended target. But Sands can hardly be counted as unbiased: he is Vice-president of Ag/Bio Con Inc, the corporation that owns the EN-4 strain. Even Luis Parra, a herbicide expert monitoring the chemical spraying of coca fields, is opposed to the use of Fusarium: 'It is very different to apply a chemical herbicide (such as Roundup) that has a known, predictable and undeniable risk, than to apply Fusarium where the risks are unknown.'
Over the past decade, despite the massive effort to spray fields from the air with chemical herbicides, coca production in Colombia has expanded. The problem of drug trafficking was recently addressed at the Conference of Illicit Drug Crops and Environment. The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) presented a five-year plan to stop coca growing completely in one region of Colombia by supplying government aid that would allow farmers to plant alternative crops. The Government rejected the plan and the US refused to attend the conference.
'The solution is not fumigation,' says Raul Reyes, a spokesman for the FARC. 'Money is needed for social investment in order to begin plans to replace coca, poppy and marijuana with healthy products.'
International Action Center / www.iacenter.org
Cambodian treasure trove
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Latin America Press Vol 32 No16
New Scientist Vol 167 No 2245
For more information see: www.netaid.org
Cola capitulates to sacred cows
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Pinochet in your purse
Latin America Press Vol 32 No 262
Many in Ghana are calling for the abolition of trokosi, a traditional form of slavery. Trokosi literally means 'slave of a deity' and is a practice of the Ewe people. In its commonest form a trokosi is a virgin given to a fetish priest as a slave. A family becomes liable to provide trokosi for a priest when a member commits a crime or a calamity strikes the family, such as a sudden natural death. They must submit daughters to the shrine and meet the priest's conditions till the cessation of their misfortunes. She becomes a slave serving the priest - sometimes for a few years or possibly for her entire life.
Trokosi must provide domestic chores, sexual services and work for the priests without any form of remuneration. Frequent punishment is a normal occurrence at the shrine and commonly includes denial of food and whipping with atam (the dried male organ of a bull or horse). Offences attracting punishment include refusal of sex, strife with other trokosi, leaving the shrine without permission, running away, lateness and entering a room without footwear by mistake.
Women living at the shrine are often overworked and malnourished. During the course of my visit to a shrine I was stopped by one of the trokosi and asked: 'Imagine a pregnant woman going to bed without food?' I was shocked and surprised to learn later that she was talking about her own hunger.
Though the Government and the Fetish Slaves Liberation Movement have been helping trokosi, campaigners against the system face unrelenting resistance. The influence of the traditionalists is so strong that many freed trokosi find life as social outcasts too difficult and end up returning to the shrine. The study I have conducted shows that out of 2,000 liberated between 1997 and 1999, 87 per cent had returned to the shrine of their own will (for fear of being victimized by the fetish priest's curse). Another ten per cent are finding it very difficult to cope with life outside the shrine. Due to fear and stigma associated with the trokosi system, they are unable to find husbands, are discriminated against in employment and have their goods boycotted. Only the remaining three per cent have been able to integrate back into society after leaving the shrine.
Guzzling gas from Tibet
Drillbits and Tailings Vol 5 No 10
SE Fernando de la Rúa,
For more information see: http://www.survival-international.org
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