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Die Anwendung von Killerpilzen stoppen
|The Sunshine Project
Hamburg & Seattle, 2 May 00
|STOPPING THE USE OF CROP KILLING
FUNGI IN ASIA AND THE AMERICAS
A BRIEFING PACKET FOR DELEGATES TO THE
FIFTH CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES TO THE
UN CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
Sunshine Project Press Release - 2 May 2000
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Orientation: Pathogen basics, background, and targets.
Biodiversity Dangers of Fungal Pathogen-based Crop Eradication
Future Risks, Legal Narcotics, Rights, and Recommendations for the COP
Report Calls on the UN Biodiversity Convention
to Stop Dangerous US Fungus Experiments
In a detailed report released today, the Sunshine Project, a new international non-profit dedicated to exposing abuses of biotechnology, calls on the upcoming Nairobi meeting of the UN Biodiversity Convention to halt the USA's dangerous experiments with fungi designed to kill narcotic crops.
TARGETED AT DEVELOPING COUNTRIES OF ASIA AND THE AMERICAS
Intended to kill opium poppy, coca, and cannabis plants, the microbes present risks to human health and biodiversity. There is imminent danger that a highly infectious fungus will be deliberately released in Andean and Amazonian centres of diversity. The US-backed fungi have already been used experimentally on opium poppy and cannabis in the US and in Central Asia.
Fungus targets include hundreds of thousands of cultivated hectares in narcotic crop-producing countries in South, Southeast, and Central Asia, along with Mexico, Central, and South American countries. Thirty years after the heavy use of toxic herbicides (Agent Orange) in the Vietnam War, the USA is planning the use of a biological agent ("Agent Green") in the Drug War.
ENVIRONMENTALLY UNSOUND - THREAT TO ENDANGERED SPECIES
The strains of the fungi Fusarium oxysporum and Pleospora papveracae might infect and kill plants other than coca, poppy, and cannabis in ecologically sensitive areas of Asia and the Americas.
US Department of Agriculture researchers have never tested the host range of Agent Green on plant species native to target countries, including Colombia, which is currently number one on the USA's list of places to use the fungi. Only a limited range of commercial crops were tested, which is little indication of how the fungi will behave in the varied and poorly-understood real-world ecologies where they might be used.
"The USA is playing roulette with irreplaceable biological diversity" says Susana Pimiento Chamorro, a Colombian lawyer with the Sunshine Project. "In Colombia, four close relatives of coca are already listed as endangered. Agent Green might be the last step to their extinction."
It is well known that some strains of F. oxysporum can infect many different plants, even distantly related species. To avoid disturbing delicate ecosystems in the Amazon, rural Southeast Asia, and the Andes, the fungi must not be released.
One of the most highly prized butterflies in the world, the Agrias (Agrias sp.) depends on coca's wild relatives in Amazonian rainforest. Plants in the coca genus are the butterfly's host plant, the only place where young larvae feed and mature. A beautiful fast flyer listed as endangered in Brazil, one of Agrias' centres of speciation is the Upper Putumayo River region, precisely where the US intends to apply the heaviest doses of the coca-killing fungus. If the fungus attacks wild coca relatives, it will ultimately hurt the Agrias butterfly.
Even more disturbing is the fact that strains of Fusarium oxysporum are highly toxic to animals and humans. Birds feeding on plant seeds are endangered, and consumption of the coca leaves - which is legal in Peru and Bolivia - might pose a health threat. "Fusaria can produce mycotoxins that are deadly enough to be considered weapons of war and are listed as biological agents in the draft Protocol to the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention, " says Sunshine Project biologist Dr. Jan Van Aken, "US researchers have not tested Agent Green's production of these deadly mycotoxins."
Once released into the environment, the deadly fungus cannot be recalled. Indeed, the coca fungus appears to have escaped scientists' grasp when it jumped into control plots during field tests in Hawaii.
REJECTED IN THE USA BUT PROMOTED ABROAD
The fungus has been clearly rejected in the USA, the world's number one producer of illicit cannabis. Last year, the Florida Environmental Protection Agency emphatically opposed and halted a proposal to use Fusaria. According to the Agency's director: "It is difficult, if not impossible to control the spread of Fusarium species. The mutated fungi can cause disease in large number of crops Fusarium species are more active in warm soils and can stay resident in the soil for years."
Senior US officials have failed to obtain the financial backing of other governments for the plan. Except for modest support from the UK for the poppy killer, no other donor country has financially backed the idea. But this has not stopped the USA's drug warriors from pressuring Asian and South American countries. Through the offices of the UN Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), pressure is being put on Colombia especially, which is being asked to sign a field testing contract. Ironically, it was under Colombian leadership that the recent Biosafety Protocol negotiations were successfully concluded, and Colombia's Environment Minister is now President of the high-level UN Commission on Sustainable Development.
FUNGUS MOVEMENT CAN LEAD TO INNOCENT VICTIMS
According to the Sunshine Project's Edward Hammond, "An obvious and flagrant flaw in the fungal eradication plan is that microbes pay no attention to passport and visa requirements. The fungus can spread without regard to political borders, potentially attacking legal crops and countries that do not agree to its use."
There are many potential victims. Canadian industrial hemp growers have expressed concern about US plans. Fungus applications in coca growing areas in southern Colombia, for example, might lead to infections in Ecuador, Brazil, or Peru (a legal coca producer). Use in Central and South Asia, for example Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Turkmenistan, could lead to losses for bordering India which, under a strict licensing system, produces about half the world's legal pharmaceutical opiates. In Southeast Asia, a variety of disastrous scenarios can be envisioned, where opium poppy areas for example in Burma border on Laos, Thailand and China, which produces opiates for domestic pharmaceutical use.
If developing country production of legal pharmaceutical opiates is damaged by fungus spread, industrialized producers like Australia - which has already planted extra-potent genetically engineered opium poppy - could increase market share.
THREATENS TRADITIONAL USE
The rights of indigenous people who cultivate the target crops for traditional, non-drug uses are also endangered. In South Asia, poppies are used in traditional medicine and plant material is used as fodder. Coca has been used for over a millennium in traditional medicine from Colombia to Argentina. Under the Biodiversity Convention indigenous peoples are afforded rights to their biodiversity - including medicinal plants. Indigenous people who live close to where fungus is applied may become innocent Drug War victims.
GENETIC ENGINEERING POSSIBLE
The United States says that the fungus varieties it wants to use in developing countries are not genetically-engineered. But its has created genetically-modified strains in the laboratory. US scientists have also cloned virulent genes from related fungi (Fusarium strains that attack potatoes) with the possible intent of increasing the kill rate of anti-drug fungi through biotechnology. A consequence of permitting testing and use of the current fungi will be future pressure for countries to allow "enhanced" Living modified organisms (LMOs) fungi.
ACTION BY THE BIODIVERSITY CONVENTION IS URGENTLY NEEDED
Governments have a legitimate need to control narcotic crops; but doing so through the use of "Agent Green" microbes is profoundly misguided and sets an alarming precedent. If governments are idle while microbial agents are developed to attack narcotic crops, how will they protect biodiversity if microbes are developed to kill other unpopular and regulated crops, like tobacco, kava, betel nut palm, peyote, ayahuasca, or hops?
The Sunshine Project, which sent its report to 500 government delegates from 100 countries, is suggesting several options for government action during the May 15-26 Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nairobi. Delegates should adopt a resolution calling for a halt of the US program and condemning the of use of any microbe for the purpose of eradicating cultivated crops. Such a resolution is not a statement on drug policy; but instead a reiteration of fundamental objectives of the Convention. The CBD cannot remain quiet while agents are developed by a non-party to deliberately obliterate biodiversity, especially plants with legitimate medicinal and traditional uses.
The CBD may also consider studying the fungus under its Agriculture Program, because of the fungi's impacts on pollinators and soil diversity - both specific responsibilities of the Convention. Governments may also request the CBD Executive Secretary to urgently convey the CBD's views to the United National Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), which has been - sometimes reluctantly - helping implementation of the US program.
About the Sunshine Project
The Sunshine Project is an international non-profit organization dedicated to bringing information to light on harmful abuses of biotechnology. The Project has expert staff with training in law, policy, and biology with lengthy experience on policy issues. The Project has offices in Hamburg, Germany and Seattle, USA. For more information, visit our website (http://www.sunshine-project.org) or contact us by telephone or e-mail.
A copy of the Sunshine Project's report on Agent Green is available at our website or on request.
Pathogen Basics, Multilateral Background,
Eradication in Perspective, and Target Countries
The USA has developed microbial pathogens intended for widespread dispersal to eradicate the drug producing plants coca, opium poppy and cannabis (marijuana). (1) In Central Asia, the US has begun conducting testing programs on fungi (Pleospora sp. and others) to kill opium poppy and marijuana. In the Andes and western Amazon, the US is planning the testing and widespread application of a fungus that attacks coca, Fusarium oxysporum, f. sp. Exythroxilum. These pathogens threaten human health and biodiversity in the areas of the Americas and Asia against which they are targeted. The US Congress recently approved 23 million new dollars for development of the pathogen agents and, in the Americas, is linking the fungal pathogen plan to aid programs. (2)
The US has falsely labelled these anti-crop programs as "biocontrol" research related to eliminate "weeds". "Weed", of course is a subjective term &endash; one farmer's weed is another's staple crop. And while plants producing ilicit narcotics are certainly undesirable, they are not "weeds" by any logical policy or regulatory definition. "Biocontrol" is also a misnomer for these pathogens. Legitimate biocontrols protect cultivated crops, but the US pathogens kill them. By appropriating the language of a legitimate branch of science &endash; biological controls &endash; the US program has put the reputation of a growing and promising field of research at risk.
Already Rejected by the UN
In 1989 an expert group working on law enforcement and drug control issues for the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs first suggested the use of biological agents to kill narcotic crops. (3) But little, at least initially, resulted from the recommendation. Throughout the early 1990s, however, the US unilaterally pursued scientific development of the idea with limited bilateral co-operation, principally from former Soviet research institutions in the newly independent states of Central Asia.
With US prodding, in 1997 the Vienna-based United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) acted on the expert's 1989 recommendation and incorporated it into a global plan for eradication of illicit crops called SCOPE (Strategy for Coca and Opium Poppy Elimination). But UNDCP's proposal for pathogens to kill narcotic crops met an early death in 1998 when SCOPE was rejected by the General Assembly. (4) At this point, narcotic crop pathogens were deleted, at least theoretically, from the multilateral agenda, although some in the US and at UNDCP have clung to the idea and, remarkably, are on the verge of implementing it.
The US' unilateral push ahead with the pathogen eradication idea, despite the General Assembly's rejection of SCOPE, has resulted in risky political exposure. This has led to the US Government pressuring others to follow its lead. While UNDCP is offering limited cooperation, governments have not. In a 1999 State Department cable signed by Madeline Albright (obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act), the US Secretary of State exhorted UNDCP to find more support for fungal eradication, saying "we urge UNDCP to solicit funds from other governments, in order to avoid the perception that this is solely a USG initiative". (5)
But new support from other countries has not happened. While the UK provided small supplemental funding for US-sponsored experiments with the opium poppy fungus in Central Asia in the mid 1990s, no donor county has positively responded to the renewed US calls for support.
Eradication Controversy: Pushing Further Where no Consensus Exists
With the exception of manual & mechanical plant removal, crop eradication programs using available techniques like chemical herbicides have been controversial. As early as 1988, the UN Economic and Social Council pointed out that drug eradication programs should not use any methods that harm the environment or humans. (6)
Some countries - including Bolivia, Peru and Thailand - have enacted laws or implemented policies that ban chemical eradication because of its negative impacts the herbicides used on the environment, human health and legitimate crops. In these, and other countries, civil society opposition to herbicide-based eradication has been intense. Evidence abounds that these countries have taken the right position. Applied in massive quantities from the air, the chemical herbicides that are currently is use - glyphosate (RoundUp), tebuthiuron (Spike) and hexaxinone &endash; do harm humans and biodiversity. The United States and UNDCP, however, do nothing for their credibility by implausibly maintaining that the herbicides used in this way are "environmentally safe and non-toxic for humans." (7,8,9) The manufacturer of Spike has even resisted its use in eradication. But some of these chemicals, especially RoundUp, are not strong enough for the US. So one of the goals of the fungal eradication plan is to create plant sprays more lethal and long lasting than glyphosate.
The use of fungal pathogens in eradication is already opposed in some countries:
* On March 24, Peru passed a law banning the use of biological agents in coca eradication. (10)
* In January 2000 UNDCP admitted that Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have refused to carry out field testing of the opium poppy mycoherbicide ("myco" = fungal). (11) For Kazakhstan, this represents a flip in policy earlier it agreed to field testing; but now UNDCP says it has changed its mind.
* In a report prepared for the Colombian Ombudsman for the Environment, leading Colombian scientists declare that the use of the mycoherbicide agents in Colombia represents "a great danger both for Colombian humans as well as for Colombian environment and biodiversity" . (12)
Cannabis Pathogen Rejected in Florida
The use of fungal narcotic plant control has been halted in the US, the world's top producer of cannabis. In 1999, Ag/Bio Con, a USDA-connected company whose business goals closely match US policy (see illustration at left of actual Ag/BioCon propaganda), proposed using a cannabis-killing strain of Fusarium oxysporum in Florida. The head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection squashed the idea, saying:
"Fusarium species are capable of evolving rapidly. Mutagenicity is by far the most disturbing factor in attempting to use a Fusarium species as a bioherbicide. It is difficult, if not impossible to control the spread of Fusarium species. The mutated fungi can cause disease in large number of crops, including tomatoes, peppers, flowers, corn and vines and are normally considered a threat to farmers as a pest, rather than as a pesticide. ( ) Fusarium species are more active in warm soils and can stay resident in the soil for years. Their longevity and enhanced activity under Florida conditions are of concern, as this could lead to an increased risk of mutagenicity." (13)
Ag/Bio Con beat a hasty retreat from Florida; but, unfortunately, is still pressing elsewhere.
Despite the unfavorable political climate, intense bilateral pressure from the US is rapidly advancing the fungal eradication program to a point perilously close to large releases. Currently, field tests of the opium poppy pathogens are being conducted in Central Asia and enormous pressure is being placed on Colombia &endash; which is in the midst of an economic crisis - to sign an agreement to be the Americas first guinea pig for field testing of the coca killing fungus F. oxysporum.
For Testing: The US' plan in Central Asia, implemented bilaterally and through UNDCP, is to test the effectiveness of the poppy agent in all five Central Asian states where poppy is grown: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. But, as mentioned above, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have balked. (14) In Colombia bilateral issues and money related to US funding of Colombian President Andres Pastrana's Plan Colombia are mixing with a UNDCP-proposed; but 100% US-funded, coca fungus field testing proposal.
For Use: The US and UNDCP are emphatic that the pathogens are of "global significance". The total potential target acreage in well in excess of one million hectares. The US envisions the fungus eventually being used everywhere in Asia and Latin America where cultivation of narcotic crops is currently taking place. The widespread use is logical. In the case of the opium poppy pathogen, deployment in the current Central Asia test countries would result in only a minor dent in global opium production. To be worthwhile and effective, it would also have to be used in Southeast Asia, in and in and around Afghanistan, and in other regions where the bulk of the world's opium is produced. Similarly, in the case of the coca or cannabis fungus, use in one or two producer countries is essentially pointless &endash; it would only shift production elsewhere. In order to be effective, fungus use must be widespread.
Threats to Biodiversity
It is the position of the United States that its narcotic crop pathogens are environmentally safe. The US often says they are host specific, naturally occurring, and do not present danger for humans. The claims, however, are very dubious. Scientific publications and researchers consulted by the Sunshine Project in Europe, United States and South America do not agree with the US government scientists. Biodiversity concerns include:
* Impact of altering fungi populations on highly fragile ecosystems
* Impact of the fungi on non-target plant species
* Impact of the fungi on soil ecology and pollinators
* The long-term implications of the pathogens soil persistence
* Once release, they are extremely difficult to control
* Toxicity problems leading to harm to human and animal health
* Lack of clarity about the fungi's "natural occurrence" and origin
* Possibility of future introduction of living modified organism pathogens.
Equally important, the soundness of the underlying strategy of developing biological pathogens to intentionally eliminate cultivated crops is highly questionable.
Impacts on other species
USDA researchers have conducted pathogen testing with the primary objective to ensure effectiveness in killing plants, instead of their environmental and health safety. None of the pathogens have been proven to be safe to other species. Testing of host specificity has been technically inadequate, very narrow in scope and not even included close relatives of target plants. Testing has disregarded complex and fragile ecosystems in rural South and Southeast Asia and the Andes and Amazon Basin where the pathogens are intended to be released. And amazingly, even in such questionable testing, the US' "host-specific" fungi have attacked both related and non-related species.
Has attacked unrelated species
It is well known that strains of Fusarium oxysporum --the pathogen agent to be used for eradication of coca and cannabis-- are not necessarily restricted to a single host. (15) While some strains infect more or less only one specific plant, others are known to have a broad host range, infecting even distantly related plant species. (16)
In 1994-95. USDA-contracted researchers conducted host specificity tests of the Fusarium strain isolated to kill coca plants, called EN4. The contract stipulated that they test EN4 not on South American plants; but North American ones. During this test, two non-coca species became infected and died &endash; meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii) and redstem filaree (Erodium cicutarium). (17) Therefore, it is clear that at least two species that are -not closely related to coca were attacked in inoculation tests, which is a strong indication that EN4 might infect other plants and might have a broad host range if deliberately released into a diverse ecosystem.
Deliberately not species-specific
The specificity of EN4 is also questionable because it is intended for deliberte use to attack not one; but two different species of plants: Erythroxilum coca var. coca and Erythroxilum novogranatense var novogranatense, the two species grown for the cocaine content. (18) Field tests performed of EN4 on both species showed that the pathogen behaved differently, being more aggressive on E. coca than on E. novogranatense. (19) This is another scientific warning sign that other Erythroxilum species are also possible victims of EN4.
Questionable testing against cultivated crops
In all cases, US has limited the host specificity test to cultivated crops or plants of questionable real-world relevance. Even when requested to provide all documents pertaining to the coca fungus under the Freedom of Information Act, the USDA did not present scientific data on host specificity of EN4 other than that cited above.
And there were important omssions in the tests on cultivatesd crops. For example on the infectivity of EN4 on yams (Ipomoea batatas), a staple crop in the Andes. It has recently been shown that the Fusarium oxysporum strains that infect coca plants and yams are very closely related. (20)
The narrow approach in the host-specificity testing of the coca-killing EN4 can also be observed in opium poppy plant pathogens. Pleospora papavaceae, the opium poppy eradicator, has been tested against forty-two basic cultivated crops in Uzbekistan. (21) USDA's reports mention no testing on relatives of poppy.
No testing on closely related species, some endangered
The pathogen agents have not been tested on species related to the target crops &endash; despite the fact that some are listed as endangered. Indeed, except for the two suitable for production of cocaine, USDA researchers have not tested EN4 on a single one of the more the 250 Erythroxilum species that ring the tropics worldwide.
In Colombia, the von Humboldt Institute lists four Erythroxilum species as endangered: E. carthagenense; E. ineolatum var. Lineolatum; E. lineolatum var. sanctae-martae and E. plowmanianum. (22) US researchers have released no information that indicate they have researched the fungus' threat to these endangered species.
The pathogens are intended for released in complex and fragile ecosystems, and their overall impact needs to be taken into consideration. Some valuable species depend on wild relatives of narcotic species, and they are threatened by the wide and indiscriminate spread of the pathogen in the environment.
For example, Russian researchers found that a F. oxysporum strain that was tested to be used as a herbicide on broomrape killed other fungi in the soil. This led to an increase of some soil fungi that are known to produce detrimental toxins (like Aspergillus). Following this experiment, the researchers recommended not to use this strain of Fusarium oxysporum as an agent to fight broomrapes. (23)
Threat to the Agrias Butterfly: For instance, one of the most highly prized butterflies in the world, the Agrias (Agrias claudina) depends on coca's wild relatives in Amazonian rainforest. Plants in the coca genus are the butterfly's host plant, the only scientifically-confirmed place where young larvae feed and mature. A beautiful fast flyer listed as endangered in Brazil, a centre of Agrias speciation is the Upper Putumayo River region, precisely where the US intends to apply the heaviest doses of the coca-killing fungus. If the fungus attacks wild coca relatives, it will ultimately also hurt the Agrias butterfly.
A call for caution has been made by Colombian scientists regarding the massive introduction of the pathogen in the fragile tropical rainforest. According to the scientists; "the equilibrium of any ecosystem is based on processes such as selection, mutation and dispersion. The introduction and/or increase of any population brings an impact on all components of such ecosystem. Therefore, the introduction and/or increase of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. Erythroxyli would bring modifications, not yet measurable on all forest's live populations including soil and aerial micro-organisms, birds, plants, arthropods, etc." (24)
Another environmental problem related to the use of mycoherbicides is their long persistence in the soil. Fusarium oxysporum spores are very resistant in the soil. The fungus build survival structures (chlamydospores) that may survive indefinitely if the fungus fits into the soil ecology. USDA estimates the survivability of EN4 spores to be in the range of 40 years.
For herbicides, long-term persistence is a sign of potential environmental dangers; but USDA has turned its usual considerations upside down with the drug fungi. USDA's scientists consider persistence of the fungi desirable, not a detriment. By designing fungi that remain in the soil for a long period of time, they hope to prevent farmers from replanting the targeted crop in sprayed areas for many years. Indeed, according to the promoters of the use of plant pathogens for the eradication of narcotic plants "because of their persistence, plant pathogens may provide a nearly permanent solution to illicit narcotic crop production in a given area with a single application." (25)
Release is Permanent: Fungi Evaded Scientists Control even on Test Plots
Once the fungal genie is out of the bottle, it is impossible to put it back. A scientist consulted by Sunshine Project stated that once an "unwanted" oxysporum is introduced into a new area, it could be very difficult to control. (26)
In Central Asia, when greenhouse tests were being conducted on cannabis fusarium pathogens, control plants became unintentionally infected with the fungus. The scientists sheepish explanation shows just how easily the Fusaria can be carried beyonf human control: "this [spread] can probably attributed to the bloom in fungus knats [sic] and shore flies that occurred in the greenhouse. These insects land in the inoculum and fly from plant to plant probably carrying spores in their bodies". (27)
Similar problems appear to have occurred when the USDA first field tested the EN4 strain in Hawaii. According to USDA's lead fungus researcher, David Sands of Ag/Bio Con, EN4 "was highly aggressive and was disseminated rapidly throughout the original infested field containment of the fungus proved challenging". The strain then apparently jumped from experiment area to control plots that had not been deliberately infested. (28)
Toxicity: threats to humans and animals
The potential for the fungi to harm to human and animal health is another area that US researchers have failed to address. Some fungi are capable to produce very poisonous substances, known as mycotoxins, that have serious impact on human and animal health. Amazingly. USDA researchers never tested the fungi for the production of these deadly mycotoxins, instead weakly observing that they have never noticed the strains to produce them.
Indeed, it has been clearly demonstrated in scientific experiments that some strains of Fusarium oxysporum produce the toxic substances fusaric acid, moniliformin , (29) trichothecenes and fusarin C . (30) Trichothecenes is dangerous enough to be listed as biological weapon agents in the draft Protocol to the UN Convention on Biological and Toxic Weapons. (31)
In domestic animals, fumonisins have been identified to cause a neurological disease, equine leucoencephalomalacia in horses, pulmonary edema in swine, hepatotoxic and nephrotoxic effects in other domestic animals, and carcinogenesis in laboratory animals. (32) Mycotoxins may cause reduced growth rate, decreased resistance to infection, fatty liver syndrome and death . (33)
In humans, Fusarium species, including F. oxysporum have been recognised fungal pathogen affecting immunosuppressed patients, with high mortality incidence. (34) Diseases caused by Fusarium infections include keratitis onychomicosis, arthritis. Coca leaves are legally chewed by indigenous peoples and others in Andean and Amazon regions, and opium poppies are used in traditional Asian medicine. The health of these traditional users of these plants may be compromised by if the fungi are released.
Interest in the Geographic Range of the Fungal Pathogens
USDA researchers have repeatedly sought to deflect concern about the environmental impact of the fungi on the ground that similar F. oxysporum types may be naturally occurring in some areas where the fungi would be used. The argument is convenient for the promoters of the pathogens, enabling them to attempt to lower the testing threshold and get around legal and quarantine issues on the export of living organisms and introduction of alien species. Talking about the plant pathogen against opium poppy, the head of the laboratory at the Vienna-based UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP), says that "It would hearten all of us if we were to find that it was indigenous to Afghanistan." (35)
A second opium poppy pathogen agent under study, Dendryphion papaveraceae, is alleged to be naturally occurring poppy fungus in Uzbekistan. US-backed researcher are eager to find the fungus elsewhere in Central Asia. Confirmation of such natural occurrence in other in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan was defined as "an important step". (36)
Regarding the EN4, USDA commissioned the International Institute of Biological Control in the UK to research the variation of Fusarium oxysporum strains in coca and related species. The UK researchers studied the relationship between EN4 and other F. oxysporum strains. Their work indicates that EN4 is probably more related to some other F. oxysporum forma specialis than to other strains that were isolated from coca plants. The only two F. oxysporum strains that were known to be isolated from a cocaine producing coca plant in the Andean region were only very distantly related to EN4. (37) This does not necessarily mean that EN4 is new to the Andean region, but this report is a strong indication that EN4 is not yet established in the Andes, and that it is not necessarily species specific. Even if comparable strains might be native to other regions of South America, this would never be an indication of safety for a release in Colombia.
But the natural range question really has more to do with disarming potential criticism than any serious reasoning. There are many "naturally occurring" pathogens &endash; like dozens of devastating row crop diseases - that nobody would dare reproduce and distribute. Ultimately whether or not any given fungus strain can be detected within a target country borders has little bearing on the fungus' safety. By way of comparison, for example, Tebuthiron can be used safely in some agricultural conditions, that doesn't mean its safe for narcotics eradication. Similarly, late potato blight is endemic in Ireland (and many other places); but the Irish government wouldn't be likely to approve of anyone deliberately dumping large amounts of virulent P. infestans strains on its farmland. Small &endash; or significant - populations of naturally-occurring fungus cannot be used to lower the safety net or justify massive aerial application over a large area.
Future Risks, Legal Narcotics, Rights,
and Recommendations for the COP
Genetic Engineering and Mutagenesis
The United States says that the fungus varieties it will use in developing countries are not genetically-engineered. But USDA scientists have created genetically-modified strains in the laboratory. US scientists have also cloned virulence genes from related fungi (Fusarium strains that attack potatoes) with the possible intent of increasing the kill rate of anti-drug fungi through biotechnology.
As early as 1994, US-funded scientists in Central Asia grew Fusarium fungi in cultures laced with glyphosate. It was an attempt to create glyphosate-tolerant fungus strains (glyphosate is an herbicide; but it affects some fungi as well). The intent was to produce a cannabis eradication spray with a double-dose of deadly components &endash; glyphosate to kill the plants chemically, and Fusarium to kill with disease. (38)
The contract currently being negotiated with Colombia for the testing of EN4 contains vague language regarding the use of genetic-engineering. While the US maintains no LMO fungi are envisoned for release, in the section of 'project risks', the Colombian contract reads "the project will provide for the development of a system of unequivocally assessing the [fungus] population density, probably relying on genetically unique tagging of the pathogen." (39)
A probable consequence of permitting testing and use of the current fungi will be future pressure for countries to allow "enhanced" Living modified organisms (LMOs) fungi.
Political, Social, and Economic Implications
Threat to Legal Production: Cannabis, coca and opium poppy are all grown for legal purposes including production of pharmaceuticals (codeine, morphine, etc.), and hemp fibre & oil from cannabis varieties called hemp. Cannabis is also legally grown in some places for medical purposes Opiates are a source of important pharmaceutical medicines, and several countries legally grow poppy for these purposes. A major exporter of legal opiates is India, --principal producer and sole licit supplier of opium for decades. Opium is also planted for medical purposes in China and in Japan to preserve know-how. Poppy is also legally planted to produce straw in Turkey, Australia, France and Spain. (40) UNDCP reports over 29,000 ha of legal plantations of coca in Bolivia and Peru. (41)
But the fungi, when released in the environment, won't distinguish a crop of poppy or coca for illicit use than that for legal use. India's production of pharmaceutical opiates, for example, might be threatened use of the pathogens agent in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, or other neighbors. A similar fate could befall China, if the pathogen were used for the eradication of poppy in bordering Burma, Laos or Thailand. Canadian hemp farmers has already expressed its concerns by impact of marihuana killing fungi in its hemp plantations.
Liability: The situation is grim from the perspective of the country where the fungi get out of control. Such a country may bear liability for damages caused to third parties. In the Colombia contract, for instance, the US keeps the good for itself while giving Colombia the bad. One clause expressly reserves intellectual property rights over the pathogens for the USA, while another the imposes the liability entirely on Colombia (42) for any damages to third parties resulting from the implementation of the project.
Indigenous Peoples and Local Community Rights
The rights of indigenous people who cultivate the target crops for traditional, non-drug uses are also threatened. In South Asia, poppies are used in traditional ayurvedic medicine and plant material is used as fodder. Andean indigenous communities from Colombia to Argentina have used coca for thousands of years. The leaves are chewed as a mild stimulant and as sustenance for working under harsh environmental conditions. In these countries, coca constitutes a household medicine and plays a crucial symbolic and religious role, (43) and is still legal in Bolivia and Peru. Indigenous people who live close to where fungus is applied may become innocent Drug War victims. But traditional uses of biodiversity, protected by the Convention on Biodiversity, is also compromised in countries like Peru and Bolivia, if the fungus is released in Colombia.
Relevance to the COP
The use of pathogen agents to kill narcotic crops poses a serious threat to biodiversity, demanding an immediate response by the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity. The impacts reach several areas that fall under the scope of the CBD and are subjects of its ongoing work. Relevant areas associated to the use of pathogen agents include agricultural biodiversity, introduction of alien species and living modified organisms, Article 8(j), and relations with other international processes and conventions.
In Decisions III/11 and IV/6, the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity recognised the importance of soil microorganisms and pollinators (who may ingest/carry fungi) for agricultural diversity, and has included the subject within its programme of work on agricultural biodiversity.
Links with other international processes
Co-operation with other international conventions and processes has been fostered within the CBD, acknowledging the importance of mutually supportive activities. This acknowledgement has resulted in joint efforts with Commission on Sustainable Development, the Ramsar Convention, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), MOU subscribed with Intergovernmental Oceanic Commission, the World Bank, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and others.
To further this collaboration, Decision IV/15 request the Executive Secretariat to continue to co-ordinate with the secretariats of other relevant international processes, and to explore modalities of establishing suitable liaison arrangements in relevant centers in order to achieve greater coherence in these intergovernmental processes.
Protection of traditional knowledge and indigenous peoples' use of biodiversity
Article 8(j) and related articles are pivotal to the CBD. The role of indigenous peoples and local communities in conservation of biological diversity has been recognized by the CBD, and, therefore, protection of their knowledge, innovation and practices has been granted.
The COP needs to set a precedent against the use of biological agents to eradicate crops. As desirable as reduction in the supply of illicit drugs may be, the poorly-conceived and dangerous fungal eradication strategy poses a serious threat to biodiversity, undermining the principles and objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The COP should:
1. Adopt a resolution establishing a clear precedent that the development of any pathogen to deliberately kill any cultivated crop is contrary to the objectives to the Convention and that Parties, and governments, should refrain from such activities.
2. Under the its programme on agricultural biodiversity, assess the potential impacts of narcotic plant pathogens on agriculture, particularly their potential threat to soil ecology and pollinators.
3. Analyse the use of narcotic crop pathogens in the light of the CBD provisions related to biotechnology, including the new Biosafety Protocol.
4. Request the Executive Secretary to urgently communicate to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, prior to its March 2001 session, the concern of the Parties that certain activities that might be undertaken in international eradication programmes raise questions with respect to CBD Parties' commitments to protect the biodiversity rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and to protect biodiversity, particularly agricultural biodiversity.
1. Bailey, Brian et al. 1997. "Strategies for Biological Control of Narcotic Plants". In; Executive Office of the President Office of National Drug Control Policy. Proceedings "Harnessing Technology to Support National Drug Control Strategy. Chicago, August 1997
2. Public Law 105-27. 105th Congress, Section 832. Section 833 commends the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to "develop a 10-year master plan for the use of herbicides to control narcotic crops (including coca, poppy, and cannabis) in the United States and internationally".
3. Jelsma, M. 2000. "The vicious circle. The Chemical Spraying of Drug Crops in Colombia". Transnational Institute. Amsterdam
4. Jelsma, M. 2000. "The vicious circle. The Chemical Spraying of Drug Crops in Colombia". Transnational Institute. Amsterdam
5. US State Department Cable 1999STATE091579, obtained by independent researcher Jeremy Bigwood under the Freedom of Information Act.
6. Resolution E/1988/9. In E/EN/1990/CPR.7, Par. 6
7. Commission on Narcotic Drugs. 1990. 'Report of the Expert Group Meeting on Environmentally Safe Methods for the Eradication of Illicit Narcotic Plants held at Vienna from 4 to 8 December 1989" E/CN.7/1990/CPR.7 Par. 11.
8. UN Economic and Social Council. 1996 "Crops from where Drugs are Extracted and Appropriate Strategies for their Reduction" E/CN.7/1996/11 Par. 18
9. USDA-ARS Narcotic Research Program. n/d "Fact Sheet. Chemical Control of Narcotic Crops".
10. Decreto Superior 004-2000-AG, March 24, 2000.
11. ODCCP Regional Office for Central Asia. Monthly Situation Report &endash; Uzbekistan (January 2000): AD/RER/98/C32.
12. Martha Lucia Guardiola, Letter submitted to the Environmental Ombudsman, April 4, 2000. Bogota, Colombia.
13. "Marijuana-Eating Fungus Seen as Potent Weapon, but at What Cost? The New York Times. Rick Bragg. July 17, 1999.
14. ODCCP Regional Office for Central Asia. Monthly Situation Report &endash; Uzbekistan (January 2000): AD/RER/98/C32.
15. Dr David Backhouse in a personal communication. Dr. Backhouse is from the School of Rural Science and Natural Resources, University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351, Australia, email@example.com
16. Kistler HC (1997) "Genetic diversity in the plant pathogenic fungus Fusarium oxysporum". In Phytopathology 87:474-479. Dr. H. Nirenberg in a personal communication. Prof. Nirenberg is a leading Fusarium expert at the Inst. f. Mikrobiologie at the BBA in Berlin, Germany, H.Nirenberg@bba.de
17. Institute of Biological Control. n.d. "Progress Report on USDA Weed Pathology Project (Fox 916) December 1994-Nov. 1995
18. D.C. Sands et al. 1997 Characterization of a vascular wilt of Erythroxylum coca caused by Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. erythroxyli Forma specialis Nova. Plant Disease 81: 501-504
19. D.C. Sands et al. (1997) Characterization of a vascular wilt of Erythroxylum coca caused by Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. erythroxyli Forma specialis Nova. Plant Disease 81, p.503
20. O´Donnell K, Kistler HC, Cigelnik E, Ploetz RC (1998) Multiple evolutionary origins of the fungus causing Panama disease of banana: concordant evidence from nuclear and mitochondrial gene genealogies. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 95:2044-2049
21. United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention &endash;ODCCP-. Central and South West Asia. Sub-regional Activities. Ongoing Activities. 1998. http://www.odccp.org:80/adhoc/operations/csswasia/regsswas.htm
22. Instituto "Alexander von Humboldt". 'Listas Rojas' preliminares de plantas vasculares de Colombia (incluyendo orquídeas) -- versión Abril de 2000 --. Página WEB del Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos "Alexander von Humboldt".http://www.humboldt.org.co/Listas_Preliminares.htm
23. Murasheva-V-N; Sizova-T-P (1995) Consequences of applying broomrape fusaroid wilt to the soil. Mikologiya-i-Fitopatologiya 29 (5-6) 41-45.
24. Martha Lucia Guardiola. Letter submitted to the Environmental Ombudsman, April 4, 2000. Bogota, Colombia, P. 2.
25. Bailey, Brian et al. 1997. "Strategies for Biological Control of Narcotic Plants". In; Executive Office of the President Office od National Drug Control Policy. Proceedings "Harnessing Technology to Support National Drug Control Strategy. Chicago, August 1997.
26. Prof. Robert F. Nyvall in a personal communication. He is from the University of Minnesota, Grand Rapids, Minnesota 55744 firstname.lastname@example.org
27. "Alma Ata Fusaria Pathogenecity Testing in Cannabis sativa", May, 1994. Page 7.
28. D.C. Sands et al. (1997) Characterization of a vascular wilt of Erythroxylum coca caused by Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. erythroxyli Forma specialis Nova. Plant Disease 81:501-504
29. Kim-Jin-Cheol; Lee-Yin-Won (1994) Sambutoxin, a new mycotoxin produced by toxic Fusarium isolates obtained from rotted potato tubers. Applied-and-Environmental-Microbiology 60 (12) 4380-4386. Dr. H. Nirenberg in a personal communication. Prof. Nirenberg is a leading Fusarium expert at the Inst. f. Mikrobiologie at the BBA in Berlin, Germany, H.Nirenberg@bba.de
30. Cantalejo MJ, Torondel P, Amate L, Carrasco JM, Hernandez E (1999) Detection of fusarin C and trichothecenes in Fusarium strains from Spain. JOURNAL OF BASIC MICROBIOLOGY 39:143-153
31. Rolling Text (9th Session). Annexes A-C. The Rolling Text can be found at http://www.brad.ac.uk/
32. Doyle, E. 1997. Food Research Institute, UW-Madison. In http://www.wisc.edu/fri/fusarium.htm
33. J.F. Shanahan, W.M. Brown Jr. Aflotoxins. Colorado State University. In http://www.colostate.edu/Depts/CoopExt/PUBS/CROPS/00306.html
34. Boutati, E.I., Anaissie, E., 1997, "Fusarium: A significant emerging pathogen in patients with hematologic malignancy: Ten years' experience at a cancer center and implications for management" In Blood, Vol. 90 No. 3 (August 1), 1997: pp. 999-1008. Also: Rippon JW et al. 1998. "Disseminated cutaneous and peritoneal hyalohyphomycosis caused by Fusarium species: three cases and review of the literature" In Mycopathologia 1988 Feb;101(2):105-11
35. Ford, Peter. 1998. "At Heroin's Source, Hope Rises For a Way to Cut Opium Crops". In Christian Science Monitor International. Wednesday March 18, 1998 Edition. Also in http://www.csmonitor.com/durable/1998/03/18/intl/intl.5.html
36. UNDCP SCOPE "Strategy for Coca and Opium Poppy Elimination"
37. USDA Weed Pathology Project (FOX916) Variation in Fusarium oxysporum isolates from Erythroxylum. Report of work carried out at IMI, July 1997. Dr David Brayford, International Mycological Institute at IIBC, CABI. (This report was released to the Sunshine Project in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request in April 2000). In this report, the two strains of F. oxysporum isolated from cocaine producing plants in the Andean region were No. 587d and 605a, both from E.coca var. coca plants in Bolivia. In the most sophisticated assay, the digest patterns of rDNA IGS region, these two strains showed only a very distant relationship, with the forma specialis cubense, dianthi, gladioli, radicis-lycopersici and others being very closely related to EN4. vcg-assays revealed that EN4 shared no compatibility group with any other F. oxysporum tested. RAPD and SSR analysis singled EN4 out, with the closest relationship to one strain from Madagascar and three strains from Ecuador, two of which were isolated from E. glauca. Although the results differed slightly with the different methods, the general outcome was that some of EN4´s closest relatives were pathogens from other Erythroxylum species such as E. glauca or E. macrophyllum.
38. "Alma Ata Fusaria Pathogenecity Testing in Cannabis sativa", May, 1994, Pages 14-19.
39. United Nations International Drug Control Programme, Project of the Government of Colombia. Project Document "Experimental Testing and further development of an environmentally safe biological control agent for coca eradication". Vienna, February 1999; p.19 Draft copy.
40. United Nations. Economic and Social Council. E/CN.7/1996/11
41. United Nations. Economic and Social Council. E/CN.7/1996/11
42. United Nations International Drug Control Programme, Project of the Government of Colombia. Project Document "Experimental Testing and further development of an environmentally safe biological control agent for coca eradication". Vienna, February 1999; p. 22. Draft copy.
43. Alvarez, Elena. 1990. "Reasons for the Expansion of Coca Exports in Peru". In Committee on Govermental Affairs, United States Senate. "Cocaine Production, Eradication and the Environment: Policy Impact and Options. Procedings of a seminar held by the Congressional Research Serivice. Februrary 14, 1990.
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