Has the “War on Drugs” gone biological in Afghanistan?

Paul Raven @ 11-05-2010

This is sure to end well: UK and US forces in Afghanistan stand accused of using biological warfare tactics against the region’s opium poppy crops, which are being rapidly swept by some hitherto-unseen disease.

According to the Telegraph, yields have dropped by up to 90 per cent in some fields. […] Considering that spraying has been forbidden by the president of Afghanistan, “we start with the belief that this is a natural phenomenon,” says Lemanhieu. It could be due to insects such as aphids, or fungi, he says.

The Telegraph reports that the disease was first noticed a month ago and has spread to four provinces across the south, including Helmand – responsible for producing over half of Afghanistan’s opium poppies in 2009.

Could just be one of those things, I suppose…

According to the Telegraph, an international official in Afghanistan has flatly denied US or British involvement in spreading the disease. He said: “The government of Afghanistan are not using any kind of spraying and there’s nothing else going on either.”

Or then again, maybe not. Nothing like a strenuous official denial to make something seem that much more likely.

While we’re on the subject of drug agriculture, maybe you’ve wondered which recreational substance is the most environmentally friendly in terms of its impact on the ecosystem? Cue lots of smug smoke-wreathed hippies:

[A] U.N. report finds that a square meter of marijuana cultivation can support 250 dose units of the drug. About the same amount of land—200,000 hectares—is under cultivation for cannabis, cocaine, and heroin around the world, but the cannabis is getting a heck of a lot more people high. For users in the United States, it also has the relative advantage of being produced in large quantities on American soil. About half of our marijuana supply comes from domestic sources—with minimal “drug miles” and a slimmer carbon footprint.

But leaving aside the sophistry of arguing that any drug is “better” (in environmental or any other terms), I’m with Klint Finley of Technoccult: that’s the first time I’ve seen an ecological argument for ending the “War on Drugs”.

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3 Responses to “Has the “War on Drugs” gone biological in Afghanistan?”

  1. khannea says:

    Amazing. I described this in a cyberpunk roleplaying game about 1993, and the other side retalliated by genetically splicing narcotic plant genes in garden variety poison ivy. To be continued!

  2. Philip Brewer says:

    The environmental argument isn’t new, most especially with regard to hemp (which is illegal to grow in the US because growing it for fiber would “send the wrong signal” to kids who wanted to get high). Hemp is much less demanding of water, fertilizer, and pesticides than cotton.

    But there’s nothing more environmentally destructive than war, and a lot of wars have an anti-drug component.

  3. Robert Koslover says:

    My bet is that this is not a product of any deliberate attack on the drug crop.