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Argument: Coca crop eradication badly damages the environment

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Rhett Butler. "Coca cultivation and eradication destroy rainforest." MongaBay. September 15, 2005: 1.8 million hectares of rainforest in Colombia have been destroyed to make room for drug plantations according to the director of Amazon Institute of Scientific Investigation (Instituto Amazónico de Investigaciones Científicas).

Drug eradification efforts have focused on aerial fumigation programs where herbicides (a mixture that includes Monsanto Corporation's Roundup and Cosmo-Flux 411F) are dropped by crop-duster planes on suspect vegetation. Since the concoction is a non-selective herbicide, surrounding vegetation -- including subsistence crops and native plants -- are killed as well. Environmentalists, indigenous rights' groups, and even the government of Ecuador have complained that widespread spraying of herbicides could pose health threats to locals as well as damage to the environment. Local reports suggest that farmers often replant coca seedlings soon after spraying, making the whole exercise somewhat futile.

[...] Earlier this year, a report from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy showed that a massive aerial spraying offensive last year failed to reduce the area of coca under cultivation in Colombia. Drug eradification efforts in the country have lately resulted in the shifting of large-scale coca production into the extensive rainforests of Choco state. In March 2005, the Associated Press reported that large-scale coca production was moving into the extensive rainforests of the Chocó state, a biodiversity hotspot in northwest Colombia. Poor farmers are clearing forest to plant coca seedlings while hunting local wildlife for food.

The ecological impacts of coca production are significant as well. Each acre of requires clearing of roughly four acres of forest while the dumping of chemicals used to process coca leaves (including kerosene, sulfuric acid, acetone, and carbide) pollutes local waterways."

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