Glyphosate Restrictions – South and Central America

South and Central America are still influenced by the colonisation by the United States.

El Salvador

In El Salvador, the deaths of hundreds of people from renal diseases have been attributed to agrochemical products, particularly glyphosate. On 5th September 2013, the Legislative Assembly reformed the law governing the control of pesticides, fertilisers and farming products banning the import, sale and use of 53 chemical products and insecticides considered harmful to health. Banned pesticides include Glyphosate, Paraquat, 2,4-D, and Endosulfan, methamidophos, Latigo, Aldicarb, DDT, Ethyl Paraton, Toxaphene, and Sodium Fluoroacetate.

The extensive community support was shown at a conference called soon after the ban attended by environmental and community organisations (Permanent Coordinating Body of the Lower Lempa (MESPABAL); el Movimiento, the Movement for the Defense of Life and Natural Resources; the Mangrove Association; the local watershed coalition (ECADER); CORDES; and EcoViva) and representatives from the municipalities of Jiquilisco, Tecoluca, and Zacatecoluca. The mayor’s office of Jiquilisco have approved local ordinances that restrict pesticide use.

It was intended that these reforms would be implemented gradually over a period of two years until they were eradicated completely, allowing instead the use of more environmentally-friendly products. The deadline for Paraquat was one year and two years for other products.

There was considerable resistance from the right-wing ARENA and Partido de Concertación Nacional Parties who refused to vote for the reforms, claiming that agricultural production would be affected. This was aimed to protect the country’s major agrochemicals importer, Alfredo Cristiani, who was previously a civil servant of the ARENA Party and a former President of the Republic. During the 1980s when the armed conflict in El Salvador reached a critical point Cristiani was involved with the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), which had been founded by School of the Americas trained military intelligence officer Roberto D’Aubuisson.

Estela Hernandez, the member for Usulutan, 5th largest city, says that the belief of the right that these products are necessary and that farmers will be affected is a contradiction because the farmers are the group that will benefit most from the bans since they are most exposed to pesticides, risking their lives using these products without any protection, or any information.

However, by May, 2016, it would appear that implementation of the ban has been stalled by the right-wing.


Columbia has been in civil war for 50 years. As part of that war it has been spraying coca plantations which they maintain are financing the rebels. Coca is the source material for cocaine and the target of anti-narcotics efforts across South America driven in part by the United States. Over almost four decades the target has changed: first it was marihuana, then coca leaves, later opium poppies.

Major players: The operators have changed: once just local Colombian forces, today there are US pilots flying US-made planes. They are spraying a US-made product (Roundup Ultra ) in fulfilment of a multi-million dollar contract granted and largely funded by the US government to a US corporation, Monsanto. (An outline of US involvement in ‘drug control’ is here. An estimated 1.6 million hectares of land has been sprayed. This spraying for the ‘war on drugs’ has been ineffective in eradicating illegal cocaine production, but has instead caused rising illness in local communities, killing local crops and polluting land and water supplies. Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities have borne the brunt of the herbicide programs, prompting protests against both coca production and glyphosate use that has been displacing people from ancestral lands.

Spraying in southern Colombia also caused diplomatic tensions. In 2008, Ecuador sued Colombia, taking it to the International Court of Justice for environmental and health damages caused by the herbicide, which is easily carried by the wind across borders. Additionally, some of the US contractors were intentionally and illegally spraying Ecuador villages. The issue was partially resolved in 2013, when Colombia paid $15 million for compensation of damages and a promise to discontinue sprayings near the border. This recognition of damaging effects should have led the Columbian government to protect its own citizens and environment. In ongoing litigation, on 2nd November 2016, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled in favor of 19 Ecuadoreans against U.S. company, DynCorp.

Ineffective: A report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime which monitors the crops by satellite estimated the area under coca cultivation to have risen 44% between 2013 and 2014 to 69,000 hectares or 175,000 acres. Potential cocaine production soared from 290 tonnes in 2013 to 442 tonnes in 2014, up 52%. This supported a report by the US Office of National Drug Control Policy which claimed the number of hectares under cultivation had grown 39% in that period.

UNODC also said the suspension of aerial spraying was unlikely to affect the cultivation area because the most growth in area was found in zones where spraying was already off limits, such as nature reserves and indigenous reservations.

The Columbian Justice Minister, Yesid Reyes, said the reports showed that the aerial dispersion strategy was ineffective. After spraying 1.5m hectares in the past 12 years, the total reduction of coca crops was just 12,000 hectares, Reyes said. Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, he added: “Insanity is to continue doing the same thing and expect different results.”

Glyphosate bans: In May 2015, President Juan Manuel Santos banned the use of glyphosate following a World Health Organisation decision to classify it as a carcinogen. Aerial spraying of illegal coca and poppy plants was suspended.

The US ambassador Kevin Whitaker immediately responded In Colombia’s highest circulation newspaper El Tiempo. He maintained that decreases in coca cultivation in the past were the direct result of fumigation operations and that the chemicals being used were not harmful to humans. He wrote, “Anyone who claims that aspersion with glyphosate on coca crops is dangerous, or that there are many proven cases of damage to human health, is badly informed.” To spray the land of poor rural farmers with glyphosate was to “strike against the narco-mafias” and stopping the policy would be senseless when “aerial aspersion is well managed, uses a secure and effective chemical, and has achieved many positive results for Colombia.”

By April 2016, Colombia resumed the coca ‘fumigation’ program. The Defense Minister, Luis Carlos Villegas, said instead of dumping glyphosate from American-piloted crop dusters, the herbicide would now be applied manually by eradication crews on the ground. Applying the herbicide manually is expensive since heavily armed police patrols must escort eradicators in dangerous areas dotted with land mines and dominated by criminal gangs. A better eradication strategy, the experts insist, is the one already in place and which the government has been promising to scale up. In that approach, work crews pull up coca bushes by the roots, thus ensuring plants can’t grow back as happens after exposure to glyphosate.

This article has been sourced from gmwatch, The Ecologist, Worldpress, The Washington Times, and The Guardian.


Bolivia has taken a very different approach to reducing glyphosate applications. From 1997 to 2004, a US-funded program seeking to eradicate coca in Bolivia by force plunged the Chapare Province, one of two coca-growing regions, into traumatic conflict.

In 2004 under centrist President Carlos Mesa, Coca was legalised for domestic consumption.

In 2005, Evo Morales was elected President and in 2008 the US Department of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was expelled from Bolivia. The 2004 legalization ushered in a close working relationship with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, whose estimates of land dedicated to coca in the three countries where the plant is grown — Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia — are widely used to calculate how much cocaine is circulating in the world. According to the agency’s annual survey of Bolivia’s coca sector, published in July, the country’s area of production dropped slightly in 2015 to 20,200 hectares. That’s the lowest level since the agency began monitoring Bolivia’s coca harvest in 2003 and roughly a third down from the total during the DEA’s last year in Bolivia. It is also almost exactly at the national target of 20,000 hectares — enough to meet local demand for the plant while still ensuring minimal leakage into cocaine production.

The program is well regulated and enforced.
This success was not popular in Washington. President Barack Obama, in a State Department memo, underlined US disapproval when he officially declared that Bolivia has “demonstrably failed” to live up to its international counter-narcotics commitments. The only other countries on the list were Venezuela and Burma. A State Department spokesperson told VICE News in an email that Bolivia had “undertaken some successful counter-narcotics activities,” but added that the country has not destroyed enough coca plants nor seized enough cocaine in transit to merit US approval.

Morales has made it clear he doesn’t care what the US thinks.

Washington’s continued chastising of Bolivia stands in contrast to its routine approval of the eradication-based anti-narcotics efforts of staunch regional allies Colombia and Peru, which both grow far more coca. Strategies in those countries can seem like a whack-a-mole game in which destroying crops in one area leads to them popping up somewhere else. Critics warn eradication does nothing to reduce demand for coca for the production of cocaine, nor poverty among the growers.

The UN crime office reported that Peru had 40,300 hectares of coca in 2015, almost exactly the same amount it registered in 2001 — the earliest year the agency compiled statistics for the nation. Colombia, meanwhile, saw its coca production soar 40 percent last year, according to the agency, to 96,000 hectares. That’s still down by roughly one-third from 2001, but it continues a sharp uptick since Colombia’s coca low point in 2013.
Read the full article by Simeon Tegel here.


Peru’s decree to ban GMO foods which prohibits their import, production and use, was drafted in 2008, passed by the Peruvian Congress in April 2011, and came into effect in November 2012. The law is aimed at safeguarding the country’s agricultural diversity and preventing cross-pollination with non-GMO crops. It will also help protect Peruvian exports of organic products. It not only bans GMO crops like Monsanto’s BT-Corn, but also expands on a prior law that required all foods on supermarket shelves that contain GMOs to be labelled. Those GMO containing foods will now be completely banned.

Brazil and Argentina

Genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops now account for about 56 % of global glyphosate use. GE-HT soybeans accounted for 100 and 93 % of the soybean hectares planted in Argentina and Brazil in 2014.

While little evidence exists for the production of microencephaly by the Zika virus there is considerable evidence that glyphosate causes microencephaly. A perceived outbreak of this condition has been identified in Brazil.

Brazil’s National Cancer Institute shares the World Health Organization’s concern that glyphosate is carcinogenic. They also state that glyphosate use and GM crops are putting the country in the top ten for global pesticide consumption.

In May 2015, the Brazilian Public Prosecutor in the Federal District initiated actions in Brazil’s court system, the first of which seeks to compel the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) to re-evaluate the toxicity of glyphosate and of eight other active ingredients suspected of causing damage to people’s health and the environment. (2,4-D and the active ingredients methyl parathion, lactofem, phorate, carbofuran, abamectin, tiram and paraquat) The actions request a preliminary injunction which would allow the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply to suspend the registration of the products until a final conclusion about their toxicity is reached by ANVISA.

The prosecutor also asked that the National Biosafety Technical Commission prohibit the widespread sale of genetically engineered seeds resistant to the herbicides glyphosate and 2,4-D pending a final position by ANVISA.
More information here and here.

2015 April: Over 30,000 doctors in Argentina have demanded that Glyphosate be banned. The doctors are part of FESPROSA, Argentina’s Union of medical professionals. Citing the World Health Organization’s that the glyphosate chemicals used in Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide Round Up (formulated to use on Round Up Ready crops) is “likely carcinogenic”; they add that Glyphosate is also associated with:

  • Spontaneous abortions
  • Birth defects
  • Skin disease
  • Respiratory illness
  • Neurological disease

FESPROSA also explained: “In our country glyphosate is applied on more than 28 million hectares. Each year, the soil is sprayed with more than 320 million litres, which means that 13 million people are at risk of being affected, according to the Physicians Network of Sprayed Peoples (RMPF). Soy is not the only crop addicted to glyphosate: the herbicide is also used for transgenic maize and other crops. Where glyphosate falls, only GMOs can grow. Everything else dies.

The doctors also talk about vindicating one of their own: “Our trade union, the Federation of Health Professionals of Argentina (FESPROSA), which represents more than 30,000 doctors and health professionals in our country, includes the Social Health Collective of Andrés Carrasco. Andrés Carrasco was a researcher at [Argentine government research institute] CONICET, who died a year ago, and showed the damage caused by glyphosate to embryos. For disseminating his research, he was attacked by the industry and the authorities at CONICET. Today, WHO vindicates him.

We cannot allow the business interests of a North American multinational to be more important than the health of the people of our region. Governments should promote the technology and practices of organic farming to protect growers, consumers and the environment,” said Franco Segesso, coordinator of the campaign at Greenpeace Andino.

In Dec 28 2016 Sustainable Pulse reported that: Argentinian Federal Prosecutor Fabián Canda has officially filed a request to the Federal Administrative Court of Buenos Aires to prohibit the sale of GMO seeds that are designed to be grown with glyphosate herbicides (Roundup Ready), due to the probable harm to human and environmental health being caused by the weedkiller. Canda’s request, which is based on the precautionary principle, also calls for a ban on the aerial spraying of glyphosate herbicides and a 5 km no-spray zone surrounding population centers, schools, villages, farm houses, rivers, lakes and groundwater wells.

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