Response from Secretary of Agriculture to Secretary of State, August 14, 2002

United States Department of Agriculture
Office of the Secretary
Washington, D.C. 20250

August 14, 2002

The Honorable Colin. L. Powell
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, NW.
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Powell:

Thank you for your letter of May 8, 2002, requesting that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) advise you regarding the overall safety of the chemicals used in the eradication of i11icit narcotic crops in Colombia. This request was made pursuant to the Kenneth M. Ludden Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2002, (Pub. L. No. 107-115).

As you are aware, personnel from USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have provided technical advice to the Department of State regarding environmentally safe narcotic eradication technologies since 1987. This technical advice has primarily been directed to the Department of State's narcotic control programs in Colombia. Pursuant to these eradication activities, a large number of herbicides and adjuvants were screened under laboratory and field conditions. It was determined that glyphosate, applied aerially in a water-based solution, was effective in controlling both illicit poppy and coca. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world, available through both commercial and retail distributors. Glyphosate poses minimal health risks to humans and animals, is environmentally benign, and degrades rapidly in soil and water. It is USDA's determination that the risks involved with using glyphosate with commercially available adjuvants for narcotics eradication are minimal. To our knowledge, the only herbicide used by the Department of State for narcotics control is glyphosate.

In addition to providing technical advice regarding the safety of the chemicals involved in the Department of State's eradication program, personnel from ARS actively participate in the verification of both the safety and efficacy of actual eradication efforts in Colombia. To date, no unreasonable risk to non-target plant or animal species have been detected.

Should you wish further information on this subject, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Ann M. Veneman