Remember Mark Souder? Well, back in 2006, he and Senator Hatch and Senator Biden were desperately trying to introduce some major biological warfare into the drug war – namely, the use of mycoherbicides for drug crop eradication.
At that time, we were able to stop them from implementing active field studies of mycoherbicides in Colombia and Afghanistan. But they still managed to push a pro-mycoherbicide provision… into the ONDCP reauthorization.
SEC. 1111. REQUIREMENT FOR SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF MYCOHERBICIDE IN ILLICIT DRUG CROP ERADICATION.
(a) Requirement.–Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall submit to the Congress a report that includes a plan to conduct, on an expedited basis, a scientific study of the use of mycoherbicide as a means of illicit drug crop elimination by an appropriate Government scientific research entity, including a complete and thorough scientific peer review. The study shall include an evaluation of the likely human health and environmental impacts of mycoherbicides derived from fungus naturally existing in the soil.
Well, the study was actually done, and the results were just released.
From the summary:
On the basis of its review, the committee concluded that the available data are insufficient to determine the effectiveness of the specific fungi proposed as mycoherbicides to combat illicit-drug crops or to determine their potential effects on nontarget plants, microorganisms, animals, humans, or the environment. The questions normally asked before a fungal pathogen is registered as a mycoherbicide in the United States have not been adequately addressed. […]
Studies of the cannabis, coca, and opium poppy mycoherbicides that have
been published or were made available to the panel are preliminary, exploratory, and insufficient to determine their suitability for controlling illicit-drug crops. The available data do not answer all the questions normally asked before a fungal pathogen is registered as a mycoherbicide in the United States. The rigorous, lengthy testing required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not yet begun, and conducting the research is not a guarantee that a registered mycoherbicide product will result. Mycoherbicides for the control of illicit-drug crops will face additional difficulties in that the people cultivating the crops will be working to prevent the mycoherbicides from having their intended effects.
International Approval and Cooperation: Mycoherbicides proved to be safe and effective might not be approved for use in other countries. At least some tests of the mycoherbicide strains must be performed in the countries where the mycoherbicides might be used or in other countries that have similar climatic and environmental conditions. The testing requires the approval and cooperation of those countries and has been difficult, or impossible, to obtain. Country-specific requirements for such applications must also be satisfied.
Difficulties in Implementation: Commercial success of mycoherbicides developed to control weeds requires collaboration with the growers. Farmers who welcome attempts to control unwanted plants will tolerate aerial application from aircraft flying at low altitudes and at low speeds or from ground-based equipment, as needed, for the effective application of mycoherbicides, and they will permit or assist in the on-the-ground monitoring needed to assess the efficacy of the mycoherbicide. The proposed mycoherbicides for illicit-drug crops would not have similar cooperation from their growers, and this would constrain aerial application methods and limit on-the-ground monitoring. Technology for
the effective application of mycoherbicides from high altitudes has not been developed.
Difficulty in Assessment of Effectiveness: The available data indicate that that proposed mycoherbicide strains are unlikely to kill large numbers of the target plants quickly. The combination of lack of rapid, aggressive action with little or nonexistent on-the-ground assessment would make it difficult, or even impossible, to determine the effectiveness of the mycoherbicide applications.
Development of Countermeasures: Producers of illicit-drug crops have an incentive to prevent damage to their crop yields and should be expected to develop countermeasures that reduce the efficacy of the mycoherbicides. Such countermeasures could include the use of fungicides or soil fumigants to kill the mycoherbicide strains directly or the cultivation of plant varieties that are resistant to the mycoherbicides.
Risks to Legal Crops and Native Plants: Cannabis, coca, and opium
poppy are grown in several countries for licit uses and are part of the native flora in some regions. Plants in those settings could be vulnerable to the mycoherbicides. In addition, the mycoherbicides could spread beyond the geographic range of the illicit crops.
Risks to Nontarget Organisms: The mycoherbicide strains could have
direct and indirect effects on other plants, microorganisms, animals, or the environment. Those effects cannot be completely characterized even if research is performed to learn more about the infectivity and toxicity of the strains, if any, to nontarget plants and organisms. Mycoherbicides consist of living organisms that interact with and adapt to their environment, and it is difficult to predict how they might behave when released in substantial numbers into an ecosystem.
Didn’t give Congress quite the ringing endorsement some were hoping for.