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Colombia faces 273 lawsuits for poisoning crops with herbicide

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The Colombian government faces 273 lawsuits stemming from damages to crops, land and water caused by the spraying the herbicide glyphosate, which intended to destroy the plants harvested to manufacture cocaine.

The government has already paid out $5.6 million for 70 rulings in 116 separate lawsuits already concluded, Defense Ministry officials told the Senate, El Tiempo newspaper reported Thursday.

Different judicial authorities have held Colombia's national police responsible for damages, which has led to a great number of rulings against the government.

Aerial herbicide spraying by plane was suspended in Colombia in 2015, but the government planned last month to restart the practice using glyphosate -- via drones -- despite the opposition from farmers organizations through a 40-day trial program.

"We do not agree. The solution is not poison because it causes many environment problems," Jorge Rios, leader of the farming association of Rio Nechi, told El Tiempo last month.

Leaves on coca plants are used to produce cocaine.

According to U.S. data released in June, Colombian coca cultivation increased 11 percent last year, an all-time high. That led to an estimated 19 percent increase in cocaine production, it said.

The re-establishment of aerial aspersion of glyphosate is being reconsidered, Colombian Defense ministry officials said, El Tiempo reported Thursday.

A 2001 report by CorpWatch, a U.S.-based organization that promotes environmental rights, the use of U.S.-manufactured herbicide was also destroying legal crops. It cited an indigenous leader who said the herbicides threatened "to exterminate our culture and our very survival."

Creeks, lakes and rivers and banana, sugar cane and corn crops were poisoned, CorpWatch reported.
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