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Aerial Fumigation with glyphosate in the Putumayo, Colombia


In Colombia, the massive use of aerial fumigation to eradicate coca fields, as part of a strategy called Plan Colombia, has caused pesticide contamination of land and water, and serious health complaints from residents. The multinational firm Monsanto is the major manufacturer and retailer of Round-Up Ultra, a type of glyphosate used to fumigate illegal plantations. Monsanto has said this product is environmentally safe, denying any toxic effects on human health or environment. However, local rural and indigenous communities living in Putumayo, and other regions sprayed by herbicides, have reported that indiscriminate fumigation causes illnesses, destroys food crops and contaminates water supplies. The fumigations are to a large extent financed by US government aid programs. Still after more than ten years of aerial fumigations, their main purpose: the eradication of the coca plantations is far from being achieved.

In March 2015 the World Health Organization announced glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” WHO report fostered Colombian and International associations’ claims. Backed up by the Colombian Health Ministry, the National Drugs Council suspended the fumigations on May 14th 2015 and also announced the constitution of a technical committee charged of changing the national plan fighting against drugs production. From October 1st 2015 the glyphosate fumigations have definitely stopped.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Aerial Fumigation with glyphosate in the Putumayo, Colombia
State or province:Putumayo
Location of conflict:Putumayo
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Deforestation
Military installations
Specific commodities:Pesticides

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Before the fumigation started the aim was to eradicate 66,000 hectares of coca corps. By the year 2004, there were only 4,400 hectares left. The herbicide used was the glysphosate, which is composed of 74% of water, 18% of salt of glyphosate and 8% of surfactants.

The surfactant concentration of one active dose reaches 43 percent, with a dosage of 23, 4 liters per hectare.

Fumigations starting at 8 am till 4 pm, with periodic suspensions of a week to fifteen days.

With aerial fumigations the compound disperses in the surrounding environment within a 1 km range and stays in the soil for a minimum of 4 months to 3 years.

Project area:200000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project7500000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:06/2000
Company names or state enterprises:Monsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
DynCorp International from United States of America
Relevant government actors:The government of Colombia, The government of the United States, The State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, USAID
International and Finance InstitutionsWorld Health Organization (WHO)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Permanent Peoples Tribunal, ONIC - Colombia, Indigenous and peasant communities of the Putumayo, Accion Ecologica - Ecuador, Defensoria del Pueblo - Colombia, CONAIE - Ecuador, World Rainforest Movement, Amnesty International, Transnational Institute, Alianza Amazonica, Coordinadora Indigena de la Cuenca Amazonica (COICA), Putamayo Womens Alliance, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Food & Water Watch

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Afro-colombian communities
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Air pollution, Global warming, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
New legislation
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
The Monsanto corporation was accused of supplying toxic substances to Colombia, it was charged by the hearing on Biodiversity of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal.
Proposal and development of alternatives:A new anti-drug policy in Colombia that invests in development and alternative crop programs that provide farmers a path out of the drug trade.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:After WHO report asserting the potential risks of glyphosate on humans health, aerial fumigation of the pesticide have ended in May 2015. At the end of 2015, the Colombian National Drugs Council have adopted a new anti-drug policy. The plan considers the relocation of farming families, assisting them to switch crops.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Patriot Plan

Alternative Plan to substitute illicit crops called PLANTE

Plan Colombia

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Dietrich Heinz. Evaluacion del Plan Colombia en la region andina y el Ecuador.

Tribal Engagement Plan for Indigenous Cultures in Putumayo,_Colombia.pdf

Gonzalez Olga. Las mentiras del glifosato.

Resistencia civil de los pueblos indigenas frente al plan Colombia, Matti Mailer, 2004

SELVAS - Osservatorio Informativo Indipendente sulle Americhe

Relazione di Heinz Dieterich: valutazione del plan Colombia nella regione Andina

Fumigazioni: guerra chimica sulle Ande, 10/12/2003

Plan Colombia: resistenza civile dei popoli indigeni, 02/01/2004

Visiones Alternativas

Tre anni di Plan Colombia, un anno di presidenza Uribe: "tanti auguri" alla pace sulle Ande…

Incontro internazionale della societa’ civile che lotta contro il Plan Colombia

U.S. Policy in Colombia, Amnesty International

Colombia da un giro en la estrategia de lucha contra el narcotráfico, 16/05/2015

Cronologia documentada de las fumigaciones en Colombia (1978-2010)

Colombia presenta un nuevo plan de política antidroga, S., Palomino, 23/09/2015

WHO Findings on Glyphosate’s Carcinogenicity Should Be Enough To Halt Colombia’s Controversial U.S.-Backed Coca-Spraying Program, 05/05/2015

Even if Glyphosate Were Safe, Fumigation in Colombia Would Be a Bad Policy. Here's Why, I. Isacson, 29/04/2015

Fumigación e insurgencia, 06/05/2010

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Plan Colombia Putumayo, Drug and Democracy

Meta information

Contributor:Lucie Greyl
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:486



Aerial Fumigation with glyphosate in the Putumayo, Colombia