Aerial Fumigation with glyphosate in the Putumayo, Colombia

After over a decade of dangerous contamination, aerial fumigation with the pesticide have ended in May 2015. A new anti-drug policy was approved and relocation of families started


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.

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Basic Data
NameAerial Fumigation with glyphosate in the Putumayo, Colombia
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 CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsBefore 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 (in hectares)200000
Level of Investment (in USD)7500000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date06/2000
Company Names or State EnterprisesMonsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
DynCorp International from United States of America
Relevant government actorsThe government of Colombia, The government of the United States, The State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, USAID
International and Financial InstitutionsWorld Health Organization (WHO)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersPermanent 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
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Afro-colombian communities
Forms of MobilizationCreation 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-economic ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
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.
Development of AlternativesA 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 as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.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 and Materials

Plan Colombia

Patriot Plan

Alternative Plan to substitute illicit crops called PLANTE


Dietrich Heinz. Evaluacion del Plan Colombia en la region andina y el Ecuador.
[click to view]

Tribal Engagement Plan for Indigenous Cultures in Putumayo
[click to view]

Gonzalez Olga. Las mentiras del glifosato.
[click to view]

Resistencia civil de los pueblos indigenas frente al plan Colombia, Matti Mailer, 2004
[click to view]


Visiones Alternativas
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SELVAS - Osservatorio Informativo Indipendente sulle Americhe
[click to view]

Relazione di Heinz Dieterich: valutazione del plan Colombia nella regione Andina
[click to view]

Plan Colombia: resistenza civile dei popoli indigeni, 02/01/2004
[click to view]

Tre anni di Plan Colombia, un anno di presidenza Uribe: "tanti auguri" alla pace sulle Ande…
[click to view]

Fumigazioni: guerra chimica sulle Ande, 10/12/2003
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Incontro internazionale della societa’ civile che lotta contro il Plan Colombia
[click to view]

Fumigación e insurgencia, 06/05/2010
[click to view]

Cronologia documentada de las fumigaciones en Colombia (1978-2010)
[click to view]

U.S. Policy in Colombia, Amnesty International
[click to view]

Colombia presenta un nuevo plan de política antidroga, S., Palomino, 23/09/2015
[click to view]

Colombia da un giro en la estrategia de lucha contra el narcotráfico, 16/05/2015
[click to view]

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

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

Media Links

Plan Colombia Putumayo, Drug and Democracy
[click to view]

Other Documents

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Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl
Last update04/01/2016