Once again, our country is witnessing a great socio-environmental debate around the recurrence of the questionable aerial spraying using glyphosate. The critical issue is the faint-hearted attitude that Colombian state assumes its political and ethical accountability to guarantee the Mother Earth´s rights. While it is true that Colombia has a significant set of policies and regulations aimed at ensuring that citizens enjoy a healthy environment and the diversity protection and conservation of ecologically important areas is a priority, agendas of the incumbent governments are distinctly distant from protecting, conserving and above all respecting the natural and cultural wealth our nation has throughout the territory.
After a long procession of citizen and legal struggles mainly with global scope, the glyphosate spraying had been interrupted by Colombian government in October 2015 based on a WHO report that qualified such a chemical substance taking into account some risks associated to human cancer development. Subsequently, legal actions undertaken by indigenous communities who took on their role of defending Mother Earth started to pay off from a tutela filed where they argued serious impacts to life due to aerial spraying. By 2017, the Supreme Court of Justice ruled the government to mend damages caused to Carijona indigenous community and based on the precautionary principle set chief guidelines for a feasible use of glyphosate with strict controls and the most interestingly issue is they requested Congress to create a new legislation to address scientific studies and citizen discussions to comply in a safer way the eradication of illicit crops.
By December 2020, there were more than 190 active lawsuits against indiscriminate spraying, besides 109 court rulings that condemned the nation for some aspect associated to spraying with the herbicide. All of this shows there is an evident nonconformity of several sectors of the Colombian people against a dangerous practice bringing more hazards than benefits.
Once again, the stubbornness of Colombian government headed by President Iván Duque stresses fighting illicit crops with such a dangerous formula of glyphosate. The Decree 333 of April 6, 2021 is seeking at all costs to recover a practice that will evidently impact Mother Earth. This would seem to be the ill-fated message, by the way in this month when we honor the International Mother Earth Day stated by United Nations since 1970, after hard struggles of the emerging international environmental movement that managed to achieve important worldwide commitments with the subsequent advance of the first Earth Summit in Stockholm in 1972.
It is not a matter of justifying spraying at any cost with detailed control of variables so it would be controlled and effective, or undertaking not to perform them in places of natural preservation, or establishing mechanisms to mend from risks; in short, a long series of commitments hiding the background of the issue, i.e., failing a real, ethical and effective commitment regarding rights of the planet and all forms of life that inhabit it.
It is necessary to emphasize on sustainable actions to face the illicit crops issue, and this means trusting in communities, including their knowledge and experiences, i.e., it is possible to work with indigenous people and peasants who have suffered all the consequences of drug trafficking in regions and seeking to advance and replace illicit crops, manual eradication and particularly on social changes of rural territories as set forth within the Peace Agreement.
The core of the problem and the likely resolution is rescuing the ancestral knowledge that stands up for freedom of the land, as Cauca indigenous communities say with their own words: “Land is our Mother for us and anything against Her is a crime from which all evils and miseries come. Our Mother, the Mother of all the living beings is subjected according to the law imposed, She has owners, She has become a private property. By subjecting Her as a property to exploit Her, they have taken away Her freedom to engender life and protect and teach the places, relationships and time of anything is living. They prevent it from producing food, wealth, and well-being for all the peoples and living things. Those who appropriate Her surely would produce hunger, misery and death, something should not be. They are stealing Her blood, flesh, arms, children and milk to set up the power of a few over the misery of the rest”**.
* Rector, Universidad Pedagógica Nacional.
** Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN. (2015). We are still in Minga for Mother Earth’s Freedom.
* Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional