No tinfoil hat required
May 13, 2010 2 Comments
Pointed out by @MrCivLib on twatter.
By Diplomatic correspondent James Robbins
The UK and the US are funding research on a new biological weapon in an effort to destroy the heroin trade.
The research, by former Soviet scientists in Uzbekistan, is being supervised by the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP).
But there are doubts about the safety of the killer fungus they have developed, and the legality of any plan to spray the spores over Afghanistan – the source of most of Europe’s poppy opium for heroin.
The BBC has obtained unique access to the laboratory across the border from Afghanistan, in Uzbekistan, where the fungus is now being tested.
A serious disease is affecting opium poppies in Afghanistan, Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has said.
Mr Costa told the BBC that this year’s opium production could be reduced by a quarter, compared with last year.
He said the disease – a fungus – is thought to have infected about half of the country’s poppy crop. Afghanistan produces 92% of the world’s opium.
But farmers in Afghanistan are unsure about what is damaging their crops.
Some believe Nato troops are responsible for the outbreak, but Mr Costa denied that this was the case.
"I don’t see any reasons to believe something of that sort," he said. "Opium plants have been affected in Afghanistan on a periodic basis."
Farmer Haji Mohammad in Nawzad told the BBC that he had seen a dramatic reduction in the amount of opium he was able to harvest.
He said that last year he harvested 450 kg of opium – but this year he had so far only been able to harvest 4kg.
Farmers in southern Afghanistan told the BBC they observed a white substance on their crops. Many reported extensive crop damage and also said that livestock had been affected.