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There are two obvious targets in the so-called 'War on Drugs' (wasn't that Vietnam?:) suppliers and users. Before you get all worked up about the government using man-eating fungi to cull drug users, stop; think instead of the perfect logic:
  • 'Other' countries produce the drugs.
  • These countries cannot just be nuked.
  • There must be some way to get rid of those pesky opium fields.

Well, now there is! Two separate developments in what is essentially biological warfare have produced results. One, a bioweapons lab in a former soviet state; the other a chance discovery of a natural agent against coca plants. The targets? Columbia and Afghanistan; cocaine and heroin. The weapon? Fungus - for the coca plant it is Fusarium oxysporum a crescent shaped fungal parasite that seems extremely effective. For the opium poppy, it is a strain of Pleospora papaveracea.

So no more nose candy? Well, not quite. Unsurprisingly, Columbia seems a little wary of mass-spraying its country with a virulent fungus. There is no (known) evidence for any danger to humans or livestock, but perhaps you understand their caution. Similarly, the violently anti-technology Taliban are probably not going to agree to the destruction of their opium fields. Especially if (according to what may, or may not be western propaganda) they milk profits from the crop.

On the other hand, I sympathize with the scientist leading the oxysporum research.From his point of view, the fungus is completely specific and a much less dangerous solution than training guerillas for jungle warfare. The problem is, when a scientist says "There really should be little chance of danger" (a particularly confident statement) the public hears "It's fifty-fifty really. We are gambling with Armageddon here". Basically, while a good idea on paper, spraying crop eating fungus on another country is tantamount to biological warfare - not a war on drugs.

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