Afghan opium farmers in the UN’s crosshairs

UN drug agency considers sabotaging poppy fields with low-yield seeds

Poppy planting season in Afghanistan is still a few weeks away, but the UN is already considering plans to make next year’s crop dramatically weaker than this year’s. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime is looking into over-sowing fields with low-yield poppies that generate one per cent as much morphine as regular poppies in order to undercut the country’s lucrative opium trade. However, while sabotaging the fields of farmers who refuse to switch to legitimate crops would cut into the Taliban’s reported $100 million a year income from the drug trade, there are worries it might also drive poor farmers straight into the insurgents’ arms. Critics say Afghan farmers have too few viable options that are as profitable as opium cultivation. “Alternative livelihood is a dream,” says Dirk Reinecke, a German economist who is consulting with the UN, “if every farmer is able to sow illicit crops and get more than five to 10 times more benefit than they do with the licit crop.” So far, “no position has been taken on [the proposal],” says Ugi Zvekic, an official with the drug agency.

Toronto Star