THE BLOG

How The War On Drugs Takes Horticultural Hostages

05/06/2008 10:40 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

It's a safe bet that diabetics outnumber crackheads in the U.S. by a big fat margin, but the corn cartel's got carte blanche to fill us (and our gas tanks) with their Beltway-blessed by-products. So U.S. drug policies focus more on coke addicts than Coke addicts, despite the fact that soda's the more abused substance.

We've got a knack for waging the wrong wars, lately, and we can't even keep our conflicts from conflicting. Just look at how the War on Terror has undermined the War on Drugs; last year, according to the Globe and Mail, Afghanistan's poppy crops hit a historic high, if you will, providing more than 92 percent of the world's opium and heroin. U.S. officials estimate that the Taliban derives anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of its income from opiate exports.

Poppy production skyrocketed after we invaded Afghanistan in 2001; at a time when shortages of rice and wheat are shaking things up all over the world, the Globe and Mail reports that this year's poppy crop "will produce 40 per cent more than the world demand -- which means that huge quantities will be stockpiled somewhere."

Afghanistan's farmers would actually prefer to grow onions than opiates, but the warlords and the Taliban have pretty much hijacked their fields, forcing them to grow poppies. Talk about a Catch 22--we can't root out the poppies till we uproot the warlords, whose power is fueled by those fields of fuzzy pods.

And our proposed solution to this problem is to carpet-bomb Afghanistan with an herbicide called glyphosate, aka Roundup, a Monsanto-manufactured weed killer. Ah, the military-industrial complex-is there any world crisis that Monsanto can't solve?

John McCain's all in favor of using Roundup to rein in the poppy posse, but the locals look darkly on the prospect of being under a cloud of chemicals. American officials insist that glyphosate is "one of the world's safest herbicides," according to the New York Times, which cites a State Department fact sheet claiming that glyphosate is "less toxic than common salt, aspirin, caffeine, nicotine and even vitamin A."

But Britain, which heads the anti-narcotics effort in Afghanistan, thinks this tactic's toxic in more ways than one, as does the Afghan government. So the search for a solution drags on while the buds and the bad guys flourish.

OK, so we're totally losing on the heroin/opium front in the Golden Crescent, but aren't we making some progress in our efforts to curb South American coke production?

Well, funny story, actually; our campaign to convince South America to stop growing coca leaves and switch to legitimate crops hasn't made a dent in the world's cocaine supply, but it's just about destroyed America's asparagus farmers.

Sadly, the MSM's too busy focusing on the follies of those other American Spears, Britney and Jamie Lynn, to soil its shallow soul by reporting that the American asparagus farmer is an endangered species. So it's left to us lefty, dirt-encrusted bloggers to tell you about the superb "stalkumentary," Asparagus!, which I'm delighted to announce is now available on DVD after reaping a bumper crop of prizes and plaudits; New York magazine called it "oddly brilliant."

Asparagus! documents the alternately hilarious and heartbreaking saga of Oceana County, Michigan, which was the asparagus capital of the world for thirty years. Then came the Andean Trade Preference Act, which gave Peru the right to export its fresh asparagus into the U.S. tax-free as an incentive to discourage drug production and trafficking. Thanks to this obscure bit of legislation, Peru's now overtaken Oceana to become "the world's largest asparagus industry," and the good farmers of Michigan are facing bankruptcy.

Filmmakers Anne De Mare and Kirsten Kelly put a poignant and compelling face on this freakish case of collateral damage, letting the local folks weave their tale of War On Drug-induced woe in an entertaining and infuriating film that will leave you shouting "S.O.S.", as in Save Our Spears!

Ironically, there's $15 million in aid to American asparagus farmers tucked into the current Farm Bill, in order to offset the unforeseen consequences of the Andean Trade Preference Act. See Asparagus!, and you'll see why Bird's Eye is right on target, while Wal-Mart misses the mark. Just say no, indeed! To Peruvian asparagus, that is.