Vietnam Era Weapon Being Used to Clear the Amazon


Written by Stephen Messenger, a Treehugger blogger

Agent Orange is one of the most devastating weapons of modern warfare, a chemical which killed or injured an estimated 400,000 people during the Vietnam War — and now it’s being used against the Amazon rainforest. According to officials, ranchers in Brazil have begun spraying the highly toxic herbicide over patches of forest as a covert method to illegally clear foliage, more difficult to detect that chainsaws and tractors. In recent weeks, an aerial survey detected some 440 acres of rainforest that had been sprayed with the compound — poisoning thousands of trees and an untold number of animals, potentially for generations.

Officials from Brazil’s environmental agency IBAMA were first tipped to the illegal clearing by satellite images of the forest in Amazonia; a helicopter flyover in the region later revealed thousands of trees left ash-colored and defoliated by toxic chemicals. IBAMA says that Agent Orange was likely dispersed by aircraft by a yet unidentified rancher to clear the land for pasture because it is more difficult to detect than traditional operations that require chainsaws and tractors.

Last week, in another part of the Amazon, an investigation conducted by the agency uncovered approximately four tons of the highly toxic herbal pesticides hidden in the forest awaiting dispersion. If released, the chemicals could have potentially decimated some 7,500 acres of rainforest, killing all the wildlife that resides there and contaminating groundwater. In this case, the individual responsible was identified now faces fines nearing $1.3 million.

According to a report from Folha de São Paulo, the last time such chemicals were recorded in use by deforesters was in 1999, but officials say dispensing the devastating herbicide may become more common as officials crack down on environmental crimes.

“They [deforesters] have changed their strategy because, in a short time, more areas of forest can be destroyed with herbicides. Thus, they don’t need to mobilize tree-cutting teams and can therefore bypass the supervision of IBAMA,” says Jerfferson Lobato of IBAMA.

While Agent Orange was originally designed to clear forest coverage in combat situations, its use became a subject of controversy due to its impact on humans and wildlife. During the Vietnam War, the United States military dispersed 12 million gallons of herbicide, impacting the health of some 3 million, mostly peasant, Vietnamese citizens, and causing birth defects in around 500 thousand children. Additionally, the chemical’s effect on the environment have been profound and lasting.

Last month, over three decades after Agent Orange was last used in Vietnam, the US began funding a $38 million decontamination operation there. Meanwhile, in the Brazilian Amazon, the highly toxic chemical was being discovered anew and sprayed over the rainforest.

This post was originally published by Treehugger.

Related Stories:

Dow Chemical Company Is Full of Greenwashing

Prominent Brazilian Rainforest Activist and Wife Murdered

Uncontacted Tribes Threatened by Illegal Logging in the Amazon

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.


Dieter L.
Dieter L.2 years ago

Those vile disgusting excuses for human beeings!
Why is this chemical still beeing produced after what it caused in Vietnam?

Maria D'Oporto
Past Member 4 years ago

OMG this is so stupid!!!! They still using the horrendus chemicals that proven to be so bad for humanity, countries will pay the price with big affectation to human healt after this.

janet T.
janet t4 years ago

After the Vietnam war there was a bunch(who knows how many) kids born to Vietnam vets who had birth defects due to Agent Orange. I know this because my daughter was born about the same time and when we had appointments in various military medical facilities, they would always ask if my husband had been exposed to agent orange. I also know there was a cluster after the first Gulf war (1989?) and I expect another such cluster after the Iraq-Afghanistan war going on now, with all the depleted Uranium used in bombs and the reports of Iraqi babies born with horrible birth defects. Let me also point out the american soldiers who died because they were exposed to radiation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki when we went into Japan after the surrender. I am beginning to think the human race is suicidal.

Valerie VanOrden
Valerie VanOrden4 years ago

They just buried a friend of mine who suffered and died from agent orange, with diabetes, for years. He was a Green Beret in Vietnam.

Manuela B.
Manuela B5 years ago

unbelievable.....what is wrong with some people these days. are we not intelligent to learn from our past mistakes...

Noel S.
Noel S.5 years ago

FAO Beverly H

Agent Orange was/is - 2,4,5-T
This pesticide is no longer registered for use in the U.S.A.

A similar pesticide is - 2,4-D This IS still available & used in Agriculture & Domestic situations - for use on grassland , to kill the plants-other-than-the-grasses. ( That's why it's called a 'selective' herbicide )

They are BOTH very nasty, with2,4,5-T being the VERY BAD one.

Meanwhile,'Roundup' is the 'trade' name for Glyphosate , and wasn't reported as a herbicide until 1971. Glyphosate is a broad spectrum, non-selective , & systemic herbicide. In various strengths it is effective in killing all plant types. The acute toxicity of glyphosate is low, andaccording tothe WHO the oral LD ( Lethal Dose )50 in a rat of PURE Glyphosate is 4,230mg/kg . However, some of the surfactants ( a part of the sprayed stuff which is added to a formulation to stop the stuff from forming into droplets ( v.tiny drops ) which would just roll-off a leaf )
some of the surfactants are Serious irritants, toxic to fish, and can them selves contain contanimants which are carcinogenic to humans. In Glyphosate ( 'Roundup' ) these are usually - ethalated amines. POEA (polyoxy-ethyleneamine ) has been frquently mentioned as a surfactant, but in fact it refers to a group of ethylated amine products used in Glyphosate formulations. Members of this group are significantly more toxic than glyphosate. They are serious irritants of eyes,the respiratory tract and skin,

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago


Daniel Kelley
Daniel Kelley6 years ago

$1.3 million? That guy needs to be put in a prison of debt to society. He should loose 110% of his total holdings, that he spend the rest of his life working sweat labor to pay off the harm he did to the world. I'm guessing these "ranchers" who have access to the US Fed Govs chemical weapons, have ties to the CIA or some other monstrous federal bureaucracy. Probably they're also locally tied to murderous bureaucrats.

Beverly H.
Beverly Haynes6 years ago

Mary B is absolutely right on....isn't Roundup an off shoot of Agent Orange ?

Frank Kling
Frank K6 years ago

Human greed know no bounds- how damn sick!