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 So 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.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

148 comments

Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R1 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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