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A New Weapon in Colombia’s War on Drugs: Cocaine-Eating Moths

Coca-hungry moth larvae could soon replace toxic sprayed herbicides.

Banded tussock moth. Image by Rhododendrites via Wikimedia Commons

The government of Colombia is trying to recruit cocaine’s biggest fan—no, not Rick James—to help them finally clear the country of the illegally grown drug. The favorite food of the Cocaine Tussock Moth larva is, as its name implies, the leaves of the coca plant. Alberto Gomez, head of the Quindio Botanical Garden, (a Colombian preserve with a building shaped like a giant butterfly), has suggested a plan to flood the country with a horde of the hungry little insects as an alternative to spraying pesticides.


According to the Associated Press, US-backed efforts to beat back the growth of cocaine in the country’s remote regions have mostly relied on airborne herbicides that use glyphosate, a chemical that the World Health Organization classifies as carcinogenic. At an event in Bogotá, the nation’s capital last week, President Juan Manuel Santos announced an end to the use of the fumigation chemical, citing a recommendation from the country’s Health Ministry.

In Colombia, much of the coca trade is run by rebel groups who protect the crops, making attempts to eradicate the plants with government personnel a dangerous proposition. But per the AP,

The decision to end fumigation program could have a side effect of somewhat easing ongoing peace talks with the country’s main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has demanded an end to the spraying as part of any deal.

Building at the Quindio Botanical Garden. Image by Karolynaroca via Wikimedia Commons

This is not the first time the country has considered using these moths as a non-toxic means of curbing la cocaina; the plan has been floating around for about a decade, but authorities have been reluctant to take it up out of fear of unknown ecological externalities. In 2005, Ricardo Vargas, director of Colombian environmental organization Andean Action, told NBC, "With a plan like this, the chance for ecological mischief is very high and very dangerous."

Only now, in light of heightened awareness of glyphosate’s potential risks, are the moths being reconsidered as an option. And while insects chomping through the Andes’ coca supply might, indeed, seem like a safer, or more natural solution than spraying hazardous chemicals, it would be prudent to remember Vargas’ warning about “ecological mischief”—there’s no telling what a swarm of angry, fiending moths are going to do after all that cocaine wears off.

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Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

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Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

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