News / Europe

Britain Farmers Find Promise in a Crop Illegal in Afghanistan

Multimedia

Amy Guttman

Farmers in Britain are harvesting a surprising new crop in an effort to combat a shortage of painkillers. It is a crop that is plentiful thousands of kilometers away in Afghanistan, but there, British and U.S. troops are trying to destroy it.

One field of opium poppies is just 90 minutes west of London. Recent dry springs and early summers in England are perfect for  poppies.

Farmers at more than 30 sites just like this all across England are growing them for a British pharmaceutical company to turn them into morphine and codeine.

But neither the farmers growing the poppies here nor the McFarlan Smith drug company want to talk about them -- worried about security and potential controversy.  One retired local farmer had this to say:

"It's probably a better crop than growing corn. They send their own men in combines and it's transported to the factory in about 24 hours. They're good crops," retired farmer Reg Brown said.

The National Health Service thinks so, and it  needs a steadier supply of opium poppies to combat a national shortage of painkillers. Indeed, there's a global shortage of drugs made from poppies, even though they're plentiful in Afghanistan.

Michael Clarke
Michael Clarke

Michael Clarke is director of the Royal United Services Institute, a British military and security organization.  "The Afghanistan poppy crop creates about 90 percent of the heroin which is traded in Europe," he said. "It accounts for well over 70 or 80 percent of Afghanistan's income."

And because all opium production in Afghanistan is illegal, even for medicinal use, the country's poppy fields are under attack -- part of a United Nations' eradication policy, backed by the U.S. and Britain.

"The eradication policy is there to try to break the link between criminality, insecurity and poverty inside Afghanistan," Clarke stated.

But while both the U.S. and Britain help to enforce the policy, they do not necessarily agree on the approach. "The Americans have tended to say, just eradicate the poppies whether people like it or not, just get rid of them.  The British have tended to say, 'If you do that, you'll make it all worse.'"

That's why British MP Frank Field says eliminating the Afghan poppy fields is counter-productive. "It gives the Taliban a hold over local people, it gives the Taliban a source of local income and it makes it easier for the Taliban to pick off our soldiers because of the lack of goodwill in villages," he explained.

Field prefers legalizing opium poppies in Afghanistan so crops can be taxed and exported, benefiting Afghan farmers, the Afghan government and the international community.

Two years ago, the late Richard Holbrooke, then the U.S. special adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan, considered the eradication policy a failure. "We're pushing farmers into the hands of the Taliban. It is the most wasteful and ineffective program I've seen in my 40 years in government," Holbrooke stated.

But Clarke says legalizing poppies in Afghanistan would create more problems. "It would be a drastic step to suddenly legitimize the Afghan poppy crop, which wouldn't be as simple as taking away poppies from Afghan farmers. It would actually create a revolution from inside Afghanistan which might create more instability than you could handle.// Some people say that unless you can address the poppy problem in Afghanistan, all other bets are off," he said. 

Meanwhile, here in the English countryside, fields of poppies grow, and no one wants to talk about them.

You May Like

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs