News / Europe

Britain Farmers Find Promise in a Crop Illegal in Afghanistan

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid