Back in February I posted about a viable alternative to eradication in the Afghan opium war — embracing the opium poppy as a legitimate resource. Parisian security and policy think-tank Senlis Council issued a report on this issue last month that strongly supports this position.
What is most fascinating about this plan is not only the benefits for Afghanistan’s impoverished farmers, but also the ability to fill the 550 (metric) tonne shortfall worldwide in the demand for legitimate opiate-based pain medication. Poppies are already grown in places like Australia, India and Turkey for legitimate uses, and the market is both well-regulated and profitable for the regions involved.
This clearly has a valid impact on security and stability in the region too, as pointed out by U of T professor Benedikt Fischer, who did research for Senlis and is quoted in the Star story:
"Instead of believing in the crazy idea of us being able to eradicate it, why not use the resource for legitimate and worthwhile purposes"
The eradication policy assumes farmers will switch to other crops. But no alternatives pay enough, so it turns them against the struggling government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Canadian and other foreign troops trying to eliminate Taliban insurgents.
Sounds good to me.