Save the poppies

TEXT OF STORY

LISA NAPOLI: Over in Afghanistan there's a bumper crop of opium poppies, 60 percent more than last year. The U.S. wants to spray the poppy fields with weed killer, but the Afghan Government opposes that. Helen Palmer reports from the Marketplace Health Desk, some in the West have other ideas.


HELEN PALMER: The British Medical Association and some academics say it's a mistake to destroy the poppy crop.

Gordon Smith, former Canadian Ambassador to NATO, advocates a more pragmatic approach.

GORDON SMITH: We should establish with the Afghan government some means of buying up the poppy production and using it to deal with the worldwide shortage in opiates.

Smith suggests a poppy marketing board — like those that handle other agricultural crops — to establish a price and keep the opium in legal hands. This would support poor Afghan farmers who turn against the U.S. when it destroys their crops, Smith says.

But the U.S. State Department says there's already enough legal opium, and shortages of medical opiates are due to production problems.

Besides, it argues, Afghanistan's so lawless, there'd still be huge quantities of opium diverted, because the illegal trade pays better.

In Boston, I'm Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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