The Colombian government should not restart glyphosate spraying because it causes reproductive health risks

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September 3rd, 2020 — The Center for Reproductive Rights and the School of Public Health of the Universidad del Valle present an investigation that reveals the negative impacts of glyphosate exposure on people's reproductive health, for example, harmful effects on fertility, causing miscarriages and possible future physical and/or cognitive disabilities in the fetus during pregnancy. The report says there is "clear evidence of the negative effects of glyphosate on reproductive health" and this way strengthens the previous findings that multiple organizations have made about potential health damages associated with the use of this chemical.

The document shows that, according to the precautionary principle, the Colombian government should not restart the glyphosate aerial spraying program (PECIG). The Center allied with the Epidemiology and Population Health Group of the University of Valle to continue this research, which was a systematic review of other scientific studies on the relationship between glyphosate and reproductive health in order to analyze them and make pertinent recommendations for public policy decision-making on the subject. 

The research we presented included a review of other in vitro, animal and human studies. In order to reach conclusions and validate the findings, experts from areas of knowledge such as public health, medicine, epidemiology, toxicology, sociology, anthropology and law, among others, were also consulted. The Center knows about two cases that are in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, they are two Colombian women who denounce miscarriages as a result of exposure to glyphosate spraying in the framework of the armed conflict. 

Therefore, the School of Public Health of the Universidad del Valle and the Center for Reproductive Rights express our utmost concern about the actions of the Colombian government to reactivate the glyphosate spraying program. We join the call made by several organizations, such as Dejusticia, to follow the orders of the Constitutional Court in ruling T-236 of 2017 to "protect fundamental rights, evaluate the risk to the environment in a collective and founded process with strengthened guarantees of participation”.

"Motherhood will be desired or it will not be. So if a woman has chosen to have children as part of her life plan, the actions of the State should not put her at any risk that might harm her physical or mental health. Reproductive rights are human rights and they become a reality when women are guaranteed autonomy over their bodies, this is the only way to advance towards equality ", said Catalina Martinez Coral, regional director of the Center.

The Colombian government has international and constitutional obligations to respect, protect, and guarantee reproductive rights, which are human rights and, therefore, fundamental. Colombia must avoid causing any harm that affects the life, health, integrity and reproductive autonomy of all people within its territory.

The Center promoted this study to present it to the Truth Commission of Colombia as part of an agreement signed to contribute the recognition of the reproductive violence perpetrated during the armed conflict, to repair the victims as a step towards gender equality and justice that will permit the building of peace. The Commission will receive two documents: the complete scientific study and a report that summarizes the research and makes public policy suggestions. 

Read the full study here.

Read the report here.

What is reproductive autonomy?
It is the group of human rights that people have to choose whether to have children -or not-, when to have them, and how. In Colombia, the Political Constitution protects reproductive rights by establishing in article 42 the "right to decide in a responsible manner the number of children".

What is the precautionary principle?
It is the scientific and legal principle that establishes when there is doubt about the possibility of generating harm resulting from human activity, the authorities must suspend it as a precaution.

When was the PECIG created?  
Program for the Eradication of Illicit Crops through Aerial Spraying with Glyphosate created in 1994 through Resolution 001 of the National Council on Narcotics.


The Center for Reproductive Rights:  
Founded in 1992 in the United States, the Center works around the world using legal mechanisms to ensure reproductive autonomy as a fundamental human right. As a global organization, the Center seeks States to ensure women their right to make free decisions about their bodies by guaranteeing them complete health care that provides them services such as legal and safe abortion, assisted reproductive treatments, and maternal health without discrimination or obstetric violence. Three of the four decisions taken by the United Nations on reproductive rights have been litigated by the Center. Its Latin American and Caribbean office has been operating since 2011 in Bogotá, Colombia.