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Coca Myths

Coca Myths

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Published by Howard G Charing
A well researched and informative study from the Transnational Institute about the Coca (erythroxylum) plant.
A well researched and informative study from the Transnational Institute about the Coca (erythroxylum) plant.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Howard G Charing on Feb 16, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Coca Myths
Drugs and Democracy Programme
TNI Briefing Series 
No 2009/1
Editorial 3Myth Oe: Coca ad ntritio 4
Box: Nutritional value of coca leaf - Harvard Study
Myth Two: Coca ad Alkaloids 7• Myth Three: Coca ad Addictio 13Myth For:Coca ad the Eviromet 16Myth Five: Coca ad Society 20Fial Remarks 22Bibliography 23
Anthony HenmanPien Metaal
Martin JelsmaAmira Armenta
 Jan Abrahim Vos
Drukkerijj PrimaveraQuintAmsterdam
Ministry of Foreign Affairs(Netherlands)Foundation Open SocietyInstitute (FOSI)
Transnational InstituteDe Wittenstraat 251052 AK AmsterdamNetherlandsTel: -31-20-6626608Fax: -31-20-6757176drugs@tni.orgwww.tni.org/drugswww.ungassondrugs.orgThe contents of thisdocument can be quoted orreproduced as long as thesource is mentioned. TNIwould appreciate receiving acopy of the text in which thisdocument is used or cited.To receive informationabout TNI’s publications andactivities, we suggest that yousubscribe to our bi-weeklybulletin by sending a requestto: tni@tni.org or registeringat www.tni.orgAmsterdam, June 2009ISSN 1871-3408
No. 1
Erope ad Pla Colombia,
April 2001
No. 2
I the Heat of the Debate. Fmigatio ad Coflict i Colombia,
September 2001
No. 3
 Mergig Wars. Afghaista. Drgs ad Terrorism,
No. 4
 A Failed Balace. Alterative Developmet ad Eradicatio,
March 2002
No. 5
Breakig the Impasse. Polarisatio & Paralysis i un Drg 
 July 2002No. 6
Chage of Corse. A Ageda for Viea,
March 2003
No. 7
Cross Prposes. Alterative Developmet ad Coflict i Colombia,
 June 2003
No. 8
Trascedig Drg Cotrol. Forward Operatig Locatios i
Lati America,
September 2003
No. 9
Drgs ad Coflict i Brma (Myamar). Dilemmas for Policy Resposes,
December 2003
No. 10
Coca or death? Cocalero movemets i Per ad Bolivia,
No. 11
 A Poitless War. Drgs ad Violece i Brazil,
November 2004
No. 12
Dowward Spiral. Baig Opim i Afghaista ad Brma,
 July 2005
No. 13
Coca yes, Cocaie, o? Legal Optios fot the Coca Leaf,
No. 14
Paco uder Scrtiy. The Cocaie Base Paste Market i Argetia, urgay ad Brazil,
October 2006
no. 15 Losig Grod, Drg Cotrol ad War i Afghaista,December 2006no.16 Withdrawal Symptoms, Chages i the Sotheast Asia drgsmarket, Agst 2008 All editios of the series are available olie i Eglish ad Spaishat: www.ti.org/reports/drgs/debate.htm
Drgs & Coflict Series
istory has been unjust to the
coca leaf, denying it distribu-
tion on a global scale despiteits proven value as an energy
enhancer, and limiting its poten-
tial for widespread use as a healthy alter-
native to all sorts of chemical stimulants
currently available on the world market.The inclusion of the coca leaf in the 1961Single Convention’s lists of drugs liable to
abuse, and thereore subject to international
control, has not produced the effect origi-nally desired: traditional use - whether bychewing the leaves or drinking them in aninfusion - is still widespread, though largely
limited to a ew countries where such prac-
tices have historical antecedents. Potential
demand is high, particularly for coca tea.
The ban of even this innocuous custom isstill one of the demands repeated annually
in the statements o the INCB, the interpre-
tive body of the UN control system. This
unreasonable posture has recently led to
a formal request from one government toabrogate the articles of the 1961 Conven-tion that demand the abolishment of cocaleaf chewing.
Many myths surround the coca lea. Radically
opposed views and opinions can be heardin the polemical debates surrounding thisplant, and those not familiar with the sub- ject are easily lost among all the apparent
contradictions. The debate is politicised and
has become subject to extreme ideologi-
cal positioning. For some the coca leaf is
as addictive as its best-known derivative
cocaine, while others argue that it can
cure half the diseases of modern times. For
some, coca growing is the main cause of 
environmental degradation, while others
claim that coca helps to protect the soil and
prevents erosion. Many other examples canbe identified, equally strong in their oppos-ing contradictions.The coca leaf has been used and misused
or many ends, each o them suiting dierent
interests and agendas. Even its very name hasbeen appropriated by a sot drinks producer,
which still has difficulties in admitting that
the plant is used to produce its “black gold”.
Every day press accounts around the worlduse the word coca in their headlines, whenthey refer in fact to cocaine.
Amidst all this conusion, Bolivia’s Presidenthas recently announced that his country willstep orward to undo the historical mistake
of including the coca leaf in the 1961 Con-
vention. Although the claim that coca is part
of the identity and history of the Andean/Amazon region is unlikely to be questioned
by most countries, a possible removal o thecoca lea rom the international control sys-
tem is still met with considerable scepticism.
The reasons for such a degree of resistance
 – which we believe to be mistaken and inap-
propriate - have motivated the productionof this briefing paper
The present issue of Drugs & Conflict
intends to debunk and disentangle the most
prominent myths surrounding the coca leaf.It aims to clear the air and help steer the
debate towards a more evidence-based judgement of the issues. Discussion has
been stuck for too long at the point whereit is now, and - sometime in the near future
- political decisions will need to be made on
coca’s fate and legal status.
Persecuting plants and the people who
grow them is still a basic ingredient of drug
policies around the world. One Andeanpresident recently announced he would
like to see farmers that grow these plants
incarcerated. This not only constitutes a
basic human rights offence, since it aims to
punish poor amilies in search o a viable and
sustainable form of agriculture, but it also
demonises innocent plants, and thus Mother
Nature herself.
Not surprisingly, the grey area between
extreme positions on the coca leaf offers
sound evidence on which we can form abalanced perspective, and hopefully treat
this plant with the respect it deserves. Thetime has come for humanity to recogniseits past mistakes on this question, and giventhe chance, to repair them and finally cometo its senses.
Drgs & Coflict no. 17 - Je 2009

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