The COVID-19 pandemic has at least temporarily derailed a controversial plan by Colombia’s government to resume aerial spraying of a potent chemical used to kill coca crops that feed the global trade in cocaine, Kata Karath wrote for Science on June 11, 2020.

Late last month, a Colombian court that the spraying of the herbicide glyphosate, which some studies have linked to human health and environmental problems like cancer, cannot resume until the government informs and consults with affected communities—a process that has been severely disrupted by the ongoing pandemic. US President Donald Trump has been badgering Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez to resume aerial spraying using glyphosate. The government had planned to hold virtual meetings with the communities, but environmental and human rights groups went to court to challenge that plan, arguing that Colombia’s rural communities often lack reliable internet, cellphone, or radio service.

In a 27 May ruling, the court sided with the groups, ordering the government to rethink its consultation plan. Colombia is the world’s largest producer of cocaine, and for decades the government used glyphosate to kill coca crops in an effort to reduce the supply of the drug.

But in 2015, after the World Health Organization (WHO) and its cancer research agency concluded that glyphosate “probably” caused cancer among humans, Colombia canceled its aerial spraying program, which had been heavily supported by the US government’s counternarcotic program. Since then, Colombia’s Constitutional Court has said the government can resume spraying only if it meets certain conditions, such as protecting nature reserves, consulting with residents in areas to be sprayed, and completing studies of human health and environmental risks.