back to article Mystery fungus smacks Afghan opium poppies

Afghanistan's opium farmers are facing a lean harvest due to a mystery fungus which has seriously affected half of Papaver somniferum poppies in the country's Helmand and Kandahar provinces. The infection "attacks the root of the plant, climbs up the stem and makes the opium capsule wither away", the BBC outlines. Some farmers …


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  1. Ivan Slavkov

    Vicious circle

    The farmers are producing opium for the warlord and the warlord ensures that opium is produced. Regardless of is it a "loyal" or "talebani" warlord any missionaries advocating for alternative crops are least likely to survive to see the dawn of the next morning.

    The only way to deal with this vicious circle is to reduce demand by giving away Heroin for free to registered addicts in the west (and Russia). That is one thing the Swiss did right a while back and it is a pity that most of the rest of Europe ignored the lesson for the sole reason that it contradicted their cultural and religious sensibilities.

    Once opium has deteriorated in value to below the price of let's say potatoes the farmers will switch themselves and the warlord will not be there to stop them.

    1. Walking Turtle

      Mildly off-thread but knock-on related...

      So is this to say that Swiss /schmeckers/ are all set now and do not accost/assault/etc non-addict passers-by (or anyone else) in the course of their securing the Daily Fix?

      If indeed so, I am ALL for that. For my own part, I for one have developed Strong Civil Junkie-Proximity Street-Safety Protocols that just might knock ones' very sox right off... Field tested to the max and entirely effective.

      Hard Proof: Went to hospital in a state of (at the time) non-avoidable utter physical exhaustion due to necessary though brutal overwork at my former work site. I was seeking prompt and reliable medical help with a particularly nasty+spreading dermal fungus condition that had erupted over the single-handed physical shop moveout period, for reasons not necessary to recount here. No need for any "shrink" services at all. But there she was, insistently telling me she was a Professional Psychiatrist and demanding my cellie in the exact manner of a US Main Street junkie.

      Fungus among us indeed. Thought to myself, "I'd have to be UTTERLY INSANE to go with THAT Bad Idea!" and immediately turned to with those hard-won Junkie Contact Termination Protocols from Heaven.

      But there she was again and yet again, demanding through that insidious fog of utter fatigue and uniquely fungal pain on my own part that I just hand her my cell-phone - (my CELL PHONE, fer cryin' out loud!) - for Unspecified Secret Psychiatric Purposes. Try though I sure did, that one would divulge nothing of her actual intent (but to guddle about and ring up Just Whomever from the stored mix of friends, enemies and sensitive businessfolk contacts entirely at her own random leisure, yes, that...) once she got hands on my kit. So I civilly, sweetly and firmly just entirely refused all cooperation. Told her at last that she was "NOT ALLOWED", all the while still in the ER corridor, all on the gurney in the jonny-jammies.

      This entirely sane adult human behavior did not go down well with Her Harvard-Trained Nibs at all. Never does with any junkie on the make-and-take either, for that matter. Hello again, 1:1 correspondence is my Old Friend... Oh my.

      Net Result One: The intern (who, one imagines, might have at least played a 'Real Psychiatrist' while in Harvard U. Drama 101, anyway) gave up after the third arm-twist attempt and called her supervisor in on "The Case" instead. The super (who was indeed a REAL Psychiatrist of excellent human qualities and many years' standing in the field per her Googles) then quite gracefully managed, once I had had a little rest and a few rather good meals, to gain what was *really* needed from me per her protocols - without actually invading my own privacy in any way whatsoever.

      Sidenote: From which one just might infer that while forcible coercion of all sorts (up to and including State-sponsored "Antiterror"[*sic*] Torture) just might not actually be not so very effective as might be portrayed on American Telly-Vision and within the real-world US Sekurity Apparat, a mere warm touch of non-faulty and otherwise compassionate human virtue just might prove both safest for all, and truly effective for at least *one* party to the conversation.

      Net Result Two: Due to this non-avoidably on-the-record conversation with that fine staff psychiatrist while in-hospital, twenty-odd years' worth of staying entirely out of trouble and in good graces with my friends, my neighbors and myself has all been reduced to a smoldering on-the-record ruin. Here in the US, one finds on even cursory examination that anyone with a "recent-issue" psych contact record of any sort, for any reason at all, is most often (not quite always, but geez Louise!) automatically made subject to the most horrid medical abuse+blind-eye neglect imaginable.

      To wit: While I stayed flat on my back in that place for five days running, no less than three other Medical Doctors sashayed in on me, taking up immediately to insult my reason, intelligence and sanity while superficially posing as intelligent and knowledgeable therapeutic professionals. (Sometimes, very cleverly indeed, all in a single utterance.) I had no idea until that day that such clever and persistent gaslighting artistes were indeed running around loose within the Human Suffering Abatement Structures of American Organized Criminal^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H (oopsie...) Medical Practice! Meanwhile, I asked for help with that fungus condition every day. The subject was always changed; no help with that somewhat urgent matter-at-hand was ever allowed, let alone at all forthcoming.

      Net Result Three: Unless I either manage to clear this recent-contact record out utterly (fat chance of that) or else pro-actively manage to correct the erroneous condition thereof (just might with persistence and good fortune manage that; who knows?), it is entirely likely that this one'll one day just end up being forcibly shot full of extremely nasty and utterly needless Big Pharma-promoted neurolytic "Tranquilizer" crap as a "Geriatric Psych Case", once admitted in my declining years to the Elder "Care"(sic) Facility of My Very Own or Some Perfect Stranger's Choice, depending. (Standard Procedure hereabouts.)


      I left the hospital five days later with that ugly and eyeball-threatening dermal fungus condition left all but entirely non-addressed, universally denied, and quite entirely untreated. (Another wannabee-doctor MD intern took some pseudo-scrapings while I was reviewing my discharge papers; promised a phone call with results and prescriptions but not a peep on my return home.) Once one is "Tagged Crazy" in the USA, it is fairly clear now, any physical condition that may arise - from a common cold all the way up to metastizing cancer and broken bones with the jagged ends stickng out of the bleeding flesh - is glibly fluffed off as being "All In The [Crazy's] Mind" and nothing more or less than sheer psychotic delusion on the sufferer's part.

      But nine weeks after discharge, having taken up some little home-formulated antifungal treatment on my own with rather encouraging though incomplete result definitively obtained, I at last semi-independently gained a proper appointment with a proper 38-years'-practice dermatologist, who promptly prescribed the proper fungicidal preparation that I had gone to hospital in hope of gaining in the first place.

      This feat on my own part was accomplished through a sort-of-semi-kind referral from an entirely skeptical 10-year GP with offices just down the hall from the dermo, the preliminary exam services of whom I had independently engaged post-discharge. But she, too, had read my chart and evidently pretty much just believed all the worst therein. So good to be out of the woods at last! But as the poor overworked Patient Safety Committee hospital caseworker (as of that very successful day) now knows all too well, I am still occasionally juddering badly from having been made recipient to something of theirs that I can only call "The Treatment" without juddering anew once more.

      Now the joke of it: Indeed, that fungus of mine was entirely delusional. It obviously THOUGHT it could stay on forever. But it was dead wrong on that point and thus doomed from the start. ([pun] Oi, such a start! [/pun]) Healing up quite nicely now, thank you Heaven!

      So for myself, I think I'll just stay home in Home Sweet Secret Cave Home, take up Christian Science studies full-scale, and leave entirely off from all further involvement with the corporatized US Medical Racket unless struck down by leprosy, bubonic plague or snakebite.

      Then again, maybe not even with those.

      But if Free Heroin For ALL Needy Ones Everywhere actually results in a general abatement of junk-hunger-motivated Forcible Poverty-Driven Coercive+Objectionable Street-Human Behavior, one supposes that maybe - just maybe - young and impressionable wannabee MDs-in-potential just might one day be beneficially deprived of an entirely infandous street-level behavioral example in their own silver-spoon Callow Youth - maybe even find better, safer, more effective ways to deal with others - within their own hard-trained emerging-professional selves.

      I for one am *all* for that sort of Quality Improvement. Y'reckon isso? 0{:-)o<

  2. Steve Evans

    Oh of course...

    "Some farmers suggest NATO troops have sprayed their crops with chemicals, but this was rejected by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) head Antonio Maria Costa."

    The USA has never used chemicals/biological agents to destroy plants and crops of an enemy have they...

    To be honest I would find them *not* taking advantage of a natural fungus and *not* breeding it up in a lab and then airborne spraying it incompetent!

    1. Mr Sceptical
      Black Helicopters

      bio-warfare 'R' us

      The biological warfare method was suggested in the press years ago, and I thought at the time we should have just gone ahead and done it. Looks like they finally got the green light - any crop-dusting drones out there?

      It's a naturally occuring infection of poppies and far more targetted than an agent orange type mess so you don't end up with mutated wildlife...

      For health use, they just need to quarantine a region and pay the farmers the going pharmaceutical rate for it. The rest can be guided towards growing something more beneficial to all.

      1. NRT

        @Mr Sceptical

        Unfortunately, it wasn't just the wildlife that got hit.


    2. Les Matthew

      @Steve Evans

      "The USA has never used chemicals/biological agents to destroy plants and crops of an enemy have they..."

      Can't decide if you're being sarcastic or not so I will point you in a direction.

      google "agent orange"

      1. Steve Evans

        @Les Matthew

        Sorry, too subtle for text only I guess... There was plenty of sarcasm in that, believe me!

        1. Andy ORourke

          Perhaps you should have used.......

          The Joke Alert Icon, there are many readers on here who belive that "Irony" is something made from Iron

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The worst thing that there's a massive shortage of opiates (morphine and co) for palliative care, even in the UK. Offering farmers a decent *legal* price for their crops would benefit everyone.

  4. Bill Neal
    Black Helicopters


    "Afghanistan produces 92 per cent of the world's opium" and people still think we're there because of a couple of planes

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I wonder whether that is the same fungus that had been sprayed on coca crops in Columbia

    1. Mr Sceptical

      @Coca infections

      ... my microbiology is a bit rusty but unlikely the same fungal strain as infectious organsisms tend to be quite species specific. I haven't checked what species the fungus was, so I could be wrong.

      It's why 'flu strains don't generally infect all animals, just the one species.

  6. ciaran

    Incredible Spin

    I heard this story on the radio this morning, I thought I was in another world.

    The first thing the Americans tried to do in Afghanistan was to suppress the opium trade, and yet now we're being told that its a crisis the crop failed.

    I swear, next year the Americans will guarantee a minimum price like with the EU Common Agricultural Policy, and provide free helicopter transport to get the heroin to market!

    On the other hand, want to bet that they're already massively buying the production using the fake 100-dollar bills they claim the Iranians (or the North Koreans) are printing?

    Its a very strange world.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Why on Earth would the USG use fake bills, when they can use perfectly real ones. It's long been known that NK and other countries are churning off fakes en masse.

      And we're not being 'told' that it's a crisis by the USG. We're being told it by the media. The two aren't quite the same.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    World smack price rises.

    Burglary and credit card fraud skyrocket.

    Not all smackheads have record deals.

  8. I_am_Chris

    Re bill neal

    Except that under the taleban opium production was heavily suppressed. Following their removal production skyrocketed.

  9. Jim 4

    Any chance you could clarify...

    At what stage or distribution does the market value reach $3bn?

    As for a conspiracy, seems that those with stockpiles have the most to gain from this.

    "...any missionaries advocating for alternative crops are least likely to survive to see the dawn of the next morning."

    A friend of mine spent a couple of years doing that very thing. Didn't get anywhere but didn't get killed either...

    "Why on Earth would the USG use fake bills"

    Because real bills are promisary notes and must be backed up by real assets whereas fake bills have no actual value. When you are dealing with dodgy people why not act a bit 'whurrr' yurself?

  10. Richard Scratcher
    Black Helicopters

    Sounds like SCOPE - "Strategy for Coca and Opium Poppy Elimination."

    The US has, for many years, investigated various chemical and biological methods of destroying coca, cannabis and opium crops. None of the plans have ever gained the necessary approval to be implemented....or have they?

  11. mark adrian bell


    The good thing about Opium for Afghanistan is there is no tariff on it when they export it to the EU and USA. I bet they'd love to export other crops but subsidies and tariffs make them noncompetitive.

  12. Tom 7

    Try Norfolk

    or anywhere in East Anglia - the stuff was grown there during in the war and grows there still!

    Only in the UK are people so stupid as to get something from abroad that they can grow in their own front garden - and win best bloom competition down the village hall too!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Opium production in the UK == poor yields

      The growing of the Opium poppy in Britain goes way back, at least to the time of the crusades, maybe to the Romans.

      About 20 years ago, one of properties I stayed in was an old (early-Victorian) doctor's house-cum-surgery. First year there, I discovered that there were a fairly large number of medicinal herbs in the gardens, now gone wild, including a number of opium poppies.

      I had to have a go at producing the resin, purely for the hell of it, the amount collected from one poppy head was tiny in comparison to the amount I saw being harvested on a TV documentary showing production in Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle.

      I also seem to recall that the actual amount of opiates produced by the poppy is dependant on the amount of average sunlight the plant receives, so yes, it is possible to grow the poppy and harvest the resin in the UK, but thanks to the average growing conditions here, the yields of useful opiates are so pitifully low that you'd have to devote a larger area of land to production to harvest a reasonable amount of them, that is, unless some cunning bioartificer out there does a 'skunk' style variety of somniferum.

      As to the mystery fungus..I point you to the Yanks' decades long campaign against Cuba, the South American Coca crops, etc etc,

      Being a cynical type, I always come back to the notion that as American Intelligence (sic) has been in bed with Italian organised crime since WWII, the whole 'war on drugs' thing has been a useful way for the Dons to keep a control of the global supplies of both Heroin and Cocaine largely produced in areas of the globe under control of 'rival' brotherhoods, whilst maintaining 'clean hands' for 'business' purposes in their dealings with these rivals..

      Where does Cuba fit in here? well they (mafia) used to run that island, being a mainly Sicilian organisation, they know how to harbour a grudge, 50 years is chickenfeed here.

      Afghanistan?, aren't the Russian mafia running the opium-heroin routes there (in competition to the newly established 'American' one..maybe)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As I understand it, the Russians have substantial knowledge regarding the development of genetically modified fungi to target specific flora or fauna. The was some institute researching such things which was looking for funding in the 1990s - and they were offering a fungus which they claimed to have tested on opium poppies in Afghanistan. They also suggested that, with suitable funding, they could concoct similar fungi, each targeted to attack only specific plant species.

  14. Winkypop Silver badge

    Send in Jessica Lynch....

    ....she's a heroin isn't she?


  15. nbc

    Ah hah. The evil UN at work...

    From ten years ago:

    Grabbed from here:

  16. Red Bren

    Biofuel opportunity?

    Petroleum use is highly addictive and far more widespread. How do the prices of crude and heroin compare? The problem might solve itself.

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