Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 14. July 21, 1971

Agents Orange, White and Blue

Agents Orange, White and Blue.

The chemical onslaught launched by the American military against the Vietnamese peasantry may well have even more destructive long-term consequences than the saturation bombing since there is evidence that the substances used (the 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D advertised and used for weed control in countries such as New Zealand) are teratogenic (foetus-deforming) and have long term genetic effects (for a full discussion see Thomas Whiteside, "Defoliation", New York, 1970). The agents used are Agent Orange, a mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, Agent White, a mixture of 2,4-D and Picloram, and Agent Blue, a form of arsenic. These are used to destroy food crops which might be used by the guerrilla (and to deny rice to 20,000 guerrillas the US destroy the rice supply of a million people) and to eliminate the forest cover which might shelter guerrilla groups. The area so far treated is given officially as some 5 million acres (12 percent of the area of South Vietnam) though NLF estimates put the total at 10.6 million acres and the Japan Science Council estimated in 1967 that "anti-crop attacks have ruined 3.8 million acres of arable land in South Vietnam" (this is about half the arable area).

The immediate destructive impact of this chemical war is evident in the dying forests and "sanitized" paddy fields; scant official attention has been given to the long-term ecological and human effects of drenching the landscape with chemicals. These have, however, been analysed by several American scientists. The destruction of the forest or crop cover in a tropical climate such as that of Vietnam leads to profound changes in soil structure, above all to the development of virtually useless lateritic soils. Destruction of mangrove forests in the Mekong Delta is leading to erosion or salinization of the rice fields they protected and to the elimination of the critically important fish resources of the Delta rivers.