GM cocaine the cartels' new weapon

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 12:00am

Hong Kong's drug enforcers may soon have to face the scourge of a new 'super-cocaine' recently developed by drug lords in Colombia.

Colombian police have discovered a new, genetically modified variety of the coca plant that not only yields more cocaine but also produces a drug of higher purity.

The authorities there claim the drug cartels paid scientists more than US$150 million to develop the new plant strain.

'With these bushes, a higher quality of drug is obtained, with a purity of between 97 and 98 per cent, whereas the traditional plant has a purity of only 24 or 25 per cent,' toxicologist Camilo Uribe reportedly said.

Growing to a height of 2.5 metres and resistant to toxins used by the officials to eradicate coca plants, the new breed was developed by cross-breeding strains from Peru with potent Colombian varieties and enhancing them using genetic engineering techniques.

It is expected that widespread introduction of this plant will deal a huge blow to the country's efforts to crack down on the drug trade.

A kilogram of the new drug costs about US$2,700 to produce, and in Hong Kong can sell for between $103,000 and $154,000, police say.