London, May 2 : Legalizing opium production in Afghanistan for medical use is neither feasible nor required, the British Minister of State for Africa, Asia, and the United Nations has argued.
While writing in British Medical Journal, Mark Malloch-Brown said that the Afghanistan government lacked resources, institutional capacity, and control mechanisms to ensure that opium grown would be purchased legally.
To combat opiate medicines shortage, he suggested that a sustainable solution to illegal production requires economically viable legal livelihoods, security and good governance as well as a determined effort to reduce demand around the world.
Moreover, those producing opium for legal medical usage would come under direct competition with illegal traffickers that would increase opium price and promote increased cultivation.
In addition, he said, that since the global demand of medical opiates is already met, therefore there is no need to increase the supply.
Malloch-Brown said that it is necessary to meet the challenge of creating development initiatives and economic incentives that provide attractive legal alternatives for farmers.
And this can be done by augmenting infrastructure and local government capacity, giving farmers improved access to markets, land, water, credit, food security, and employment.
"Only by reducing demand [for heroin] on the streets everywhere will the producers and traffickers on the streets of Afghanistan be given the best reason to follow their alternative livelihoods", BMJ quoted him as saying.
Nearly 90 pct of the world's opium comes from Afghanistan but most of it is for the illegal market.
Story first published: Friday, May 2, 2008, 13:24 [IST]