Sands received nationwide attention for Ag/Bio Con in spring and summer of last year, when he -- along with Colonel Jim McDonough, a former top aide to US drug czar General McCaffrey who had taken a new job as Florida's top drug official -- tried a similar sales job to use another strain of Fusarium to control Florida's burgeoning marijuana industry. David Struhs, the head of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection, reacted with a strongly cautionary letter saying: "Fusarium species are capable of evolving rapidly ... Mutagenicity is by far the most disturbing factor in attempting to use a Fusarium species as a bioherbicide. It is difficult, if not impossible, to control the spread of Fusarium species. The mutated fungi can cause disease in a large number of crops, including tomatoes, peppers, flowers, corn and vines, and are normally considered a threat to farmers as a pest, rather than as a pesticide. Fusarium species are more active in warm soils and can stay resident in the soil for years. Their longevity and enhanced activity under Florida conditions are of concern, as this could lead to an increased risk ofmutagenicity."
In 1999, Florida's secretary of environmental protection rejected a proposal to use Fusarium oxysporum to attack the state's marijuana crop due to fears that the mycoherbicide could mutate and destroy legitimate crops like tomatoes, peppers, and flowers.
"Ask any U.S. farmer what he thinks about using mycoherbicides and spreading them around, and his eyes will bulge out of his head," said Sanho Tree, a drug policy expert at Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.
Searching for a test site, the U.S. Congress in 2000 conditioned the delivery of a $1.3 billion package of mostly antidrug aid for Colombia to the Bogota government's commitment to test mycoherbicides on coca and opium crops.