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Bolivia launches "Coca-Colla" drink made from medicinal coca plant

Saturday, May 22, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: Bolivia, coca, health news

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(NaturalNews) The Bolivian government has announced plans to launch a carbonated soft drink called Coca-Colla, to be made with actual coca leaves.

The name (pronounced koka koya) is an allusion to Colla suyu, the quadrant of the Inca empire that contained the modern territory of Bolivia.

The plan for the beverage was submitted by coca farmers from the country's Chapare region as part of a wider initiative to increase production of the plant. President Evo Morales, a former coca grower and head of the Chapare cocalero union, has made increased commercialization of the plant a key part of his plan for the country's economic development.

Coca leaves, chewed or brewed into tea, have been a part of Andean cultures for thousands of years. The plant is considered sacred by indigenous people and is also prized for its nutritional and medicinal benefits. According to Morales, an estimated 10 million people chew the leaves throughout the Andes.

Morales has promised to increase coca cultivation by 20,000 hectares (49,420 acres), and his government has already approved production of coca-based tea, flour, toothpaste and liquor. Bolivian law, which bans cocaine production, currently allows only 12,000 hectares of coca to be cultivated, although the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 30,500 hectares are actually in cultivation.

In a deliberate allusion to Coca-Cola, Coca-Colla will also feature a red label with a black swoosh. Coca-Cola still uses coca leaves in its formula, and is the only company authorized to import the leaves under U.S. law.

Because coca leaves are an essential ingredient in the highly industrialized process needed to make cocaine, some governments classify them as narcotics. The official U.S. position is that the plant should be driven extinct, and the International Narcotics Control Board advocates a ban on the traditional religious practice of chewing the leaves.

It is impossible to get a cocaine "high" off of coca leaves, and traditional practitioners and Western scientists have both confirmed that chewing the leaves is not addictive and carries no negative health effects.

Sources for this story include: www.telegraph.co.uk.

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