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New seeds for an ancient addiction

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    Farmers in Kandahar's Zhari district say the Taliban and associated crime gangs make it easy to produce opium, and difficult – even deadly – if they don't.

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    Afghan farmers harvest raw opium in a poppy field in Kandahar's Zhari district. This year, many poppy farmers are expecting a windfall as they get ready to harvest opium from a new variety of poppy seeds.

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    Afghan farmers feel they have no choice but to grow poppies for opium. The practice of growing poppies for opium is illegal in Afghanistan and forbidden under Islam, but farmers feel they have no choice. For more than a decade the government and its international partners have pleaded with them to grow something else wheat, fruit or even saffron.

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    A new variety of poppy seeds produce plants that grow bigger, faster and use less water than the seeds farmers used before.

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    An Afghan drug addict smokes heroin in Kabul. This year, the harvest of opium resin – the narcotic from which heroin is made – is expected to soar.

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    Afghan drug addicts find shelter near a bridge in Kabul. Afghanistan supplies 90 percent of the world’s opium and opiates originating from there find their way to every corner of the globe.

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    Afghan drug addicts try to take shelter from the elements. As opium production rises, so does Afghanistan’s own drug addiction problem. Estimates put the number of heroin addicts in the country at between 1.5 million and 2 million in a population estimated at around 30 million.

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