1 December, 2021

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Do Agrochemicals Cause Kidney Disease?

By Oliver A. Ileperuma

Prof. Oliver A. Ileperuma

The reason for banning synthetic fertilisers to be replaced by compost is one of the stupidest decisions taken by the Government. Our President was led to this irrational decision on the premise that agrochemicals cause the kidney disease in the north-central province by a set of pseudo experts without any experience in either the kidney disease or agriculture. This myth propagated by various individuals has influenced our President who committed political hara-kiri by banning the import of all agrochemicals. He was also misled by some members of the Viyathmaga who promised to deliver goods with compost to gain their own political mileage.

The reason for the Rajarata kidney disease of unknown origin is certainly not agrochemicals. Consider the following facts:

1. Major agricultural areas like Jaffna, Kalpitiya and Nuwara Eliya using identical agrochemicals are free from this disease.

2. Even in the north-central province, people consuming reservoir water or municipal water which in turn get their water from reservoirs do not have kidney disease.

As early as 2003, this writer proposed that fluoride is the causative factor involved in kidney disease. Use of sub-standard aluminum utensils too exacerbate the toxicity of fluoride to the kidney. Later research also confirmed that fluoride in combination with hard water is the key reason for the occurrence of the kidney disease, My own field visits to the affected areas confirmed that all kidney patients have consumed water from deep wells rich in fluoride. This hypothesis arose from the chemical analysis of well waters and common sense.

There are two villages in the Dehiaththakandiya area named as Sarabhoomi and Badulupura. Sarabhoomi is located near the Mahaweli river in the plains and people use either river water or water from shallow dug wells and such waters have very low levels of fluoride and hardness. Badulupura village is located at a higher elevation and people use water from deep wells and these are rich in fluoride with increased hardness. There are no kidney patients in Sarabhoomi while over 30% of adults in the Badulupura area are kidney patients. People in both villages cultivate the same lands in the plains, use the same agrochemicals and consume similar food. These studies give conclusive evidence that fluoride/hard water combination is responsible for the kidney disease and agrochemicals have absolutely no role.

In spite of such overwhelming evidence our President appears to be still unconvinced that agrochemicals do not cause the kidney disease and instead listens only to his advisors who continuously press him to maintain the ban of synthetic agrochemicals. Anyone who articulates opposing views are promptly labelled as agents of the agrochemical industry however scientific and logical their arguments are. In my academic career I have faced a lot of flak for my criticism of the ill-conceived hypothesis that glyphosate and arsenic are the causative factors of the kidney disease, a myth propagated by a group of Kelaniya University academics who based their arguments not on science but on the supernatural power of God Natha.

Sri Lanka is a country where the blind lead the blind and pseudo experts influence crucial decisions mainly for climbing up the political ladder. There are even a few University Professors who support the Government for the purpose of gaining favours from the politicians. Scientific bodies comprised of agricultural professionals and soil scientists have written to the President expressing their concern about the danger of abruptly going organic banning all imports of agrochemicals. Yet the President does not wish to listen to anyone with opposing views. Biggest virtue of a sincere ruler and an honest leader is to listen to those with opposing views. A former UNICEF director in Sri Lanka told this writer that Sri Lankans are like crocodiles; big mouths and no ears. This aptly summarises the behavior of our politicians and officials as well.

Our President was telling a group of people when he visited an organic farm that he used to bathe in a stream in his village and even drank water from it during his childhood days, During my childhood too in a remote village by the Sinharaja forest we used to drink water from a stream which flowed to Gin ganga. When talking about the need for agrochemicals, we conveniently forget that the population of Sri Lanka at the time of our independence was 6.8 million which has now increased to 21 million. Agrochemicals have been a necessary evil to enable us to feed the entire population of Sri Lanka. Due to the dedication and untiring efforts of our scientists in the Agriculture department, we have achieved self-sufficiency in rice and this involved the use of new hybrid varieties requiring chemical fertiliser and pesticides. During the early days, rice production using organic manure was sufficient only for farmer households and from the time of the British we have been importing rice from India, Burma and other countries to fulfill the needs of the general population. If the fertiliser ban continues, we will again have to import rice from other countries with even higher application of agrochemicals. At one time we imported rice from Bangladesh well known to have toxic levels of arsenic.

Agrochemicals are necessary for our own food security and the fertiliser ban will directly affect our food supply and severely affect the lives of our farming communities. Farmers have already shown that compost is ineffective to get a substantial yield compared to what they have been getting earlier. Already prices of vegetable are skyrocketing and in spite of Government propaganda, famers are unconvinced that compost will work.

Life expectancy at the time of independence was 46 years which has now increased to 72 years. Agrochemical use became prevalent only after 1960s and it is a blatant lie to claim that agrochemicals have reduced life expectancy. There are even some pundits who claim that in the old days Sri Lanka had a life expectancy of 140 years without even an iota of evidence. Rajarata kidney disease became prominent only after the 1990s mainly because of colonisation schemes where people settled in lands away from the irrigation tanks. In the newly colonised areas although they got the water for cultivation from the irrigation tanks, they had to dig deep wells to supply their drinking water. These wells had high fluoride and hardness coming from geogenic sources and well established scientific evidence demonstrate that these two factors are the causative factors of the chronic kidney disease. Such chronic diseases appear only after the continuous exposure to a nephrotoxin for 15-20 years. With the discovery that fluoride and hardness are responsible for this disease, people have started using water from springs and reservoir sources. As a result, kidney patient numbers have been decreasing since 2018. While the health ministry has released statistics on patient numbers till 2018, later statistics have not been released for some unknown reason.

Although agrochemicals are required for sustained agriculture indiscriminate use of agrochemicals is widespread and proper control procedures should be strictly implemented. We had an efficient agricultural extension service to advise farmers on proper pesticide use, this service was disbanded by the late president Premadasa. As a result, now farmers get advice about agrochemicals from shop owners selling agrochemicals who often recommend combinations of pesticides and in excessive amounts. Also, our vegetable farmers apply pesticides just before harvest and in developed countries application of pesticides is prohibited at least two weeks before harvest.

Scientific evidence with common sense for looking at problems with an unbiased mind is essential to decide whether agrochemicals have caused the kidney disease. Myths propagated by some pseudo experts will ruin the great strides taken by the agriculturists of the country to ensure food security through their efforts over several decades.

 *Prof. O.A. Ileperuma, Emeritus Professor, University of Peradeniya

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Latest comments

  • 14
    0

    In this country, scientists aren’t taken seriously. Priority goes to Mahanayakas, various nutty monks, and witch doctors (who eventually die of Covid). One monk, Ratana, brought the tea industry to its knees by persuading gullibles in the last government to ban Glyphosate. When the ban was reversed, he joined the Pohottuwa, which is in the process of being similarly screwed.When will we ever learn? If monks know anything about agriculture, chemistry, foreign relations, medicine, why did they become monks in the first place?

    • 5
      3

      “In this country, scientists aren’t taken seriously.”
      OC, do you think that it is unjustified?
      What have scientists done to make themselves credible as a community?
      *
      You know as much as I do what kind of sellouts several of our leading scientists have been when it comes to standing up for the truth? They crave position far more than they do knowledge.

      • 6
        0

        S.J,
        I thought I would rather not comment on the quality of many Sri Lankan “scientists”.
        There are lots of scientists who work in laboratories by day but visit astrologers to check the weather. It’s the result of our schizophrenic education system, which teaches science to kids in school and fairy tales in Sunday school.

        • 2
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          OC
          Quality apart, my main concern is personal integrity.

        • 1
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          There is a Tamil proberb “Arasan evvazhi kuDikaL avvazhi”
          meaning; The people follow the way of (the model set by) the king.”
          Don’t blame all our scientists without finding the truth in this matter for the sake of “China”? There is a quarantine system is operating in this country for long. You need the clearance for some products from them. You should first look at whether the agreement signed between supplier and buyer followed the procedures first.

  • 9
    0

    Thank you for the well written article Prof OAI.
    Unfortunately obstinacy at the top prevents good advice to seep up. But military thinking of orders to be followed downwards, takes its toll.
    ….. population of Sri Lanka at the time of our independence was 6.8 million which has now increased to 21 million……..
    A popular saying – even the Prez says it – is that in times of yore, we were self-sufficient. Earliest record of population in SL was in 1871 at 2.40 M which increased to 6.65M in the early 1940’s.
    The acreage under cultivation has only increased in a ratio much less than the population increase to 22M now. Environment damage to crops was minimal with enough forest cover for pests etc. So “in times of yore” when mortality rates were high and medical care was not as accessible as of now, coupled with myths that most diseases were “deiyange leda” with devil dancing to ward them off, it needed less food for a very small population. Further most people in remote areas had their own individual means to feed themselves off the environment around. Commercial advertising of the Food Industry has not helped.
    Times and conditions have changed that we need more critical scientific and practical thinking about these problems, instead of half baked theories of Pediatricians and wayward monks. Even if the end is justified, the practical evaluation of the way forward is paramount.

  • 8
    0

    That great visionary and hard hitting former PM of Malaysia Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, who brought his country from utter backwardness to today’s envied state stage, once said, even with state subsidies Malaysian small farmers loose money, and suggested that they should form co-operatives by combining their lots, in to order to gain high productivity, costs savings, efficient marketing and profit, and best examples given was Israel and New Zealand. This is the only and best available solution and salvation for our farmers to get out of poverty.

  • 5
    0

    This fiasco was created by the publicity crazy idiot Propasory Jajasumana of Rajaratta who suddenly discovered this great truth. Renal failure have been there for donkeys years in SL mainly attributed to ayurvedic and other qualks using heavy metals in their decoction that are nephrotoxic. We are a nation where quakcs are heroes. One King Quack Dr White no more thanks to some innocent people. Then Gnana Acca and her spiritual cure, then Covid specialist from Kegalle and the pani muddiya. This guy Jayasumana, a bum sucker Minister, was responsible along with Maha Beraya Weera Monkey and few others to accuse and punish the poor Muslim doctor in Kurunegala of steralisinh sinhala buddhsit women and finally proved an absolute idiot and thus rewarded by the king for his stupidity as state minister of health, my foot. The fellows should have got punihsed in millions for what they did to that poor doctor. Now the list is endless and it is wastage of time enumerating them. Criminals are becoming chairmnas and now presto one country-one rule-one law-one people-one poverty, one hunger one modakama. KINK tried Yohani stunt too and that didnt too work. Queen of Lanka may sing the song soon during independent day celeberation may be in Mandarin. As a last advice let me say the to our CB Governer, not to waste expensive papaers to print money and instead give the job to Lake House where HLD BLIND was working and include the crisp currency notes along with Sunday Observer. May god help the BLINDS.

  • 4
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    Dear Prof Oliver, your academic and professionla advice will not take you anywhere, because you are qualified and educated and an expert. In the good old time in villages small house hold use only organic fertiliser that they make it at homw and collect from neighbourhood. For our KINK to switch to that over night is a proof that what you say wont be believed. He will believe Jayasumana. Propasorry G L Peries, Weeramonkey, Come-On-Pulle, Eliyanta, Gananacca, Gnanasara his devinine power, to name a few. But Prof, dont worry, soon we will have a chance to restart SHRI LANKA with a new motto and a new flag and new values. Be patient.

  • 6
    0

    “Scientific evidence with common sense for looking at problems with an unbiased mind is essential to decide whether agrochemicals have caused the kidney disease.”
    If you use the inorganic fertilizer and agrochemicals based on the principle of optimum use with maximum benefit you will not get any problem. If use more chemicals than the need of the plant the excess chemicals there is a possibility for it mixes with water and will have some effect. We use paracetamol for pain almost daily but if you take overdose that will affect your health and life. It is true that some farmers used more than the required levels because of greediness to get more yield and it may have caused damaged in some people.
    Yes organic fertiliser like animal waste (cow dung & Urine) can bring a healthy environment (soil structure and nutrition) but it needs to be converted into absorbable like our food by enzymes to transported to cells. It takes time and need more. The artificial fertilizer is an absorbable status and quick response.
    I am sure the Organic fertilzer produced by large companies for export purposes may have contain bacterias to convert the Organic compounds to absorbable elements . In commercial level, in order to get cheaper cost and maximum profit companies may use low quality or dangerous bacterias. This may be the reason behind the Organic fertilizer planned to import from China.

  • 4
    0

    I wish to point out one of the situation where excessive residues had a significant damage in the water quality. Few years before, we can remember that in Chunnakam most of the wells became with oil residues and the water quality went down. It was found that the Electricity generating company did not cleared the residue oil that was used for power generation and people protested and water was supplied from outside and water Bottle supply consumption increased and many companies benefitted. However, I don’t think the problem still exists or the companies continue to allow oil residues to mix the under ground water.

  • 3
    0

    The governing cabinet is comprised of uneducated yobs & thugs, even murderers. The health minister poured holy water in to rivers & even endorsed a concoction, apparently, given by divine powers to a carpenter in his sleep to combat the pandemic. When we can depend on hindu gods & occult, why bother with science? Even the western medicine practicing GMOA bunch doesn’t seem to be concerned about the root causes of kidney diseases in some parts of the country.

  • 6
    2

    There are two separate issues here.
    Do agro-chemicals affect quality of ground water?
    Are agro-chemicals the principal cause of kidney disease in the NCP?
    *
    The first is a firm ‘YES’. I know that much of southern France is affected by excess of nitrate and people are strongly advised against consuming local water.
    Re the second, the arguments based on CKD could be flawed. But the decision to go easy on agro-chemicals is wise, regardless of kidney disease.
    Going fully organic may be a distant dream, but to minmise the use of agro-chemicals is not a bad idea.
    Whether the government is setting about it in a rational way is a separate issue.
    *
    Scientists can be as corrupt if not worse than politicians at times. There is scientific evidence offered that there is no global warming and to deny various hazards including that caused by nuclear reactor waste.
    There is plenty of backing from significant sections of the scientific community for the Big Pharma, the biggest enemy of good health.
    Scientists can be bought and sold like any politician or economist or any other professional.
    *
    Everything should be contested by everyone.
    Too many matters of public interest are monopolised by ‘Experts’.

  • 1
    3

    By the hard work it was condemned to, the donkey is worn out as an ant. China has declared its best friend Lankawe as an untrustworthy partner. People Bank is now blacklisted on the issue of Hunu import. The LC cancellation (or delay in payment?) is a court decision, as per the requests of the importing government departments. China, while the hunter is there, just curses the arrow for its death. If China takes revenge on People’s Bank for just one LC, it is disproportional. China is the main exporter to Lankawe. About $4-5 billion dollar imports come home from China. Importers won’t be able to pay by People Bank’s LCs until the dust settles down. During this severe shortage for food and other commodities, if People’s Bank’s hands are broken, this will strain other local banks who open LCs worldwide. Remember, Moody’s downgraded Lankawe credit rating to Caa2. This can affect local interest rate, inflation, prices and availability. Now a major exporter has blacklisted a major bank. This sounds like Lankawe has imposed sanctions on it with its own hand. Few months ago, after reading the Colombo Media, we wrote here to people that if they can sleep with two meals, save the third one in cash for looming rainy days. We are no experts but want people to be alert. Be not cursed to hell for electing a Hitler Government.

  • 1
    1

    Do Agrochemicals cause kidney disease? No, you are thinking of the Rajapakses.

  • 2
    1

    Science is not where this shindig is at …….. not with the Rjapakses, not with Trump, not with ol’ Adolf ………… not with the cardinal, the Pope, the Mahanayakes, ……………

    Long time ago ……… Rajapakses’ German Indo-Aryan ancestor, they lay claim to …… ol’ Federico hit upon a human, all too human cardinal truth ……. “Life has not been devised by morality: it wants deception, it lives on deception.”

    This is not about science ……… but intellectual honesty.

    Which one of ye is intellectually honest? ……….. (please don’t confuse personal honesty with intellectual honesty; two different shebangs) Read what most of ye have written through the years …….. all what most of ye have done is attempted to project your particular version of intellectual insincerely (honed by affiliations, loyalties, ideologies, religions, ethnicities, insecurities, ……….. or whatever other human frailties) as the truth. And arguments/debates ensues.

    What makes ye think that scientists are any different? Are the scientists any less human? Less human than most of ye?

    Universal truths have no arguments/debates ………. except among the cuckoo ……..

    Present truth in stripped down inescapable form …….. there are no arguments/debates …….. only deathly silence………….

  • 2
    1

    , As far as I remember, when the President first announced the proposal to ban chemicals, he did not mention anything about its bad effects – he said about saving foreign exchange and further said funds saved by banning could be used even to pay compensation to anybody who gets affected by non-availability of chemical fertilizers for their farming. These may not be the same words, but his concern was only about funds, but certainly not environmental and health issues. Present happenings let one to feel that someone is purposely dragging this country in to a depth-less hole.

  • 3
    0

    On a recent TV talk show with several top academics, the child specialist (neurology) Dr Anuruddher Pardeniyer claimed that upper strata of soil contained more arsenic than lower strata. The soil scientists present, debunked the proposition that it was due to it being introduced by application of (agro)chemicals. However, this man continues to sit on government panels where his area of learning is not being discussed. Why?

    • 3
      0

      WHY?
      Because he did all the devilry to bring the “R”s (read Rascals) to power with an endless wave of strikes and is ….licking to become Secretary of Health.
      But what bothers me is that there are a horde of Doctors in the GMOA and who vote for him to be President. Have they no shame ?

    • 0
      0

      Lasantha
      Is it true that the upper strata of soil contained more arsenic than lower strata?
      How deep is the ‘contaminated’ stratum?

  • 0
    0

    Eratne, You are way off the mark. In many TV interviews he said that agrochemicals cause diseases such as kidney diseases. He also wanted to satisfy cronies like Padeniya, Ratana etc. During the previous regime, Ratana got Maithreepala to ban glyphosate for no scientific reason.
    The real reason may be the dollar crisis but the excuse the government is always putting forward is health effects.

  • 2
    0

    appuhamy

    Whatever he said or didn’t say here is some fact about the man whom many had blind faith.
    He imposed a total ban on agrochemicals in May this year.
    By the mid October we have had the rare opportunity to hear 100th version of his “ambitious plans to become the world’s first completely organic farming nation”.

    Now he appears to have completely taken a U turn by his government breaching ” its own ban by importing from Lithuania 30,000 tonnes of potassium chloride, but called it “organic fertiliser”.
    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/20/sri-lanka-organic-farming-tea-export-suffers

    He would not mind wearing emperor’s new clothes.

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