Dr. Lal Jayasinghe (LJ) writing in the Island (11-05-2018) gives three reasons that he says are put out in opposing the ban. He is of course for the ban.
The glyphosate debate in Sri Lanka is an intellectual and scientific scandal. Seemingly, Sri Lankan scientists are remaining silent about it? No, in fact, what seems to be the case is that newspaper Editors do not publish the letters submitted to them by scientists – unless they are against agrochemicals! Most editors, journalists and the reading public do not have a scientific background. Editors themselves are also infected by the “I don’t want poison in my plate” syndrome. Capitalizing on it, Ven. Ratana has pushed a “Toxin-free Nation” program to give himself political mileage.
All those who write against the ban are claimed to be in the pay of the multi-national companies. However, at least to his credit, LJ does not make that unsubstantiated accusation. Instead he lists his arguments. LJ’s article reveals the thinking behind this “no poison in my plate” syndrome. Let us look at his arguments. LJ lists the three reasons that he thinks are given to lift the ban:
1. “Firstly, it has not been proved that Glyphosate caused Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Origin (CKDu)”.
Let alone kidney disease, it has in fact BEEN PROVED that intense regular use of glyphosate for 23 years is NOT correlated with ANY disease. The heath data of some 90,000 members of farming families in Iowa and Minnesota were followed for 23 years where data on blood, urine, and other bio-samples were followed by researchers funded by the US Departments of Agriculture, and Health. No correlations what so ever with any diseases, and in particular with 200 different cancers were detected. (Read here )
Thus GLYPHOSATE FORMULATIONS HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO CAUSE NO ILLNESSES.
So why ban it?
In dealing with glyphosate, why do newspaper graphics artists always depict a person wearing a goggled hood? Why are file photos showing lethal danger pulled out to illustrate the article? They reveal the unjustified common mistrust of this herbicide. Glyphosate formulations often are applied WITHOUT protective clothing or goggles as they are very safe and hardly need such precautions.
2. “Secondly, that other countries have not banned it.”
Sri Lanka does not have the funds to run a massive health test on thousands of people. So we have to rely on others, just as for pharmaceuticals used in Sri Lanka.
3. “thirdly, the tea industry (and even paddy cultivation or maize cultivation) cannot survive without glyphosate”.
Tea cannot survive in the competitive international market if it has to pay for manual labour while other countries use a cheap effective herbicide. Maize cultivation is completely wiped out and Victor Ivan’s “Ravaya” article documents the tragedy. Tea industry suffers a loss of some 15 billion rupees per annum, making a total loss of 45 billion since the ban. Paddy industry uses very little glyphosate and can do without it by keeping the field flooded to kill weeds. Manual weeding, and flooding to control weeds increase soil erosion. An inch of eroded soil takes thousands of years to be replaced.
LJ then give his own arguments. He says:
“It is different in the case of Glyphosate. We can do without it. It is very difficult to prove that one particular chemical that is in wide use is the cause of a particular disease or group of diseases”.
It is indeed very difficult to prove that a substance causes a given disease. But one CAN prove that it does NOT cause the disease, by showing its anti-correlation with diseases. That is what was done in the 23 year-long US study. Furthermore, countries like New Zealand and Malaysia which use many dozens of times more glyphosate per annum per hectare have no higher incidence of chronic diseases.
“We must not make the common mistake of thinking “absence of evidence is evidence of absence“.
It is NOT absence of evidence. We in fact HAVE evidence that it does NOT cause chronic toxicity. Chronic toxicity caused by ingestion of very small amounts over a long period.
“Therefore, as the group of eminent doctors have written in The Island, we should use the precautionary principle”.
These eminent doctors did not even mention the massive US study. Neither did the GMOA. Instead they mentioned the WHO-IARC classification of glyphosate as a class-2 hazard, and also failed to mention that it was NOT listed as a health risk. The precautionary principle (PP) was also misunderstood by these doctors. When there is a hazard, we navigate with caution. That is, the PP requires using “controls and constraints (CC) ” and not “ban and banish (BB)”. Guns, pharmaceuticals, gasoline, radioactive substances, etc., are dangerous but they are not banned. They are available through the police, trained pharmacists and trained operators. To apply PP by banning something is a no-brainier not practiced anywhere in the world any more.
LJ asks questions ignoring the distinction between ACUTE Toxicity and CHRONIC Toxicity.
“Supporters of glyphosate cannot deny that Glyphosate is a poison, at least for plants. That is the reason it is used to kill weeds. The manufacturers will say that it does not harm humans, but advises people to protect themselves from unnecessary exposure. Why? Because if exposed to large amounts it undoubtedly causes harm. Will the supporters of Glyphosate drink a pint of the stuff? Of course not.”
If you drink 250 grams (a cup) of glyphosate, it will surely cause acute toxicity. But what if it is diluted many many times, as used in farm applications? LJ knows well that if you take 250 g of the daily vitamin it can kill you (acute toxicity). However we don’t ban vitamins. A dose of 25 g of the vitamin is not toxic, and it is in fact good for you. That is, there is no chronic toxicity even if the vitamin is acutely toxic. The massive, 23-YEAR long US study on 90,000 farmers PROVED THAT GYLPHOSATE FORMULATIONS HAVE NO DISCERNIBLE CHRONIC TOXICITY.
Then LJ says:
“What about the worms and little creatures that live in the soil? Do they have a choice? Considering their size, they are forced to drink not a pint but gallons of the stuff”.
In fact earthworms thrive BETTER in soils treated with glyphosate. This is because glyphosate binds to metal toxins like cadmium and make them insoluble. So, earthworms and other creatures which fail to live in soils containing cadmium (a naturally occurring soil mineral) begin to thrive BETTER with glyphosate application, as shown by many researchers. A recent reference (2014) is, “Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry”, volume 33, pages 2351-2357 by Dr. Chui-Fan Zhou and collaborators.
Without searching the facts, LJ voices the usual motherhood statements:
“Why is it important that we should not destroy the very small and microscopic life that live in the soil? There are two important reasons, apart from the fact that they also have a right to live. One reason is that plants grow with the help of these creatures” ….. “The second reason why we should not destroy the little creatures is that because even the smallest insect has a place in the ecosystem”.
Exactly, and GLYPHOSATE HELPS SOIL ORGANISMS as proven by many research papers.
It is also not true that worms and soil bugs get gallons of glyphosate on them. A gallon may be sprayed over a hectare and distributed over a soil depth of 10-20 cm, and you might get a fraction of a micro-gram in a kilogram of soil! The bugs get a thousand times more petroleum and oil residues dumped onto them than glyphosate. How much petrol did Sri Lanka import? The whole country imported only 6000 metric tons of glyphosate in 2012, and that was used on a vast acreage of tea, coconut, maize, sugarcane, paddy, vegetables, horticultural industries etc. LJ is using his imagination that has run riot because he, and the two eminent doctors with their “ban and banish” precautionary principle ignore the difference between acute and chronic toxicities.
If glyphosate and other agrochemicals have killed off the bugs in the soil, why would egrets (“kokku”)
flock around the tractor of a farmer who is tilling his field? And yet, it is an ubiquitous sight in most parts of Sri Lanka.
LJ claims that glyphosate is appropriate only for countries with large-scale farming with low human density. Far from it. High-human density countries like UK, Europe, or NewZealand, Malasyia or even tiny Singapore use large amounts of glyphosate. “Roundup” is approved for use in School yards, golf clubs and home gardens. Glyphosate allows humans to break away from the drudgery and slavery of manual labour in hot farmlands and engage in more humane and meaningful life styles.
LJ says “I am eagerly waiting for the day when anything grown in Sri Lanka is automatically organic and there is no longer any need for ‘organic certification’. Banning glyphosate is the first step”.
What a naive hope! The first step, according to the Swiss Research Institute in Organic agriculture is reducing the world population. By how much? To 4 or 5 billion? The Swiss researchers also point out the need for the world to go vegetarian, increase the amount of land under agriculture, and make more water available to feed the world using organic farming. It is an open secret that many White-supremacist “Eugenics” groups feel that the populations of Africa and South Asia should be sacrificed to reduce the population of the world and gain the land and water needed for this “organic food” program of the elite supremacist (and “healthy”) minority that hopes to rule a “toxin-free” world !
Some 40% of Sri Lankan children come to school hungry – they don’t dream of organic food. They do not belong to the (less-than 5%) Sri-Lankan elite class who can afford to make a choice between “organic” and “usual” food. Fortunately, the “organic” food (which makes up to no more than about 2% of the worlds food production) is nutritionally no better than the usual supermarket food. Neither the usual foods, nor the conventional foods, exceed the maximum allowed limits of toxins (as set by the WHO) and hence both types of food are perfectly safe to eat.
But today, “whole-foods, natural foods” and such-named grocery chains are making a strong bid for a bigger share of the food market, and using fear-mongering tactics and epithets like “Frankenfoods” to achieve their ends. There have been individuals who have come up on Sri Lanka TV channels claiming that Sri Lankan rice is laced with with cadmium, arsenic etc., and with pesticides, and that the country is heading towards a massive epidemic of kidney disease. Even Natha Deyyo has been invoked! Fortunately, the dire economic circumstances of the day will ensure that people will ignore such false, hysterical claims.
A person with a Sri Lankan name, claiming to be an Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Georgia Med. School wrote to the Island Newspaper claiming that Ms. Stefanie Seneff had proved that glyphosate is one of the causes of Autism. The person is not listed in the faculty directory, and the Secretarial Assistant to the Department of Psychiatry of the Georgia Med School, Ms. Karen Lafontaine has know knowledge of such an individual!
The massive US study would have revealed any such correlations of glyphosate with Autism if such a correlation existed. Furthermore, no informed medical scientist would mention Ms. Seneff as she has reached a high level of notoriety in claiming that glyphosate causes not just autism, but virtually ALL non-communicable diseases. Simply googling her name is enough to check her out. She is a retired computer engineer (with no knowledge of environmental science or medicine). She has a program for selling a healthy way of life that enables you to live to 110 if you enroll in her program.
Areas now under agriculture in Sri Lanka are already being abandoned due to lack of an effective herbicide, and they are being converted to human habitations which are concrete and asphalt jungles that destroy the natural habitat. Farmland is not forest, but better than asphalt and concrete. Gylphosate is necessary to protect the environment, prevent erosion AND feed the world.