20 November, 2018

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Restore Fertilizers & Lift The Ban On The Pesticides: Glyphosate and Paraquat

By Chandre Dharnawardana –

Dr. Chandre Dharmawardana

Paraquate was an excellent herbicide which was banned by a previous government mainly because farmers who went bankrupt due to  government rice policies used paraquat  to commit  suicide! Gyphosate was the other popular herbicide  banned in 2015, ensuring that the farmer and even the wealthy tea planter should commit suicide. Pethiyagoda, a long-time doyen of the tea industry has resigned, possibly in total disgust. At last, the minster of agriculture, finally sensing disaster and bowing to scientific evidence on the safety of glyphoate has presented a cabinet paper to lift the ban on glyphosate. Paraquat too should be immediately re-approved with its availability restricted  to technically proficient companies who can be hired by individuals desiring to use paraquat.

As a Professor of Chemistry and University President who in a small way pioneered environmental science and food technology in the 1970s at the J’pura university, and as a supporter of scientific agriculture, I wish the Minister success in re-approving not only glyphosate, but paraquat as well. 

The tea industry has been loosing some 6 billion per annum, while its multiplier effect drives the loss   since 2015 close to 30 billion. Carefully crafted propaganda claiming a “Kapra Beetle” further hurt the industry. Meanwhile, the  eco-pundits who got asbestos banned point to the tea monoculture and its soil, and call for closing the estates. Other  eco-pundits and masters of the Toxin-Free Nation claim that paddy is ecological unsustainable, using up water and eroding the soil and push to convert the paddy fields into “natural” wet lands and marshes.  Rice and flour are  increasingly imported  by the government, while downgrading its fertilizer subsidy schemes. Farmers are told  to make their own “organic fertilizer” or buy the “bio-film” sponsored by the Presidential secretariat, but now alleged to be a scam. 

The farmer has to control weeds and pests. Glyphosate was banned at the behest of the JHU politicians who abandoned Rajapaksa. Venerable Ratana and followers and  God-Natha psychics had already committed the Rajapaksa government to  ban Glyphosate. The herbicide has a safe track record of over four  decades in all advanced farming countries, with some countries using almost a thousand times Sri Lanka’s  annual usage per hectare of agrochemicals and pesticides (world-bank data). Nevertheless, large amounts of fake “research” news against these pesticides reside in the internet.  Individuals selling their products claiming to “detoxify” and “rejuvenate” clients  sell  alternative diets  to “save the earth, save the environment, and “fight agro-business”. Even the GMOA has fallen for this, and some medics  are undoubtedly avid readers of questionable Internet “Gurus” like Dr. Mercola or Dr. Stephanie Seneff. The latter has spun theories “proving the toxicity of glyphosate”  and sells a program that guarantees a life span of 110 years (free of glyphosate!) if you adhere to it, for a fee.

Dr. Mercola spread the claim that CKDu is caused by a glyphosate-arsenic-hardwater complex that was hypothesized  by Dr. Jayasumana and  authored (in a little-known pay and publish  “journal”) jointly with a “medium” claiming psychic powers linking her to God Natha.  This substance imagined in 2014 has not been found by any one including Dr. Jayasumana who busies himself in electioneering.  But many militants of the  GMOA believe that Dr. Jayasumana and associates have “proved” that CKDu in the Rajarata is caused by this imagined glyphosate complex, although the WHO team who studied CKDu patients found no evidence for glyphosate in their biopsies. Even though glyphosate is absent from the arena of the crime, they still want it banned as a “precaution” !

The force that propelled  the ban is the public fear of “chemicals” that has been cleverly fanned  by the local elite who  ape the elite of California and Europe. The poor suffer their hunger while the rich search for “clean food”. Surely  “you cannot go wrong by eating clean food”. This simple “motherhood and apple pie” statement is linked to the claim that “natural” food, unaffected by “chemicals” must be clean. This is then equated to “organic food”, while “organic food” is  a movement initiated by the proto-Nazi  Dr Rudolf Steiner who talked of a  “spiritual and biodynamic” foundation for food.  Steiner founded “Anthroposophy”, a sort of mystical hodge-podge  claiming that  the human race is “evolving” through the different races, with black people  “at childhood”, Asians “degenerate” and white Europeans the most civilized. He envisaged a world where the population was limited to an elite with the lebensraum and resources to grow natural “biodynamic food”  called  “organic food”. This movement linked nicely with the misguided Eugenics movement in pre-Nazi  Europe and became a successful  “bio-foods” business.

In countries like Sri Lanka,  the elite “internationalist” upper classes (who unconsciously equate themselves with the white masters of colonial times) and the nationalists resonate together on “organic food”.  Nationalists claim that  “traditional agriculture” made “Sri Lanka  the granary of the East” and identify with “organic food”.  Multinational food businesses with supermarket chains like “Whole Foods” capitalize on the public belief in  “organic food”. That only  about 2% of the world’s food supply is “organic”, and the  impossibility of bridging the remaining 98% are ignored. The  enormous success of insecticides like DDT in saving human lives, and in opening up previously inhabitable regions for habitation have been turned topsy-turvy by emphasizing  the dangers of excessive use.  The clarion call of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” was  weaponized by the organic food movement, with baseless attacks on the Green Revolution which saved India from mass famine, in the nick of time. A Rudolf Steiner could lament that if not for the green revolution the world would have two billion fewer brown-skins.  Although industrial fertilizers and Urea came into being in the early part of the 20th century, these activists consider it  “a Western plot” to use up the excess Nitrogen explosives of the 2nd world war!

These attacks of the elitist white supremacists found strange bedfellows with the anti-establishment left in attacking  giant agro-business. As many of these are based in USA and Europe, the attack on “industrial agriculture” became a part of the cold war. Fake news snippets against glyphosate are routinely posted by Russian agencies when ever Glyphosate comes for review by the EU parliament. Such news gets circulated on the internet by unsuspecting “natural foods” zealots. Even today, when Glyphosate was mentioned in the Sri Lankan parliament, Mr. Dinesh Gunawardena, a scion of Sri Lanka’s Communist party unhesitatingly linked it with American capitalism, while Ven. Ratana claimed that “a man from America” has come to Sri Lanka to agitate against the glyphosate ban imposed by Sri Lanka in 2015. Ironically, President Sirisena’s victory is also allegedly a triumph of American machinations in the murky waters of Sri Lankan politics!

Given this political backdrop, the ban on glyphosate was effectively based on pseudo-science and political propaganda. Venerable Ratana became a credulous victim of the God Natha  group and  campaigned that  fertilizers were laced with arsenic and cadmium. They took samples abroad for analysis but did not do elementary arithmetic to estimate how the “toxins” get diluted in the soil.  Yellow-robed   demonstrators at the Fort railway station  took the message to the country. A canard claimed that  glyphosate sold to “third-world countries” are “substandard”. Prophets of doom came on television falsely claiming affiliations with the London University, UK and predicted Sri Lanka’s toxification from cadmium due to agrochemical use. Gunadasa Amarasekra, Ven. Ben Nalaka  and other  nationalists needed no “facts or evidence” to support banning pesticides and calling for  compost instead of  “fertilizers laced with toxins”.  Peer-reviewed science is lame against such forces.

In reality, the fertilizer standards of  Sri Lanka are at least an order of magnitude stiffer  than those of most countries. Repeated analyses of the soil, water and food  show that Lankan rice is quite safe to eat, and that the waters of Rajarata rivers and tanks are safe to drink.   The latest study was  by the J’pura University Professor Kamani Wanigasuriya and  the University of North Carolina. Those who get CKDu drink water stagnating in their private wells. Laboratory mice fed such water also get kidney disease. However,  in the short term it is politically hip to attack Monsanto, claim a land  full of toxins, demand   closing “unsustainable”  tea and paddy plantations, get to  import rice,  tea, etc.,   and  collect  the commissions

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    I think Sri lanka can go back to PAddy varieites that do not need fertilizer, and if there is a shortage of rice, it can be fulfilled with Yams, Korakkan, Irigu, like other grains. Fertilizer definitelycan cause so many problems in the well water, ground water, kidney diseases etc., The another important point is at present, there is three fold increase in wheat flour and who needs more fetilizer. what is the specific reason ?. with res[ect to Glyphosate, Gluphosate Patent is expired and I heard , russia is willing to or provide glyphosate to Sri lanka. SO, there is politics behind glyphosate. what you have written bout Pesticies are OK, is just selfishenss and you are writing for Money, some kind of NGO. Becuse you know where you are naturalized, PEsticide usage is highly restricted e ven in the toronto Municipality areas. It is the Integrated Pest managememt and then as the last resort pesticide cames. I think the sales divisions of these companies have you paiud money to say that Sri lankans zare DUMB and they do not agriculture. On the other hand, you pretend you do not know that Sri lanka was an agricultural culture. I did not read the article well. But, do not know about how Glyphosate affect fish in the streams, long term toxicity studies and genetic studies. IT is simply no point commenting your write up because you continue to lie or mis interpet what you know. I heard MErck and russia produce glyphosate and there is jealousy among businesses and/or countries because some one has grabbed the expired patent of another. How about generic pharmaceuticals. the patents are expired.

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      ” Venerable Ratana became a credulous victim of the God Natha group and campaigned that fertilizers were laced with arsenic and cadmium. They took samples abroad for analysis but did not do elementary arithmetic to estimate how the “toxins” get diluted in the soil. “
      Perfectly true, though it might irritate the true believers of “organic” agriculture. These people should realize that they are even alive today because DDT, herbicides , and fertilizers were liberally used when they were kids.
      Looking at the comments, what more can be expected in a country where even the government believes that the Tooth Relic can bring rain?
      Science requires evidence, not whims and fancies.
      Great write-up, Professor. But it will fall on deaf ears.

      • 1
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        The old codger needs to feed on those acres and acres of Iluk at Galagedara. We won’t need glyphosate or any other poison then!

        • 4
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          Ehen Mehen,
          Neither you nor Dumb Jimmy has produced any evidence against Glyphosate. Prof. D has explained clearly why it cannot be the cause of CKD in the Rajarata while not causing trouble in the Hill country or South.
          You guys prefer the opinions of Natha Deviyo and a half-literate Ratana hamuduruwo over a professor of Chemistry AND a WHO report.
          To some idiots, anything that is not to their liking is a Western conspiracy.
          And no, I don’t live in Galagedara.

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            Of course you don’t live in Galagedara. Migratory chameleons are clever at changing their resting places. But the Iluk comment is valid no metter where you live. It is not the opinion of natha devio that glyphosate causes kidney disease. There are hundreds of research papers published outside the Nature/Science circuit carefully guarded to keep any real science out by mercenaries like Dharmawardana. I would take the word of Dr Jayasumana anytime, and not Dharmawardana’s or those other glyphosate pushers like P. Waidyanatha and the joker Bodhi Danapala. These shameless chemicals pushers think they can get there way by crashing through the political system with their bogus expertise outside medical science. Luckily we have Dr Rajitha Senaratne to defend the poor farmers.

          • 4
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            Old Codger How true.Ratana Machchang was my good friend those days, until i discovered what ab fraud he is.

          • 3
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            Oldcodger- half literate my foot. ILLITERATE Ratana the fool.

      • 0
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        DUMB OLD CODGER: Talk only things you know. Fertilizer can cause heavy metal contamination in ground water. Ohhh, you are saying thzt is the almighty creator responsible for every thing. so forget it, just go and eat it.

        • 2
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          Is there Glyphosate being used in the public toilet where you work as Senior Sanitary Adviser?

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 2
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    Dr Darme, You are not a medical doctor who can advice CT readers on the health effects of the poison you are paid to sell, Are you? So why don’t you shut up? You accuse Dr Jayasumana always of ‘paying and publishing’. But he needs to be congratulated because the publication of real ‘scientific’ opinion in all the so-called ‘prestige’ journal frauds are prohibited by gate keeping ‘peer review’ panels manned by agents like yourself, hired by chemical giants like Monsanto and other criminals. If inside which they are struggling for breath in at the moment.

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      Point Blanc——– Sure your point is blank

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 5
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    The other day Mr. RATANA was ridiculing you Prof Dharmawardhana for telling the world sometime back that it is even safe to drink a little amount of Glyphosate. Mr Ratana, Asoka Abeygunawardana and the Idiotic President have ruined the agriculture sector and as a result the country has to import Rice, coconut etc. These fools should realize that it is impossible to feed 25 million people by just using “Goma Pora”(COW DUNG) a “waste product” of Ratana , Asoka and the President.

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    [edited out]
    This Glyphosphate chemical fertilizer is also banned in many Latin American Countries like Nicaragua which also have a KDU and Cancer epidemic

    This is CD only theme song. wonder how much he is paid to write this non-sense?!

  • 0
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    CD- Sri Lanka needs to develop organic fertilizer manufacturing industry as well as organic weedicide industry, rather than spend huge amounts on chemical feretilzer that causes other problems and pollutes water.
    Bio-organic fertilizer plants to manufacture organic waste would meant that Rather than burn plant waste all the time and pollute the air bio-fertilizer should be a top priority. But there is no independent development thinking.
    Aid for Trade and reliance on Fake Foreign Experts who market Multinational Corporate products of Monsanto and others is part a corruption racket. This is of the Fake Development agenda of Sri Lanka that aims to benefits the big Corporations and Global 1 percent.
    Ranil Wickramasinghe’s economic policy is drafted by IMF and other strategic interests in Washington DC !

  • 1
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    Why is this man failing to take in to his thick skull that biology/medicine is a totally different field to whatever degrees he has. His view that these poisons are ‘safe’ comes from his ignorance of how biological systems work. That is why he earlier suggested that a bit of arsenic can be added to food to reduce cadmium toxicity! His foolishness is dangerous and a corrupt fool is even more dangerous. CT please reconsider publishing these form Dharmawardena and Bodhi Dhanapala.

  • 4
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    The amount of vitriol produced by anti-science zealots never ceases to amaze, despite it being a poor substitute for substance and debate.

    Thank you for the article.

    And for the record, glyphosate is less leathal than table salt, gram for gram. Look up the LD-50 for table salt (sodium-chloride) and compare it to the LD-50 of glyphosate. I dare you.

  • 1
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    How small-minded a PhD can be! You learn so much about so small a problem that you become an expert of ‘nothing’. I dumped mine to become a farmer. But this is unbelievable, singing praises of DDT, Green Revolution,.. next may be ‘God save the Queen’! I worked with your Guru, Prof. Borlaug and I know how the poor fellow was trapped by chemicals mafia. Your nonsense article isn’t worth a comment. My only advice to you is to try a good dose of your own medicine, DDT and Glyphosate, and see whether that will cure your insanity, one way or the other.

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    Oldcodger- half literate my foot. ILLITERATE Ratana the fool.

  • 0
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    Public health measures (e.g. banning glyphosate) is not an exact science and is often based on the Precautionary Principle. This forms the basis of numerous public health and global actions to protect the health of large populations. According to the Precautionary Principle, in the absence of a scientific consensus on a particular policy, and when there is a suspected risk of causing harm to the public, action should be to avoid further exposures rather than wait for final proof. Furthermore, the responsibility for proof of safety falls on the industry that produces and sells it, and governments that allows its distribution and sale.

    There is controversy whether glyphosate ’causes’ CKDu. Added to this, there is new evidence that glyphosate may contribute to cancers. The World Health Organization identified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. France hopes to ban it by 2020 (Reuters report 27 Nov 2017). California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment wanted glyphosate to carry a warning label of its possible cancer threat. However a law suit prevented its implementation. In other words there is a serious controversy in scientific fields about the safety or toxicity of glyphosate. This lack of consensus of its role in CKDu and cancers should be considered when deciding on the glyphosate ban.

    Furthermore, there are reports of glyphosate or residues being detected in urine of those who rarely used it and even in vaccines, which are supposed to be ‘pure’! As a result, these pesticides expose all, including pregnant mothers and children, to long-term low dose effects. These effects have not been fully elucidated yet.

    It is in this context that the precautionary principle should be applied and the ban on glyphosate should remain, with regular future reviews.

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