Colombo Telegraph

The Glyphosate Challenge

By Ranil Senanayake –

Dr Ranil Senanayake

As a professional who had been boycotted by successive governments for 35 years, it was a surprise to find myself on a “Government Committee” addressing the issue of Glyphosate. It was also salutary to see the level of professionalism and sense of National responsibility. It was also a great lesson on the ways and means to achieve political goals, never mind the civic responsibility. As I had opposed the lifting of the current ban on the on Ecological and Public Health ground at at the sittings of the Parliamentary committees and presented my arguments I assumed that my job was done and the politicians could decide the outcome. That was over I thought. The Glyphosate debate continued to rage, presenting both sides of the argument to the public. This was good because many of us are more informed as a consequence. I, like the rest of the country awaited an informed decision by the government.  Them much to my surprise I am summoned to a meeting at the Presidential Secretariat to consider a ‘Compromised Approach’ to the Glyphosate question.

The meeting was to re-examine the proposal by the Ministry of Plantation Industries to revoke the ban on the use of Glyphosate for the tea and rubber plantation sector. The arguments for and against lined up to demonstrate that for every concern on the use of Glyphosate, there was a pro and con argument. When it was suggested that the ‘Precautionary Principle’ is important in Public Health matters and that there was ‘leakage’ that has entered the bodies of people, the committee was given the assurance that the plantation industries will assure no leakage into the black market or into the waterways. The last, is a very important and critical aspect of protecting public health.  Thus the following consideration was accepted if the plantation industry was using it.

“Revoke the ban imposed on Glyphosate ONLY for Tea and Rubber Sectors for a period of 36 months, effective from the date that the TRI and RRI design and develop an effective mechanism to ensure strict control of its use and the follow up monitoring mechanism in consultation with Registrar of Pesticides (ROP) and other relevant regulatory bodies (CEA, NSWDB, Health Department, etc.)  to prevent the misuse and overuse of Glyphosate, especially the illegal transfer of issued Glyphosate to other crop sectors and environmental leakage to the water bodies;”

This means that the TRI and RRI will monitor to test if there is any leakage of Glyphosate into water bodies once the industry uses it. The million Rupee question is Who is responsible if a leak of Glyphosate has been detected outside the area of application? The importing country? the plantation industry?  TRI and RRI? Also what will be the level of the fine at detection? Further if leakage is detected will ban be re-imposed? All this must become a part of any license given to use Glyphosate. To lift the bar without clarifying these questions, will be very partial indeed. As it is the President’s office coordinating this initiative, there is confidence that the well-being of the public is tantamount and that there must be accountability by commercial operators who could impact public well-being.

Maybe I will need to wait another 35 years to get on a ‘Government Committee’ because of this letter!

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