Why? – The Island


Another open letter to the Minister of Agriculture


It seems that you are being pressured by various people to promote fossil toxins and additives in agriculture with no apparent regard for the welfare of our people. The author quotes: “It was best expressed by Bombastus Paracelsus (1493 -1541), the father of the science of pharmacology. He postulated that “all substances are poisons; there is none that is not a poison. It is the dosage that differentiates poison and remedy”. This saying has been used by proponents of agrotoxins to justify their use in agriculture. But what has been ignored is the reality of biological magnification.

Biological magnification, or biomagnification, is the increasing accumulation of toxic substances in organisms that occurs at each step of the food chain. I hope that the doctor promoting Glyphosate has studied biology. If he did, he would know the reality of biological magnification (fig 1)

He claims that the Yahapalana The president was mistakenly convinced that glyphosate was the cause of CKDu and banned it. This, he says, is false, because “it is now known that the etiolation agent of CKDu is hard water and fluoride in high dug wells. Those who drank river or reservoir (surface) water did not contaminate the disease.

This statement goes against current research which shows that those who drank water from the irrigation system loaded with agrotoxins suffer from a much higher CKDu load than those who drank from wells and springs. . Their data suggests that it was upstream irrigation water that introduced the toxins to the drinking water of lowland communities.

Yes, it is true that the phenomenal success of adding value to our export crops through certified organic products has grown from 50 hectares of certified organic land to 49,000 ha in less than 22 years, without any government support. A fully successful private enterprise initiative that was hijacked by the government. Sycophants and bureaucrats hope to save foreign funds by advising a naïve president to ban agrochemicals. But the presidential fiasco has no impact on the international market for certified organic products. In these desperate times when every dollar of foreign exchange earned is critical, it is amusing to see the proponents of chemical agriculture trying to justify their trade by suppressing organic production.

What any smart person needs to do now is address the issue of human health in agriculture and ask when non-communicable diseases (NCDs) started increasing within the agricultural community. We will see that this is a phenomenon that began in the early 1970s. Then ask yourself the question: did we change anything in the management of our agricultural systems at that time? Yes, we did, we introduced the “green revolution” system of subsidized fossil farming and changed our traditional farming systems. There is a strong correlation between the appearance of NTMs and chemical agriculture, but nobody seems to want to wake this beast.

Chemical farming offers chemical manufacturers an insidious way to hook humanity to their products. It was in the 70s when chemical farming was being promoted, honest researchers pointed out the addictive nature of the system. To produce twice as much food required ten or fifteen times more energy (in kilocalories) than before and this energy comes from fossil fuels. Also, when you add fossil-derived chemicals to the soil, they tend to destroy the soil ecosystem until the farm can’t produce without those chemicals. The farm’s soil has become addicted to chemicals, without which they cannot produce.

This is why the nation is in such a dilemma, we are addicted and as the doctor says, “The country, or for that matter, the world cannot move away from conventional agriculture and agrochemicals” . That’s true, but it’s due to addiction. If his education was a little broader, he would know that the world, including agriculture, is facing a crisis with the onset of climate change. He should know that it is the fossil-based agriculture he promotes that is one of the main reasons for the crisis. Advocating for spilling gasoline on a burning planet is not the best advice.

Another important statement is that “farmers say they need to invest three to four times more for hand weeding after the glyphosate ban”. So, is the only benefit of using glyphosate giving the farmer time off from hand weeding? Perhaps the doctor was too young to remember the “rice weeding campaign” of the 1960s where the government helped city children help the farmer with the task of hand weeding. The National Geographic reported a 200% increase in harvests. It was an incredible national effort, until politicians felt threatened and disbanded it.

A weed is just a plant that is out of place in any system, which is why glyphosate must be toxic to a wide range of plants to be a weed killer. Unfortunately, it is also toxic to microorganisms that are essential for healthy soil as well as proper gut function in most animals. The damage this chemical causes to the soil ecosystem and human health by destroying many beneficial microorganisms has yet to be addressed.

Minister, the following statement from the farmers of Sri Lanka made at the CGIAR meeting in Brasilia in May 1998 could not be clearer:

“We, the farmers of Sri Lanka, would again like to thank the CGIAR for taking an interest in us. We believe that we speak for all our brothers and sisters around the world when we identify ourselves as a community fully linked to the success of global food security. In fact, it is our community that has contributed to the possibility of food security in every country since mankind evolved from a hunter-gatherer existence. We have observed for many years the progression of experts, scientists and development workers crossing our communities with this or that facet of the modern scientific world. We admit that at the beginning we were not warned about the outside world and we welcomed this contribution. We followed the advice and planted according to the instructions. The result has been a loss of the seed varieties we have carried with us through history, often spanning three millennia or more. The result has been total reliance on high-input crops that have robbed us of crop independence. Moreover, we food-producing farmers, respected for our ability to feed people, have been turned into poisoners of the earth and living beings, including human beings. The result in Sri Lanka is that we suffer from social and cultural dislocation and suffer the highest number of pesticide-related deaths on the planet. Was this the legacy that you, the agronomists, wanted to bring to us? We think not. We believe you had good motives and good intentions, but left things in the hands of uneducated and insensitive people.

We are in a time where personal agendas trump national agendas, where glyphosate is being promoted, by people called conservationists who are killing large numbers of endangered species to be recognized. When the chemical sales agenda begins to take precedence over public health and biodiversity conservation issues. When doctors promote toxins.

Minister, our founding father, the Right Honorable DS Senanayake, spoke of his vision for the nation as “educated gentleman farmers”.

But the years that followed saw the education, culture and now the very health of our rural population compromised. As occupant of this august pulpit, will you act?

Dr. Ranil Senanayake


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