Herbicides and Uncle Sam's fifth column


US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Michele Sison meeting Malwatte Maha Nayaka Most Venerable Tibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thera recently.

According to a news item in The Island Newspaper of April 4, a group of Sri Lankan scientists and doctors in the US has written to President Mahinda Rajapaksa urging him to ban weedicides containing glyphosate. We are told that this is being done for the "good" of Sri Lanka.

Previously, we saw the US ambassador Michelle Sison explaining the US move against Sri Lanka in Geneva, demanding an intrusive international investigation of alleged "war crimes". It too was for "the good of Sri Lanka". An Island editorial pointed out how that aggravated ethnic hostility and division in the country.

A reader might not see common ground between the US-based Sri Lankan doctors calling for a ban on glyphosate and the US Ambassador. Envoy Sison talks about "war crimes" in Sri Lanka while ignoring her own country's notorious record.

The US prefers to preach to others. The US-based doctors also preach only to Lanka.

The US is the world's biggest user of Glyphosate. Monsanto, a US agri-giant, makes Glyphosate. These US doctors can walk into a WalMart, even in eco-conscious California and buy a spray herbicide containing Glyphosate for maintaining house plants! Why doesn't this group of Doctors write to President Obama and campaign in the US? Is glyphosate good for the US and bad only for Sri Lanka? Do these doctors want Sri Lanka to revert to hand weeding?

The US Environmental Protection agencies, and stringent local authorities in, e.g., California, have

all APPROVED glyphosate as one of the least harmful herbicides ever produced. It is safer than spraying soap on plants as can be demonstrated in a simple school experiments. Professor Chandra Dharmawardana, one of my old chemistry teachers during my undergrad days, suggested to me a very

simple school-lab experiment. Take three glasses, and put the same amount of water and one drop of an amoeba culture into them. Dissolve one gram of glyphoste into the first glass, one gram of Life-Buoy soap to the second glass, and nothing into the third. The third is a control sample.

At the end of the school day, take a drop of water from each glass and place on a slide and examine it using a microscope. While the Glyphosate had not killed a significant amount of the bugs, the soap has been far more toxic, as compared with the untreated control. Mr. Jayasumana, the vociferous Sri Lankan advocate of banning Glyphosate, and working with the US group, can also do the experiment, and repeat it with hard water too.

Mr. Jayasumana may find that his hypothesis is totally untenable.

So, since detergent soap is more toxic, may be the US based doctors want us to ban soap even before we ban Glyphosate? Far more soap and detergent get washed into our waterways than glyphosate.

It should be remembered that many US actions are also orchestrated by foreign-funded Sri Lankan NGOs. Some Sri Lankan scientists and NGOs claimed in the media that Sri Lankan rice was contaminated by arsenic. "Janasuvaya" agents in the West were giving power-point presentations

claiming that Sri Lankan agricultural products, and the Rajarata soil contain arsenic causing kidney disease. Other diaspora groups like "Boycott Lanka" claimed that Ceylon Tea is contaminated with pesticides.

Before media claims are made, they should be checked by experiments and sorted out in peer-reviewed settings. The WHO study showed that Rajarata water is free of heavy-metal toxins and arsenic. Now the bogey of Glyphosate being the cause of kidney disease (CKDu) in the Rajarata has been has been raised, with no evidence in support.

Agriculture is a main stay of Sri Lanka's economy. If the tea production falls, and if markets are lost, economic chaos results. Lost markets cannot be captured. Given our labour shortage, if we return to manual weeding, tea and other cash crops will fail to produce even a fifth of its produce. More expensive, less effective, more toxic herbicides are no solution. The result is to create social strife as sought by our enemies, within their many-pronged R2P perspective.

The credentials of these self-proclaimed US doctors, and the scientific evidence they have (if any), should be examined fairly. Are they recognized researchers in toxicity and environmental health? Or do they publish in fly-by-night journals that print any old "hypothesis", if you simply pay 1600 Euros up front? The judgment of distinguished Sri Lankan scientists and doctors must be sought, before any knee-jerk reactions are taken .

Let us honestly accept that scientists do not yet know what causes CKDu, but agree that the Rajarata direly needs clean drinking water.

Bodhi Dhanapala


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