Toxin-free Agriculture
Posted on March 30th, 2017

Dr. Rohan H Wickramasinghe Courtesy The Island


I have been following with much interest the articles in THE ISLAND on the use of the herbicide, glyphosate, and on the question of the practice of organic agriculture or that in which chemical fertilizers and/or synthetic pesticides are not used.

I have discussed the topic with a friend/scientist, who has had several decades of experience in agriculture and whom I respect greatly for his knowledge in the field (pun intended) and balanced approach to life in general. One of his observations to me was that if one is to abandon the use of chemical fertilizers in agriculture in Lanka, one would need to substitute them with imports of large amounts of cow manure!

Our household has a very successful home garden based on organic principles, which provides excellent fresh vegetables for our needs. This is for a handful of people (including friends to whom we gift the excess). Before being able to contemplate organic farming to feed the entire nation, however, we would need to bring down Lanka’s population levels to very low figures (and, thereby, entice invasions by land-hungry nations with large populations). In addition, Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda has reminded me, moreover, that abandoning the use of herbicides on tea estates, for instance, and reverting to weeding by hand would lead, among other drawbacks, to soil erosion on the hill slopes.

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It is pertinent to speculate as to why impracticable proposals may have been made to dispense with the use of chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides in our agricultural practices. It is common knowledge that shortages of food have led to mass uprisings of peoples and the fall of governments in other countries. One may recall the history of the French Revolution, where the people rose up demanding ‘Give us bread, give us wine!’. It would not be surprising to find that hidden forces are at work in the background in Sri Lanka to create a situation where food riots and domestic instability are precipitated. A sneaky approach perhaps but ‘that’s politics’.

Before concluding this brief comment on ‘toxin-free agriculture’, may I mention some observations made during a visit to some small traders in the Slave Island quarter of Colombo? Some traders had open sacks of bulk rice from which they weighed out customers’ requirements. The sacks had swarms of flies covering them. In my presence, some traders were  busy spraying sacks of rice with pesticides to kill the flies. When I remonstrated, they stopped the practice, which they doubtless resumed when I had left. If this happens in the heart of Colombo, goodness knows what happens elsewhere in the country. So much for the hard work put in by some responsible farmers to supply toxin-free produce for the market.

Before concluding, may I suggest that Sri Lanka erect statues to (or at the very least name major roads after) leading agricultural scientists to honour them for their services to the country? This would bring their efforts to the attention of the masses.

Dr. Rohan H Wickramasinghe

2 Responses to “Toxin-free Agriculture”

  1. AnuD Says:

    Sri lankans are too selfish. govt some how game them an opprunity to suceed at least to a certain extent. they don’t value that saying at least I was educated I got a Job and I could contribute to the country.

    Instead, say, I did that I did this and give me this and give me that.

    Too much ego.

  2. Christie Says:

    Thanks Dr Rohan.

    We had chemical free agriculture but as you say it is impossible to do feed the populate of the day with such methods.

    I remember when I was a child we did not use chemical fertilizer instead we used cow shit, goat shit, bagged human shit from our discontinued factory I’m Mattakkuliya or Modara, blood and bone from slaughter houses. Then we used beli kola, arecunut leaf, keppetiya kola, and coconut husks, etc .

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