The “AluthParlimenthuwa” Debate on Glyphosate.
Posted on September 2nd, 2017

By Professor Chandre Dharmawardana, Ottawa, Canada.

The government banned  the popular herbicide  known as Glyphosate” in 2105 using the epidemic of Kidney Disease in the Rajarata as justification for its drastic action. It proposed to create a toxin free nation” eventually banning agrochemicals.  Ven. Ratana  is  Sri Lanka’s presidential adviser on agriculture, promising to rid the country of toxins”. He  angrily and passionately holds forth like a modern-day Savonarola. But, unlike Savonarola’s  moral anger, Ven. Ratana’s anger is based on  misinformation  that  totally dominates the internet, and the rejection of main-stream scientific opinion.  Having embraced  fake news and  exploiting  public fear as its selling point,  Ven. Ratana  talks of   glyphosate killing  all bacteria, microbes and soil organisms when it is used in agriculture. In fact earthworms and other soil organisms thrive better in its presence. But he has come forward as the saviour of the nation against this alleged evil toxin  poisoning  the whole environment and the food chain, triggering  innumerable diseases including the chronic kidney disease  ravaging  the Rajarata”!

On 23rd August the Derana TV  program Aluth Parlimenthuwa” had assembled a discussion panel  led by Ven. Rathana. Others were an ex-minister of agriculture, i.e., Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena(MYA), Nalaka Karunaratne (NK) of the Samastha Govijana Sammelanaya” (a Farmers’ League) , Dr. Priyanka Yapa (PY) of the  Sabaragamuwa University, and Asoka Abeygunawardena (AA). The latter is a government ideologue pushing sustainable agriculture” and  a so-called  strategic enterprise management agency” –  SEMA. To some extent Asoka A  is  what Lysenko was to Soviet agriculture.  There was also a  selected set of   members of the audience”  brought from Trincomalee, Dambulla  Kurunegala etc.  Their role was  to ask  rhetorical  questions” vigorously supporting the  doing away with all agrochemicals”, not just glyphosate. The  veteran  figures from  Sri Lanka’s science, agriculture,  health,  or experts from  the plantation institutes or the WHO  were conspicuously absent and presumably not invited. In my view, only the ex-minister MYA talked some sense, i.e., stated scientifically valid things about toxins.  Nalaka Karunaratne correctly described the plight of the farmers;  but he as well as his co-panelists were totally wrong on toxicology and agrochemicals.

Nalaka Karunaratne correctly pointed out that Sri Lanka  has been importing Soya products and soya milk grown using glyphosate technology from the West  for many years. He raised the specter of a poisoned nation ranging from babies to grand mothers. And yet, given decades of such soya consumption, we cannot find anyone stricken down by the alleged toxicity of glyphosate! None  noted that Sri Lanka has consumed Canadian Lentils (parippu”)  and Canola oil for decades, grown with GM (genetically modified”) agricultural  technologies intensively using glyphosate.

Nalaka Karunaratne noted that 40% of the fruits and vegetables produced by our farmers go waste due to lack of food preservation technologies and markets. Minutes before, it was noted that a fruit imported from Australia would remain on the table for months” while the Sri Lanka fruit which rots  in a few  days was claimed to be healthy, natural” and safer to eat. Not one expert” panelist noted that the Australian fruit is simply coated with a layer of perfectly harmless wax which seals its aroma, its moisture, and prevents pathogens and mold spores from attacking the fruit. The wax can be washed off with hot water! But then, the toxin-free nation wants natural untreated fruits and nothing less. Let the farmers loose 40% of their produce!

Priyanka Yapa and Asoka A uttered the usual litany of lies about the green revolution and the capabilities of alternative agriculture” that I have heard from Californian activists, revealing the source of their  borrowed ideas. Dr. Yapa even stated that he learned organic agriculture” from the West, while attacking Glyphosate as a Western product”. Amazingly,  he was willing to accept a toxin if produced in Sri Lanka itself!   Priyanka Y mentioned several alternative techniques” for killing weeds using equipment imported from China (not the West!) as alternatives to glyphosate. Every one of them are well known to most of us old hands, as being  environmentally very harmful and rather ineffective, unlike glyphosate which is effective, inexpensive  and environmentally friendly. These alternatives proposed by Priyanka Yapa, e.g.,  infrared rays, or flames, microwaves  attack all bugs, good and bad, in trying to burn” the weeds. Gyphosate  acts only on green plants, and does not harm worms, beetles, and other organisms (as long as they do not use photosynthesis- i.e., not in the plant kingdom). Far from killing micro-organisms and earthworms, glyphosate  actually helps to remove metal toxins like cadmium (by chelation) from the soil  and allows earth worms  to flourish  in soils inhospitable to organic life before the use of glyphosate, as has been demonstrated by Chinese scientists who studied extremely contaminated soils (see . Environ. Toxicol. Chem. Volume 33,

pages 2351–2357, year 2014.). Of course, if Round up (which contains Glyphosate and tallowamine) were directly applied on the soil onto earthworms, they are affected adversely (by the tallowamine) and this has also been demonstrated by a recent Nature article (Nature-Scientific Reports, vol. 5, 12886, year 2015).. But Glyphosate formulations are applied to foliage and not to the soil. Many countries are in fact switching onto glyphosate formulations free of tallowamine and they can be directly applied to the soil for soil remediation by removal of toxic metals like cadmium by converting them to water insoluble chelates.

I have always held that the ban on glyphosate should never have been imposed. It should be lifted, NOT  just for the benefit of the big tea plantations, but for the small-scale farmer,  the vegetable farmer and all others. MYA (the ex-Minister) admitted that even after the ban, most practical-minded  farmers (including himself) without ideological blinkers  have  used  the glyphosate freely available at black-market in the toxin-free nation”  of Venerable Rathana, just as duty-free cars of MPs  are available in the black market.

While Ven. Rathana and his team regard  Glyphosate as the very devil itself, the  vast majority of scientists (including those in Sri Lanka) consider glyphosate to be benign and NOT a health risk. Its toxicity” is similar to that of Lifebuoy soap. The International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) of the WHO declared it a class-II hazard (i.e., similar to eating red meat” in the ability to cause cancer) in 2014. The WHO and the FAO  clarify that it is not a health risk at all and issued a press release on 16th May 2016. The FAO-WHO Joint Committee on Pesticide Residues effectively says that even a few tea spoons of full strength glyphosate consumed daily is quite safe!  It is so safe that it may be sprayed without wearing gloves and goggles, even using  formulations like Roundup” which contain  toxic additives like tallowamine to help bind to  leaves. This is  because the quantity in the spray  is  miniscule, unlike the amount of toxins absorbed by the farmer by inhaling diesel fumes from his own tractor. In 2004 Professor Acquavela  and collaborators made an extended study of farmers in S. Carolina and Minnesota who used no goggles or gloves in spraying glyphosate. He  found a maximum of 223 parts per billion (ppb) of glyphosate in urine, and a mean value of   3 ppb, i.e., well below the US threshold of 700 ppb, showing that the ingestion of glyphosate  is negligible while the ingestion  of the adjuvents is even smaller.

The nonscientific public has misunderstood the IARC classification and concluded that glyphosate is a dangerous carcinogenic toxin. The toxins produced by Ven. Ratana’s duty free cars sold to the public at various times produce  more harm to the environment than all the glyphosate used in the ex-minister MYA’s 30 acre tea estate in ten years.

MYA correctly argued (Derana TV, 23 Aug, 2017) that while two tablets of paracetamol can cure a headache, it becomes a toxin if you take more; he correctly stated that the problem with agrochemicals  is identical –  i.e., overuse.  For  Ven. Ratana,   glyphosate is worse than the LTTE”, and beyond comparison with mere overuse. Claiming that any glyphosate applied in the hills comes down along the rivers to poison the whole country, Ven. R  wants no glyphosate applied there.  If any glyphosate is present in river water, then it would have  killed all the algae in our water bodies, and this is manifestly not so.  All chemical tests have shown that there is no glyphosate or its breakdown products in  the river  runoff as they rapidly decompose and react with the soil (in the tropics), playing a beneficial role by fixing heavy metals naturally present in the soil. Glyphosate itself breaks down and  ultimately contributes to the phosphate needed in the soil.

Every farmer knows of the egrets (Kokku”) that follow his plough when he tills his land. If our soils are full of toxins and dead  with no earthworms and soil organisms, then why do the egrets and other birds flock behind the plough? Why don’t the egrets drop dead? The soil is free of toxins and contain enough organisms to attract the birds. The biggest threats to our environment are (a) loss of habitat due to human encroachment, and (b) toxins and particulate matter  from motor vehicles, farm equipment, and from industry. (c) another source of toxins is the bio-accumulation  of trace elements by plants and in animal dung and their reuse in composting when a concentrated dose of metal toxins are returned to the earth. The so-called contaminated mineral fertilizers” do not deliver significant amounts of metal toxins into the soil (for details, see Sec. 7  of  the  article: https://arxiv.org/abs/1704.07906 ). In fact, it can be shown that even if heavily contaminated” fertilizer (e.g., phosphate fertilizer containing 50 mg of Cd  per kg of fertilizer, i.e., some 10 times larger than typically  maximum stipulated values) adds negligible amounts of Cd toxin to the soil.  For example, if  we assume that 25 kg of phosphate

fertilizer/hectare are applied into a depth of 15 cm in paddy cultivation, it will add only

1.25 μg of Cd and As per kilo of soil per application, while typical threshold values are 5 mg of

As and 1 to 3 mg of Cd per kg of soil. Hence, even if all the Cd and As remain in the soil, with no wash-off, it will take 2.4 millenia to have a discernible effect on the Cd level in soil, 4 millenia to have an effect on the As levels in the soil. In reality much of the Cd or As gets washed of by monsoons.

So the existing Cd levels are mostly of geological origin.

A  preposterous claim  made by Nalaka Karunaratne  stated that no one  dares to drink water from a paddy field Vakkadaya” (water port) any more. WHO Research and other independent  studies  show that the water in the vakkada, irrigation canals and tanks are perfectly safe to drink. The water in some specific household wells in the Rajarata contain geogenic fluoride (F)  and magnesium (Mg). Conclusive evidence now point to  the consumption of stagnant well water containing F and Mg as the cause of chronic kidney disease, with no links to glyphosate or heavy metals  (see, e.g., research article in the renowned journal Nature-scientific reports:  DOI 10.1038/srep42516,    2017,  and  https://arxiv.org/abs/1704.07906  in  2017).

Although glyphosate is less dangerous to soil organisms compared to  soap,  and even beneficial to the soil,  the claim that glyphosate is a dangerous toxin is the unwavering message  on the internet. Websites with catchy names like Natural agriculture”, nature’s pulse”,  back-to earth”, truthout.com”,  traditional kitchen”, nature’s garden”, green wholesome”  etc., flourish  in the over-fed West and read  in  upper class Colombo   looking for ever-elitist, uncontaminated”  organic foods. The  Hollywood celebrities with much money and little education set the trend.  If you Google  the words glyphosate” and  human toxicity”, you come up with a  smorgasbord of fake news and cooked up facts” well  anchored in pseudoscience. However, it  requires expert knowledge to ferret out the errors, especially because biased experiments designed to prove  that  glyphosate is toxic have been performed and published in fake journals which are now known as predatory journals” (see the report in http://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6154/60.summary).

Close to a hundred Nobel Laureates issued a press statement (Washington Post, 4 July 2016) deploring faked science, and admonishing  movements like GreenPeace” to desist from creating and publicizing fake facts”. These predatory journals  look like proper scholarly journals, but they are not run by learned societies or reputed publishers. They publish anything once the fee is paid. Dr. Jayasumana of the Rajarata University, a  Ms. Senanayake  without scientific credentials but said to have psychic powers linking her to God Natha, and a US-based doctor used a predatory journal resoundingly named International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health” and  owned  privately by a Chinese businessman who also maintained an office in Switzerland. The many predatory journals launched by this businessman was already notorious and there was much news about it in the internet.

The journal had been blacklisted at the time for at least one year  by https://scholarlyoa.com/, a website which follows predatory journals. However, this was  used  by Jayasumana  and colleagues  to publish  a hypothesis” claiming that kidney disease is caused by the joint action of arsenic, glyphosate and calcium (from hard water)  forming a complex, all said to be found in the Rajarata. No evidence was presented, as there is none anyway. A proper journal would not have accepted it as the chemistry and physiology were patently wrong. Furthermore, no arsenic or glyphosate even as significant traces or exceeding controls  has been detected in the Rajarata although today  even one atom  in a trillion other atoms can be detected.  Biopsies on kidney patients have  failed to detect any significant traces of glyphosate or its breakdown products  in their blood, urine or body samples. And yet it was hailed by Green” websites world over, and  glyphosate has been declared the cause of kidney disease and  banned from Sri Lanka, only to be replaced by black-market glyphosate. A country flooded in illegal hooch and narcotics has one more lucrative product  for the underworld.

The internet can be used to prove” that France, Netherlands and even Russia have banned glyphosate. The reality is different. Only Sri Lanka and El Salvadore have actually gazetted a ban.  Russia in its  Soviet era ruined its agriculture and is now catching up making its own glyphosate and GMO products. In Sri Lanka the local Lysenkos and Rasputins, blinded by their own ideology and rhetoric  are  taking  Sri Lanka  to a dark era of poverty, malnutrition and traditional technology. The latter contains a large dose of superstition and some  gems of wisdom; the wisdom is now well encoded into  scientific agriculture.

This rhetoric against fertilizers is also being used to sell fraudulent so-called bio-fertilizers with the blessings of the Presidential secretariate. A so called bio-based” microbial fertilizer has been launched with high claims and being sold to farmers even though field tests showed that it did NOT have any fertilizer activity.  The new product carries the name Biofilm Biofertilizer(BFBF), claimed to be based on the principle that some microbes (bacteria, fungi and algae) have the tendency to attach to surfaces and form multiple cellular communities bound together by extracellular polymers referred to as biofilms, which are supposedly more effective than individual microbes in nutrition provision to crops.  That the product was a sham  was highlighted and exposed in a number of articles by the veteran agriculturist Dr. Parakrama Waidyanatha, e.g.,  in the Island newspaper  3rd March 2017 ( http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=161313)  and elsewhere. Many other astounding hoodwinks  in terms of false claims by SEMA were revealed by Dr. Sarath Amarasiri  (an ex-Director General of Agriculture) in the Island newspaper article dated 25th January 2017. Nevertheless, with SEMA’s blessing the farmers are being taken for a ride. Unfortunately  the public frightened by so-called Toxic Fertilizers of foreign companies”  is with Ven. Ratana and other political con men.

As a scientist who worked hard to establish food science  and environmentally sustainable technologies in Sri Lanka in my days (1974-1975) as a Vice Chancellor and Professor of  Chemistry at the Sri JayawardenePura university (then known as Vidyodaya University) , I can join with Dr. Panabokke to say that today’s Sri Lankan agriculture and food science are in the hands of Kattadiyas” (Shamans).

4 Responses to “The “AluthParlimenthuwa” Debate on Glyphosate.”

  1. sena Says:

    Few comments:
    It may be true that glycophospahae is relatively safe and the ban was based on the opinion of those who are refusing to consider all aspects of the issue and may be driven by desire to be seen as proponents of traditional values. However the mistrust is originating from our (and most so called developing countries) tradition of disregard for the well being of farmers (and other productive rural communities) by the influential urban elites that include professionals, politicians and public officials. This is what I call intra-racial racism, which is the worst kind of racism in the world. In Sri lanka it is a fact that these influential sectors’ attitude towards the rural people has been one of indifference, deceitful and even repulsive. This attitude may be the reason that there has never been a serious attempt to educate or provide safe drinking water to rural people while going out of the way to take care of urban communities.
    Use of agrochemicals also reflect this attitude in independent Sri Lanka. The government and agricultural authorities listen to big businesses and interests of farmers and environmental concerns have never been given consideration. The local experts also merely follow the technologies/instructions of foreign sources and have not developed a local knowledge base (this is true of all the science based professional in Sri Lanka, including medical and engineering). So there are good reasons for people to believe those who raise doubt about modern technologies as they are aware the elites, whether they are administrators or technical experts, have very little regard for the well being of their fellow community members.

  2. Cerberus Says:

    I do not believe this article since WHO deemed that Glyphosate was cancer causing. Even if it does not cause cancer there are many other diseases which are caused by Glyphosate. Please see: http://www.ecowatch.com/15-health-problems-linked-to-Monsanto's-roundup-1882002128.html

    There is a group now taking Agribusiness to courts. See: https://foodrevolution.org/blog/food-and-health/monsanto-tribunal/

    TRIBUNAL CONCLUDES: Monsanto is a scientific fraud guilty of ecocide and crimes against humanity

    See the following: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/tribunal-concludes-monsanto-scientific-fraud-guilty-seneviratne

    Stephanie Seneff, PhD, MIT CSAIL presents “The ‘SAFE’ Herbicide that’s making us all Sick!” Seneff’s three decades of scientific rigor is added to a growing body of independent research that exposes the toxic reality of America’s favorite weed killer and biocide; Monsanto’s RoundUp.

    Presented by The SHAKA Movement’s Christina Fisher & Seeds of Truth’s Melissa Yee

    Special Thanks to “The Five Citizens” – Mark Sheehan, Alika Atay, Lei’ohu Ryder, Dr. Bonnie Marsh & Dr. Lorrin Pang

    Contact Information:
    Website/Donations: mauigmomoratoriumnews.org
    Email: info@defendmauigmomiracle.org

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYC6oyBglZI&index=1&list=PL-rD8VnTXGFzAqE8TmDbz6D39ELSP-0xN – Stephanie Seneff, PhD on Glyphosate (RoundUp) Poisoning
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmAsTrsUjBc&index=2&list=PL-rD8VnTXGFzAqE8TmDbz6D39ELSP-0xN – Live to 110 Podcast #166 Glyphosate and How to Detox It with Dr. Stephanie Seneff

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snNRfAfSeUk&list=PL-rD8VnTXGFzAqE8TmDbz6D39ELSP-0xN&index=3 – Glyphosate Pretending to be Glycine: Devastating Consequences – Stephanie Seneff, PhD
    Anthony Samsel/ Stephanie Seneff’s peer reviewed paper on Glyphosate, fifth volume, is out. In an interview with Tony Mitra, he lays out the proof how glyphosate as an analog (mimic) of glycine, gets picked up by our body and used by our RNA, mistakenly thinking it is glycine, to go into various parts of our biology and how, once it gets there, it creates malfunctioning proteins that become the trigger for illness and disease.
    The first part of the long interview is already put up at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0C7E2
    This is the second part, comprising almost 38 minutes. It also includes, at the end segment, the five-minute talk on how the scientist got various vaccines tested for concentration of glyphosate and how he found the unwanted molecule to be present in many of the vaccines.
    This five-minute video has separately been put up at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k33iF…, but is also included here as part of the whole interview.
    This second part, together with the first one, covers over one hour of interview. There is a third and last part yet to come.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPhfJx0o38o&t=9s – Anthony Samsel on Glyphosate mimicking glycine, part 2

    Dr. Thierry Vrain, former genetic engineer and soil biologist with Agriculture Canada, spoke with us today about his concerns with genetically engineered crops (GMOs) and more importantly, the use of Glyphosate (RoundUp). Dr. Vrain’s background in the field of genetic engineering (for 30 years), makes him an expert on this gene technology. He explained how a cell is genetically engineered and what happens after this random insertion process through a gene gun and how it can have unknown effects.

    Since leaving Agriculture Canada 12 years ago, he has learned much more about the process of genetic engineering and the BT process (insect resistant) and the HT (herbicide resistant) crops that make up about 500 million acres. His primary concern at this time is the widespread use of Glyphosate which is a powerful herbicide, mineral chelator and a patented antibiotic. Dr. Vrain stated when speaking about Glyphosate:

    “It’s almost as if the entire population of North American is on a low-grade antibiotic diet day in day out from birth, every day, so this is the reality.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN3LXjigjIg&t=68s – Dr. Thierry Vrain, Former Pro-GMO Scientist, Speaks Up Against Glyphosate

    Study after study is showing up these days that tell us that Monsanto’s Roundup is causing cancer and other extremely severe neurological defects. Monsanto adamantly denies all of these charges, but they cannot deny the reality of science. Ring of Fire’s Farron Cousins discusses this with attorney Howard Nations.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NPDO3KDRJc – Monsanto Trying to Cover Up Deadly Health Risks of Roundup – The Ring Of Fire

    To learn more about the Monsanto Roundup litigation, visit https://www.levinlaw.com/monsanto-rou

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    Monsanto Trying to Cover Up Deadly Health Risks of Roundup – The Ring Of Fire – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NPDO3KDRJc

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    GLYPHOSATE is NOT harmful. All this NONSENSE was created by NALIN DE SILVA and RATANA thero to disrupt our agriculture.

    Are they chemical engineers? What do they know?

    Nalin is now going after Lankaweb volunteers. He has lost his marbles. After doing so much for Buddhists in SL now COLONEL HENRY STEEL OLCOTT’S contribution is also ridiculed.

    This is NOT acceptable.

    kanna thunna atha apala kanawa ne. ayyo ayyo.

  4. Cerberus Says:

    Lorenzo, Before talking nonsense please read the note above and watch the Youtube videos which are by very reputable scientists. They have nothing to gain by showing the truth about Glyphosate, unlike the people who are promoting Glyphosate.

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