Leading scientists, doctors and academics call for review of Glyphosate ban
Posted on September 10th, 2016

Courtesy FT.LK Published : 12:01 am  September 9, 2016 

 We the undersigned bring to the kind attention of His Excellency the President and the government of Sri Lanka the need to consider, as a matter of highest priority, lifting the ban on the weed killer Glyphosate, in order to save Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector from an unprecedented decline, until at least until such time that an alternative, equally safe and cost – effective weed control method is made available.

Glyphosate is the most widely used weed killer in the world. In fact it is also the most widely used pesticide in the world. It is also one of the least toxic weedicides on the market. In Sri Lanka and in most other countries too, the quantity of glyphosate used far exceeds the total of all other pesticides. The total global use in 2014 was 850,000 metric tonnes.  It is highly effective in the control of many noxious weeds, in particular perennial grasses and sedges which cannot be effectively controlled manually or mechanically. No other weed killer is as effective as glyphosate in this regard.

Unfortunately the government banned the use of glyphosate in the North Central Province and some neighbouring districts afflicted by the chronic kidney disease of uncertain etiology (CKDu) in 2014, and then banned it in the entire country in 2015, in the mistaken belief that glyphosate has a role in causing CKDu. The subsequent ban has very seriously affected the production of all crops. Of the plantation crops, tea is the most affected reducing the income of the industry by no less than Rs.14.5 billion.
We rest our case on the following facts:
1.    The ban on glyphosate in Sri Lanka was probably instigated by a hypothesis published by a few Sri Lankan scientists that it may play a role in CKDu. However, this hypothesis has been refuted by many scientists, and no other research publication has endorsed it.
2.    The WHO-Sri Lanka Report (2013) on CKDu did not implicate glyphosate in the aetiology of the disease.
3.     Further, the WHO-Presidential Taskforce Joint International Consultation on CKDu (April 2016) with the participation of 54 local and international experts concluded that there is no evidence to implicate any agrochemical in the causation of the disease. There is thus no evidence to implicate glyphosate in the aetiology of CKDu.
4.    Glyphosate is equally used in other areas of the dry zone with similar agricultural practices and in plantation and other crops in the wet and intermediate zones. No CKDu is reported in those regions.
5.    CKDu is also prevalent in many other countries such as India (Andra Pradesh) several Mesoamerican and African countries  but none has implicated glyphosate in it
6.    No country has banned the use of glyphosate in agriculture
7.     A cancer risk re-assessment of glyphosate by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015, lead to a re-classification of glyphosate as ‘probably cancer causing’ . This became a subject of much debate. However, two subsequent comprehensive  studies carried out  by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2015 and the Joint Meeting of Experts of the FAO and WHO  on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) in 2016  cleared glyphosate of carcinogenicity and genotoxicity (toxicity to genes)
Given the above information, it is our firm conviction that glyphosate has no role in the causation of CKDu.
However, its ban has already had serious repercussions on the entire agriculture of this country, in particular the tea industry, as evident from the following:
1.    In the absence of an alternative effective weed killer, many tea plantations have been compelled to resort to physical weed control methods, especially using implements that disturb the soil causing serious soil erosion.. This practice, in the  past, prior to the 1960s, that is, before chemical weed control methods were introduced, led to soil fertility losses leading even to the  abandonment of tea lands , especially in the mid country.
2.    Growth of weeds, apart from competing with crop and reducing yields, promotes insects and in turn rodents and snakes, making it risky and cumbersome for labourers to effectively work in the field.
3.    In addition, weeding costs have increased by no less than 1,471 % and the overall cost of production by Rs. 25.75 causing serious concerns on the viability of the tea industry, particularly at this juncture when world tea prices have declined substantially and employees are demanding higher wages. As a result of increased costs of production, plucking of less productive fields of some plantations and a large number of smallholdings has been abandoned. The dire shortage of labour in plantations is making matters worse.
4.    The cultivation of other plantation crops, in fact all crops, has been similarly affected. There already evidence of substantial (20-50%) decline in extents and production of field crops cultivated, which according to farmers is essentially due to non-availability of glyphosate..
We, therefore, urge the government to lift the ban on glyphosate. If the government so wishes, it could appoint a team of independent experts to review the ban by way of a risk- benefit analysis, as a matter of highest priority, and a decision taken based on its outcome.
Although not a single case of toxicity to humans due to the use of glyphosate in Sri Lanka at rates applied for weed control has been reported, pesticides in general are being misused. Application in excess, non –use of protective gear during application, incorrect storage and disposal are common problems. The government must make every endeavour to ensure judicious pesticide use by strengthening farmer education and training through more effective extension programs. At the same time rules and regulations on all agrochemicals must be strengthened to ensure their safe use.
We assert that we have no vested interests in the pesticide industry. Our genuine interest is only in the well being of agriculture and farmers of the country.
Dr Tilak Abeysekara (Consultant Nephrologist)
Dr Sarath Amarasiri( Former Director General of Agriculture)
Prof. Rohana Chandrajith (Professor of Geology, University of Peradeniya)
Dr Jinadari de Soyza (Former Director General of Agriculture)
Prof. Chandre Dharmawardana (Former  Professor of Chemistry and Vice Chancellor, Vidyodaya University)
Dr Nande Dharmawardana (Former Director, Sugarcane Research Institute
Dr Jinasiri Fernando (Director General of Agriculture)
Dr Lionel Gunaratne ( Former Director, Dept. Of Export Agriculture)
Dr Jayantha Gunatilleke (Former Director, Coconut Research Institute
Dr Sarath Illangatilleke (Former Chairman, Tea  Research Board)
Prof.Oliver  Illeperuma ( Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, University of Peradeniya))
Dr S T W  Kirinde (Former Director, Dept. Of Export Agriculture)
Prof. Ananda Kulasooriya (Former Senior Professor of Botany, University of Peradeniya)
Dr Ranjith Mahindapala (Former Director, Coconut Research Institute)
Kamal Mankotte (Former Director General of Agriculture)
Prof. Gamini Rajapaksa(Senior Professor of Chemistry,  University of Peradeniya)
Prof. K Samarasinghe (Professor & Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya))
Prof. Upali Samarajeewa (Emeritus Professor of Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya)
Prof. J Thattil ( Emeritus  Professor of Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya)
Dr L M K Tillakeratne (Former Director Rubber Research Institute)
Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha (Former Chairman, Coconut Research Board)
Dr Sarath Weerasena (Former Director General of Agriculture)
Dr Stanley Weeratne (Former Professor, Faculties of Agriculture, Ruhuna & Rajarata Universities)

8 Responses to “Leading scientists, doctors and academics call for review of Glyphosate ban”

  1. aloy Says:

    Whom are you trying to fool by making the following statement:

    “3. Further, the WHO-Presidential Taskforce Joint International Consultation on CKDu (April 2016) with the participation of 54 local and international experts concluded that there is no evidence to implicate any agrochemical in the causation of the disease. There is thus no evidence to implicate glyphosate in the aetiology of CKDu.”

    For thousands of years there had been no CKDu in Sinhale; it appeared only after farmers started using chemicals in farming. It appears to me you are all hirelings to make the above statement on behalf of various companies. Remember the president himself is the son of a farmer and he is very much aware of the predicament the farmers in his area are facing. First prove that glyphosate is harmless. People in other countries may be taking various precautions to avoid harmful effects which our farmers are not able to take.

  2. aloy Says:

    Tea industry itself is useless now as the labour cost are high and we cannot compete in the world market. It is being subsidized heavily and are loss making. It is time to scale down this industry and release the workers for other areas of economy. This will also reduce the influence of Indians on our country in the central hills and the government will be able to give back the lands taken from Sinhalese by the British.

  3. S.Gonsal Says:

    Are they “leading scientists” in the world or in Sri Lanka ?

    Looks like USA murderers have started bribing “LEADING SCIENTISTS”.

  4. Dilrook Says:

    The desirability of the tea industry should be reviewed first.

    It only produces $1.3 billion in foreign exchange but costs a lot more as most plantation companies make loses. That is despite a massive government subsidy. Direct subsidies alone are 150 million rupees a year. Indirect subsidies, worker facilities (not available to other industries!) and community facilities cost even more. Sri Lanka’s tea workers earn the highest in the world in dollar terms. Now they are once again demanding wage rises.

    Take a look at the tea cost pf production in this link. It increased 4 times in 12 years in rupee terms! Rupees 121.97 in 2001/02 going up to rupees 475.11 by 2013/14.

    In USD terms it increased from around $1.50 in 2001/02 to around $3.30 in 2013/14. No glyphosate ban then. But tea prices don’t rise at this rate and in fact they keep falling. This seriously questions the profitability of the industry anyway.


    Damage to the environment, particularly near catchment areas in hill country is enormous. Sinhala peasants deprived of land by the tea industry deserve justice. British colonials didn’t care about any of these. All they cared about was money. By 1815 England was in deep debt to France and exploitation in South Asia helped them repay all. But it is high time Sri Lanka objectively reviewed the tea industry.

    If the tea industry scales down, it releases labour that can be used in other industries. No need to import labour from India. Tea workers will be motivated to seek higher paying (and more forex earning) jobs in the middle east.

    Beside all these, there is no evidence glyphosate ban created continuing losses in the tea industry! Very high wages and world market commodity prices fluctuation caused most problems in the tea industry. They will not go away if the ban is lifted. Sri Lanka must come out of the tea industry. No credible source is given to justify the rupees 25 increase in cost.

    There is no evidence to indicate the ban affected paddy harvest.

    “Leading” scientists, doctors and academics are divided on the matter.

  5. AnuD Says:


    Glyphosate has an impurity which is toxic to human cells even at exteremely low concentrations.

    Sri lanka should have equipments to detect and quantify that.

  6. aloy Says:

    Another salient point to note:
    Monsanto, the producer of Glyphosate has realized that people have become conscious of the harmful effects of their chemicals to environment and has put up their company for sale. Another big chemical company Beyer of Germany has currently given an offer of $62 Billion for it. For them a few thousand dollars to get their name cleared is nothing. But for our traitorous scientists, academics and businessmen politicians it a big amount (and some will even sell their mother for a few dollars). May be many deals will be possible if Germans take over.

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    Article from NATURAL SOCIETY website :

    Newly Released: Study Confirms Chronic Kidney Failure 5 Times Higher In Glyphosate-Ridden Areas
    Yet Monsanto claims it is safe

    POSTED ON MARCH 5, 2015

    The evidence for the abominable toxicity of Round Up chemicals like glyphosate is already overwhelming, yet there seems to be a never-ending stream of research and evidence pointing toward their dangers. A new study has just been published showing that farmers in Sri Lanka exposed to glyphosate through drinking water are 5 times more likely to develop chronic kidney failure than those who don’t drink herbicide-polluted water.

    Farmers in this part of the world often wear scant protection when spraying glyphosate on their rice fields, but it seems that this protection is not enough. The fact that Round Up has contaminated their drinking water is an example of how multi-tiered the problem of herbicidal toxicity truly is.

    Big Ag chemicals, more specifically, biotech’s chemicals (since their GM rice, soy, corn, and other genetically altered seeds are meant to withstand copious amounts of spaying) are detrimental to humans and the environment from the moment they are sprayed to years later. In this case, the toxicity is felt when residents of small rural villages drink from wells that have contaminated ground water due to spraying.

    The research abstract concludes:

    “The current study strongly favors the hypothesis that CKDu epidemic among farmers in dry zone of Sri Lanka is associated with, history of drinking water from a well that was abandoned. In addition, it is associated with spraying glyphosate and other pesticides in paddy fields.”
    To summarize the study, Dr. Channa Jayasumana states:

    “Drinking well water and occupational exposure to Herbicides is associated with chronic kidney disease, in Padavi-Sripura, Sri Lanka.”
    Simply put – but apparently not so simply solved.

    Concentrations of glyphosate and metals are much higher in these abandoned wells, increasing the risk of deadly chronic kidney disease (CKDu) by up to 5-fold.

    The Center for Public Integrity says fatal chronic kidney disease of unknown origin, or CKDu, has killed more people in El Salvador and Nicaragua than AIDS, diabetes, and leukemia combined over the past five years. This wave of CKDu affecting numerous poor farming countries around the world simply didn’t exist prior to 1990.

    Another study published in the Journal of Organic Systems also found a link between glyphosate and the enormous increase in chronic diseases across the United States.

    It has already been established, through groundbreaking research that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s broad-spectrum herbicide Round Up, might be “a crucially important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions.”

    This is just more confirmation that the world should ban GMOs and their chemicals as fast as possible.

  8. S.Gonsal Says:

    What Dilrook says is very important.

    Tea industry is run by minorities and foreigners. Glyphosate producers are also related to owners of tea industry. Recent use of Glyphosate in vast areas of robbed land by British brings down poison along our rivers to farmlands downstream killing people.
    Tea industry is definitely a part of the problem.

    There was a time people respected “researchers” and ” leading scientists”. That era is gone. For example, they destroyed our coconut industry claiming cholesterol is people and introduced poisonous foreign oils to us. Now they are saying coconut oil is good.
    RESEARCHERS are now spin professors who earn money by selling the honourable profession to rich murderers.

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