The correct way to apply  the “Precautionary Principle”  is to re-approve glyphosate.
Posted on March 30th, 2018

Bodhi Dhanapala, Quebec, Canada

I read with some degree of amusement the opinion piece by Dr. Saroj Jayasinghe and  a colleague, published in news media, where they urge to continue the ban on glyphosate with no mention of the harm to farmers as well as the plantations. This herbicide is a class-II  hazard (but not a heath risk) according to the WHO .

Glyphosate may technically cause cancer if very large amounts are taken according to the WHO.  Dr. Jayasinghe and colleague  do not mention that the WHO and the FAO stated that even an intake of some 60 mg per day by a person of 60 kilos (i.e., 12 tea spoons per day) could be tolerated, even from the point of view of chronic toxicity!  A farmer uses glyphosate only for a few days in each pre-planting season, and absorbs less than a millionth of a tea spoon even if he uses no protective clothing.  Human societies routinely handle far more toxic and environmentally harmful substances like pharmaceuticals, petrol, kerosene, alcohol, tobacco, paint, plastics  quite  safely and do not ban them, even when they are very dangerous class-I toxins.

The most important point forgotten by the two medics is that glyphosate  happens to be a much sought after herbicide of great economic importance.  It is legal in 193 countries. Although it was banned by the Sirisena government as a political favour to the Natha Deviyo-Ven. Ratana  outfit, it is  freely available in the black market. A minister (or ex-minister) actually stated on TV (23rd August 2017, the Derana TV  program) that he buys  Glyphosate in the black market as he does not want to destroy his 30-acre tea estate! When  Ven. Ratana said “this is illegal”, someone asked if it is legal to sell duty-free cars imported by MPs in the black market!

One of the reasons for legalizing a  substance like Glyphosate having a high demand is because such substances CANNOT  be banned successfully. People will  always get  it. However, if it is   marketed LEGALLY, one can enforce the required safety standards as used all over the world in some 193 countries. Glyphosate is not even a class-I toxin like  petrol, diesel, alcohol, red meat or tobacco. Dr. Jayasinghe and friends, if they are consistent, should push even harder to ban these class-I toxins which are a far bigger hazard than glyphosate. In fact, in an email discussion I had with Dr. Jayasinghe I was amazed to find that he could make statements soft-peddling tobacco smoking, wittingly or unwittingly!

Many societies have banned alcohol,  tobacco and even meat, but with little success as  such societies soon became victims of Al Capone-Mafia-KuduRaja types. So, the pressure  by Dr. Jayasinha and others, and he threat by  Ven. Rathana  to “take the fight to the streets”, will further enthrone  the black-marketeer. The agricultural minister’s cabinet paper was the end result of a democratic process involving wide consultations via technical committees. Typical of ideologues, Ven. Ratana, a man who was not voted into parliament,  is deploying strong-arm tactics to short-circuit the democratic process.

Given that Dr. Saraoj and Dr Herath are medics, their arguments for  upholding the ban are amazingly non scientific and non-medical. That France looks to eliminate glyphosate in 2020, and that California proposes warning labels on glyphosate bottles (but not ban it) are well known to be political decisions.  A leading UK doctor from Dr. Jayasinghe’s Alma Mater, and the Royal Society have made their views about glyphosate known. The UK wants an approval of Glyphosate without further political review  for 10 years. The UK thinks it is a waste of time  because the existing periodic review mechanisms are sufficient. Canada, Australia, Japan, China  and most other countries also use non-politicized technical reviews, unlike the EU. Glyphosate is freely available in 193 of the 195 countries of the world. The farmer  should make the decision about what is best for his farm, and the decision should not imposed by bureaucrats or politicians. The Buddha never coerced the kings to ban anything, put preached individual judgment based one one’s own circumstances  (“Ehipassiko”).

France is just ONE of the 195 countries in the world, and Sri Lanka is the ONLY country that has put in a comprehensive ban, and that too  at the beset of the JHU political pressure.  The Sri Lankan Academy of Sciences, US National Academy of Sciences,  the Acadamie Francais, as well as Nobel Laureates have made statements  about it. A press release on 4 July 2016  by  Nobel Laureates in Science and Medicine, published  in the Washington Post supported  glyphosate and genetic engineering. The two doctors ignored the main-stream view in their rush to join the “Ecolos” who want to ban and govern by dictat rather than by consensus.

The statements by Dr. Jayasinghe et al about DDT are equally inaccurate in remaining mired in the Nixonian era when DDT was banned.  They should consult the WHO review in 2006 when  DDT was re-approved for domestic use against mosquitoes. They should study the recent research by the Pasteur Institute in Paris, or at least read the National geographic article
about  the murky business behind DDT that they did not learn in med school.

The call by the two medics to wait till some new experiments “that will resolve the issue” is indeed naive. Questions about complex-systems  never resolve like that. Physics stopped using the concepts of cause and effect already by the 18th century, even for simple systems! As the medics  themselves remark, the  “cause” of diabetes, or cardio-vascular diseases, or even whether butter and coconut oil are good will continue to be debated for ever.  The only certain thing is that science will be ignored even by medics in politicized milieux like Sri Lanka or the EU.

I urge the government to follow the democratic process and follow the recommendations of the technical committee, and remove the ban on glyphosate to prevent catastrophic consequences to Lanka’s agriculture.  I urge the government to set  a tradition of following technical-committee recommendations instead of giving in to political or medical ideologues and street fighters.

Today the precautionary principle is understood as taking control, and NOT naively rushing to ban. We need precautions against toxins being sold in the black market. Legalize the time-tested product freely used in 193 countries and CONTOL  IT so that the black marketeers and  JHU-ideologues do not run this country by (i) false fear-mongering with talks of precautionary principles against a class-II toxin while ignoring class-I toxins,  (b) threats of street fights using people brought to Colombo from Trincomalee  and Haputale by  Venerable Ratana. By giving into threats, we let bullies take the upper hand.

5 Responses to “The correct way to apply  the “Precautionary Principle”  is to re-approve glyphosate.”

  1. aloy Says:

    “run this country” – see fourth last line
    Which country ?. Quebec, Canada?.

  2. Senevirath Says:

    අනතුරුදායකය් කියල ලේබල් ගහල විකුණන එක නිර්දේශ කිරීමත් සමාගම් වල සංතෝසමට වහ වැටුන උන්ගේ වැඩක් උන්ට මිනිස්සු ලෙඩ වුනත් මැරුණත් කමක් නැහැ .මේවගේ”’ නො – මිනිස් වල් පැල””වලට ග්ලය්පොසෙට් ගහන්න ඕනේ බටහිර විද්‍යාත් මකවද බුදුහිමි වෙනත් මන්දාකිනි විශ්ව සඳ හිරු තාරකා ගැන කිව්වේ .ඒ බවුන් වඩා ලබා ගත ප්‍රඥාවෙන් .විදසුන් නොවදුවත් සමත භාවනාවෙන් යම් යම් දේ පසක් කර ගත අයත් ඉන්නවා කියල බෞද්ධයෝ හිතනවා එහෙම දේ ”විද්‍යාත්මක ”නැහැ කියල සමහරු කියනවා ඔය විද්‍යාත්මක බවක් නැතිවීම එයාලට ප්‍රශ්නයක් වුනාට බෞද්ධයන්ට ප්‍රශ්නයක් නැහැ යමක් දැනගන්න නොයෙක් ක්‍රම තියෙනවා .එයාල දන්නවා බටහිර විද්‍යාත්මක නොයෙක් දේවල් වලින් ලෝකෙට වෙච්චි හානියත් මෙන්ම සැප කියල සසර දිගු කරන නොයෙක් දේවල් ගැනත් .බටහිර විද්‍යාවට තාම බරිවුනාද ලෙඩේට බෙහෙත් තියා හේතුව හොයා ගන්න වත් .ඉතින් අනිත් ඒවාට හිනා නොවී වහ කවන එක නවත්වල ටිකක් බලමුද

  3. Christie Says:—final-re-evaluation-decision-on-glyphosate-620745213.html

    This guy is a man who lives in an Indian ghetto surrounded by Indian Colonial Parasites and Indian Parasites in Canada.

    He should read the above before trying to protect finances Indian Parasites who import and distribute third grade Inorganic Chemicals from India and China and make billions.

    How many bags of Indian Basmati Rice he gets from Indian Colonial Parasite’s shops in Canada; may be free of charge?

    I have been following this guy and be careful of his book base biased opinions which are not applicable our situations.

    Most of Agricultural chemicals are imported by Indian Colonial Parasites run businesses like Lanchem and Baurs.

  4. Dilrook Says:

    For whom? For US, Canadian and German multinationals’ profit?

    Even reasonable use of this chemical is harmful just as Paraqete. They must remain banned. Instead restore the fertilizer subsidy. Farmers are not (emphasised) demanding Glyphosate! Only others demand it.

  5. NAK Says:

    Some time back,about three four decades ago there were medical doctors who vouched that smoking is not harmful to health.Today we know who they were working for. So, in time to come we will know for whom these pundits now coughing for multi national companies are working.

    As for tea estates, that are clamoring for Glyphosate, the real issue is higher profits than short of labor.

    The Tea industry must be also careful in applying this poisonous herbicide as if it creeps in to the Tea plant and gets in to the final tea produce it will be… Ta..ta. good bye for the Tea industry.
    God forbid if such a devastation occurs these pundits won’t be there to save our Tea industry.That is for sure.

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