Dr. Lal Jayasinghe (LJ) writing in the Island (11-05-2018)gives three reasons that he says are put outin opposing the ban. He is of course for the ban.
The glyphosate debate in Sri Lanka is an intellectual and scientific scandal. Seemingly, Sri Lankan scientists are remaining silent about it? No, in fact, what seems to be the case is that newspaper Editorsdo not publish the letters submitted to them by scientists – unless they are against agrochemicals! Most editors, journalists and the reading public do not have a scientific background. Editors themselvesare also infected by the“I don’t want poison in my plate” syndrome. Capitalizing on it, Ven. Ratana has pushed a “Toxin-free Nation” program to give himselfpolitical mileage.
All those who write against the ban are claimed to be in the pay of the multi-national companies. However,at least to his credit, LJ does not make that unsubstantiated accusation. Instead helists his arguments. LJ’sarticle reveals the thinking behind this “no poison in my plate” syndrome. Let us look at his arguments.LJ lists the three reasons that he thinks are given to lift the ban:
1. “Firstly, it has not been proved that Glyphosate caused Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Origin (CKDu)”.
Let alone kidney disease, it has in fact BEEN PROVEDthat intense regularuse of glyphosate for 23 years is NOT correlated with ANYdisease. The heath data of some 90,000 members of farming families in Iowa and Minnesota were followed for 23 years where data on blood, urine, and other bio-samples were followed by researchers funded by the US Departmentsof Agriculture, and Health. No correlations what so ever with any diseases, and in particular with 200 different cancers were detected. (Read here )
Thus GLYPHOSATE FORMULATIONS HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO CAUSE NO ILLNESSES.
So why ban it?
In dealing with glyphosate, why do newspaper graphics artists always depict a person wearing a goggled hood? Why are file photos showing lethaldanger pulled out to illustrate the article? They reveal the unjustified common mistrust ofthis herbicide.Glyphosate formulations often are applied WITHOUT protective clothing or goggles as they are very safe and hardly need such precautions.
2. “Secondly, that other countries have not banned it.”
Sri Lanka does not have the funds to run a massive health test on thousands of people. So we have to rely on others, just as for pharmaceuticals used in Sri Lanka.
3. “thirdly, the tea industry (and even paddy cultivation or maize cultivation) cannot survive without glyphosate”.
Tea cannot survive in the competitive international market if it has to pay for manual labour while other countries use a cheap effective herbicide. Maize cultivation is completely wiped out and Victor Ivan’s“Ravaya” article documents the tragedy. Tea industrysuffersa loss of some 15 billion rupees per annum, making a total loss of 45 billion since the ban. Paddy industry uses very little glyphosate and can do without it by keeping the field flooded to kill weeds. Manual weeding, andflooding to control weeds increase soil erosion. An inch of eroded soil takes thousands of yearsto be replaced.
LJthen give his own arguments. He says:
“It is different in the case of Glyphosate. We can do without it. It is very difficult to prove that one particular chemical that is in wide use is the cause of a particular disease or group of diseases”.
It is indeed very difficult to prove that a substance causes a given disease. But one CAN prove that it does NOT cause the disease, by showing its anti-correlation with diseases. That is what was done in the 23 year-long US study. Furthermore, countries like New Zealand and Malaysia which use many dozens of times more glyphosate per annum per hectare have no higher incidence of chronic diseases.
“We must not make the common mistake of thinking “absence of evidence is evidence of absence“.
It is NOT absence of evidence. We in fact HAVE evidence that it does NOT cause chronic toxicity. Chronic toxicity caused by ingestion of very small amounts over a long period.
“Therefore, as the group of eminent doctors have written in The Island, we should use the precautionary principle”.
These eminent doctors didnot even mention the massive US study. Neither did the GMOA. Instead they mentioned the WHO-IARC classification of glyphosate as a class-2 hazard, and also failed to mention that it was NOT listed as a health risk. The precautionary principle (PP)was also misunderstood by these doctors. When there is a hazard, we navigate with caution. That is, the PP requires using “controls and constraints (CC) ” and not “ban and banish (BB)”. Guns, pharmaceuticals, gasoline, radioactive substances,etc., are dangerous but they are not banned. They are available through the police, trained pharmacists and trained operators. To apply PP by banning something is a no-brainier not practiced anywhere in the world any more.
LJasks questions ignoring the distinction between ACUTE Toxicity and CHRONIC Toxicity.
“Supporters of glyphosate cannot deny that Glyphosate is a poison, at least for plants. That is the reason it is used to kill weeds. The manufacturers will say that it does not harm humans, but advises people to protect themselves from unnecessary exposure. Why? Because if exposed to large amounts it undoubtedly causes harm. Will the supporters of Glyphosate drink a pint of the stuff? Of course not.”
If you drink 250 grams (a cup) of glyphosate, it will surely cause acute toxicity. But what if it is diluted many many times, as used in farm applications? LJ knows well that if you take 250 g of the daily vitamin it can kill you (acute toxicity). However we don’t ban vitamins. A dose of 25 g of the vitamin is not toxic, and it is in fact good for you. That is, there is no chronic toxicity even if the vitamin is acutely toxic. The massive, 23-YEAR long US study on 90,000 farmers PROVEDTHATGYLPHOSATE FORMULATIONS HAVE NO DISCERNIBLE CHRONIC TOXICITY.