The Glyphosate effect | Daily News

The Glyphosate effect

By 2006, more than 17 million hectares were in genetically modified organism (GMO) crops in Argentina – second only to the USA. Half of this area was in GM soy, and sprayed annually with 200 million litres of glyphosate herbicides. Villagers and their crops in smallholder farms bordering the large commercial farms got copiously sprayed indiscriminately, by air and land. Villager crops were destroyed. They felt initial discomforts like skin and eye irritation, diarrhea and so on that developed within ten years to repeated miscarriages of malformed fetuses, still births and babies born with gravely high levels of pesticides in their bodies. Those babies are not expected to live long. Small fish, frogs and other amphibians disappeared entirely.

Argentina’s tragedy is an undeniable, non-retractable and obvious case in support of the dangers of glyphosate herbicides to life forms. The affected population lived in deep rural areas in the pampas, with very little exposure to plastics, fossil fuels, chemicals and detergents in their lives. They are very poor, with 51% of the population living in poverty. Their major or even only exposure was to glyphosate herbicides, copiously sprayed by airplanes and helicopters. This is in stark contrast to people in say, the USA and Canada who are exposed to many chemical hazards other than glyphosate fertilizers, leaving room for regulators to say they cannot pin the abnormal observations on glyphosate fertilizers. Those Argentinians had glyphosate herbicide in their food, water, soil and air. For 3,650 days, they inhaled it every time and ingested it at least twice a day with food and at least four times a day with water. Just consider the havoc even a mild poison can play on a living body abused for so long – especially accumulative poisons like glyphosate formations.

At the beginning the Argentinian government enthusiastically approved a project by Monsanto to manufacture and distribute RoundUp for global sales. This was cancelled by the government in the face of the adverse results of glyphosate use.

The case of Argentina should be more than enough for all reasonable persons to decide to ban glyphosate herbicides at least for ten years to carry out comprehensive studies.

The ban in Sri Lanka

The ban in Sri Lanka wavered between “yes” and “no” for about 18 months. Probably the only concern for banning was the CKDu (Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown origin) epidemic which some researchers connected to glyphosate herbicides. Within that time an “expert panel” rejected a ban and recommended a ban limited to the CKDu area. Also, three professors severely criticized the ban and trashed the research that pinned glyphosate herbicide to CKDu.

The expert panel’s decision was very depressing to say the least. It could not have been arrived at with a full knowledge of the dangers involved. It was a decision weighted for the economy and money against human lives. At that time there were an estimated 20,000 dead from CKDu and another 400,000 affected, many of them condemned to die. This was far more than those affected by the Minama Disease (mercury pollution) in Minamata and Niigata and Itai-Itai Disease (cadmium pollution) in the Jinzu river basin – all in Japan. They got global attention and aid. Sri Lanka, though in a much worse situation, got nothing.

Time was ripe for an immediate ban based on the generally applied precautionary principle; it states that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a credible risk, and extensive scientific knowledge or consensus on the matter is lacking. A credible risk was certainly there in the form of 20,000 deaths and 400,000 CKDu afflicted people. Lack of scientific knowledge was evident.

The precautionary principle (PP) is embodied in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which regulates trans-boundary movements of GMOs. Sri Lanka signed it on May 24, 2000 and ratified on July 26, 2004. It is noteworthy that under the PP embodied therein, member nations are entitled to restrict or prohibit the import of GMOs if there is insufficient or conclusive evidence as to their safety. It is common sense to apply this principle to glyphosate formulations.

The expert panel’s decision for a selective ban was senseless for many reasons.

(1) Even armed sentries with shoot-at-sight orders cannot enforce a ban in a particular area. The banned item will be smuggled in and sold at blackmarket rates.

An example is “Prohibition” in the USA. Machine guns were freely used in a killing spree - by police in law enforcement and by bootleggers to carry on regardless.

(2) Water run-off from the tea plantations and vegetable cultivations to the upper reaches of the Mahaweli would have inevitably polluted the water going to the CKDu areas via Kandalama, Kala Wewa and the Jaya Ganga. It appears as if decisions were based on the brand manufacturer’s unproved but promoted claims for glyphosate. All these claims have now been proved as myths - which shows that the whole world, including our “experts” have been taken for a ride for believing the company’s marketing jargon and not doing their own due diligence.

The run-off will introduce plenty of glyphosate residues to the Mahaweli - to the water, soil and food used and produced by those in the CKDu areas. A repeat of the story in Argentina.

Sri Lankan researchers have found that six of the seven tributaries in the hill country that form the Mahaweli are very dangerously polluted with cadmium, most probably from phosphate fertilizers. Cadmiun is a kidney poison. They did not look for glyphosate. If they had, they would have found a dangerous load of unreacted glyphosate in the Mahaweli – a poison ingested at least four times a day that would play havoc with life as it aggregates over the years until a very early death.

It is very noteworthy that in Denmark glyphosate was banned as far back as 2003 when it was proved that glyphosate does not decompose fully in the soil as claimed by the manufacturer Monsanto. A considerable amount of unreacted glyphosate was found in soil just five feet below the surface and in surface and underground water. The authorities did not wait for stupid “definite scientific proof”; they acted on the possible danger to life – on the precautionary principal.

(3) It was recommended that estates be allowed to use glyphosate as they did not have the labour resources to do manual weeding and that would have been too expensive too.

The plantation sectors could have been given a six-month period to adjust to a total ban. After all, human ingenuity has always adapted to worse disasters, and adapting to a ban on glyphosate was possible without heavy investment and high recurrent costs either on labour or inputs. The RPCs could even have requested financial incentives to adapt. The government would have certainly agreed because, after all, the plantations are government properties, only managed by the RPCs.

The tea industry is being exposed to destruction by glyphosate. Consumers will not want glyphosate in their tea. “Glyphosate-free” foods and beverages are already in the market. Anti-glyphosate discussions are going on in social media like FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. The RPCs will be burdened by sickened glyphosate applicators and damages claims in general.

(4) It was submitted that food prices will rise sharply, that there will be scarcities, rice will have to be imported and the economy will be adversely effected.

What does a flood do to agriculture? Don’t we recover from that damage soon enough without permanently escalated food prices? Within the next decade will we have anybody left in the CKDu areas and in other areas gradually becoming CKDu areas, to grow our food? Isn’t that a much more desperate situation? Isn’t human life more valuable? Isn’t it the greatest asset anywhere?

Apart from the foregoing, has the true cost of food produced by modern agriculture been assessed? No! If the cost of depleting raw materials and fossil fuels used for making fertilizer, the damage to life-forms, the soil, groundwater and the environment and so on are added to the cost, modern agriculture must be much more costlier than organic agriculture – just as much as coal powered power is cheap by itself but at least as costly as renewable energy if cost of damage to people and the environment are added on.

Even if costlier, it must be borne in mind that organic agriculture leads to a dynamically balanced living soil ecosystem that, in about 15 years, results in a soil that needs no fertilizer at all. That is the physically visible and still used, highly fertile “Terra Preta do Indio” – “the black soil of the Indians” of ancient Amazonia. This agriculture ensures human and plant health. In fact plants grow better in terra preta than with chemical fertilizer. Chemical fertilizer has to be applied yearly in increasing quantities. It kills soil bacteria and thereby the soil. Just as much as humans should preserve their gut bacteria for better health, the soil bacteria is an essential plant nutrient provider.

(5) The human factor was relegated behind the profit or money factor.

Without farmers there will be no agriculture. Without agriculture there will be no food and without food there will be no life. True, this is an extreme scene, but the world is coming at least part way to it through the adoption of modern commercial agriculture that focuses on huge swathes of repeated monocultures, a single herbicide applied extensively, copiously and in increasing strengths to overcome resistance developed by weeds, producing chemical-resistant bacteria that could confront humanity with unknown and incurable illnesses, unknown fungi and viruses – all forcing us to finally poison and disease ourselves out of existence. RPC plantations too can have poisoned workmen and families, poisoned green-leaf, weeds that are herbicide resistant, and face the burden of liability in the near future.

Three professors wrote against the ban. Two criticized the ban as politically motivated with an underlying insinuation that it was to gain voters. How so? Those who might appreciate but still do not benefit because it is too late for them, are the CKDu afflicted and others living in those areas – maybe close to a million people or “votes”. Those who will be adversely affected by the removal of a real convenience and money-saver are in the millions in plantations and in agriculture in the other areas of the country. A definite “loss of votes” scenario here. Yes, the ban was based on political reasons, but not for votes. The President enforced it for the safety of his people and our unique island environment.

All three professors trashed and rejected the hypothesis put forward by Dr. Channa Jayasumana pointing to glyphosate as the major cause of and/or boosting CKDu, on three counts. A rise in food prices and scarcities were alluded to by two professors, but that point has been already dealt with and will not be taken up here.

One was that the results presented were inconclusive. Another was that the hypothesis was wrong in terms of its chemistry and the third was that it had no standing to be presented in prestigious scientific publications and so was permitted to be published only on “open access” basis.

Rejecting the results presented as inconclusive is a spurious argument. Results in science are intrinsically inconclusive; that is the very nature of the subject. Research results are always negatively qualified by using the words “maybe”, “possibly”, “probably” and so on. Tests are conducted on small animals – mostly rodents. Doubts are expressed about the results on humans. Human guinea pigs are virtually non-existent. A research study is not even a nano-window on the millions of conditions and their variations in the planet. No natural condition can be replicated in the laboratory because the environment and the conditions affecting it are in flux all the time, and the very limited facilities in a laboratory cannot replicate even a natural condition that has been somehow frozen static. Where can one get the “definite proof’ that is called for?

One professor pointed to fluorine in water as the cause. That is an eminently acceptable theory, but it was not developed. Besides, fluorine cannot be the sole cause of CKDu. The evidence points to one or more causes that boost damage by other entities while damaging the life-form themselves. Glyphosate fits into that picture as evidenced in countries in which glyphosate is used heavily.

Another professor theorized that the cause of CKDu was the ionicity of the water in the CKDu areas and forwarded the Hoffman Series in support. Again eminently acceptable, but not supported or developed. These ideas still remain ideas.

Dr. Jayasumana’s papers have been accepted as plausible by eminent scientists abroad. Dr. Mae-wan Ho and Dr. Eva Srinathsinji, are just two of them who are also crusading against glyphosate.

Another very eminent scientist is Dr. Don M. Huber, Professor Emeritus, Purdue University who was critical of glyphosate even while working for the US Department of Agriculture. He says “It is well established in the scientific literature that glyphosate disrupts the endocrine hormone system, and is toxic to liver and kidney tissues, a strong mineral chelator, and a potent antibiotic.

He has been researching glyphosate at the USDA as well as at Purdue University. He has done such research for over three decades. His statement above is firm and unambiguous. Are our professors, scientists, doctors and promoters questioning Dr. Huber’s integrity also when they say there is no scientific evidence against glyphosate?

Acceptable comments on the effects of glyphosate on metabolic processes can come only from eminent scientists in the fields of life sciences including biology, botany, zoology, microbiology, physiology, biochemistry, and related subjects – not from those involved in physics, chemistry and nuclear sciences.

Monsanto has admitted in court that it cannot claim that Roundup doesn’t cause cancer because the complete formulation has never been tested - but glyphosate supporters here and abroad fans are asking for proof of damage!

Unsealed court documents released early this year reveal startling details of falsehoods, cover-ups, skullduggery from Monsanto and collusion between Monsanto and USEPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) in connection with the hazards of glyphosate.

There are also revelations of Monsanto’s plans to peremptorily sabotage and ridicule the expected conclusions of the World Health Organization’s IARC on the “probable carcinogenicity” of glyphosate. 


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