Mission for unpolluted food from next month - EDITORIAL

2016-02-18 00:00:42

The government announced yesterday it would launch an accelerated national, natural food production mission from March 6 to give the Sri Lankan people, specially our children, food that is not polluted or poisoned by the use of imported agrochemicals, preservatives or other substances. Agriculture Minister Duminda Dissanayake, other ministers and parliamentarian Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera are to play a key role in this programme under the direct supervision of President Maithripala Sirisena and the Strategic Enterprises Management Authority (SEMA).

At a news conference yesterday, they said the first major step in this mission would be to educate tens of thousands of farmers on the need to stop the excessive use of imported agro-chemicals, some of which are toxic.

For decades the government has been spending thousands of millions of rupees in public funds for the import of these agro-chemicals which, while fattening the bellies of transnational chemical companies, are polluting our Mother Earth and even the ground water resources mainly in the North-Central Province. Worse still, it has poisoned most of the rice and lentils, vegetables and fruits that we eat, with heartless traders adding toxic preservatives to make more profits.

This is done at the expense of the priceless lives mainly of our innocent children to whom we are giving poison. In the budget for this year, the government announced it would withdraw the subsidy for imported agro-chemicals and instead give a substantial sum of money to farmer families to encourage them to make cow dung fertiliser or other organic compost. Many farmers do not appear to be supportive of this because it is easier to use large stocks of imported fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides.

They are probably not aware of the extent to which Mother Earth is being polluted and thousands of people poisoned. That is why the government needs to conduct an extensive awareness and education programme for farmers so that they could rise beyond self-interest and work for the common good of all people of the country. The Daily Mirror in a news report and editorial earlier referred to an eco-friendly movement that is collecting cow dung from poor villagers in Mullaitivue and other places.

This is part of the eco-education and eco-spirituality mission. The cow dung is collected by the villagers, heated, powdered and then packed in one kilo packs, transported to Colombo and sold at Rs.100 a kilo pack.

The money is given to the poor villagers to improve their living standards. In addition to promoting organic farming to save Mother Earth this is also a love bridge between the North and the South to help the poverty- stricken people there. Last Sunday at a meeting held at St Anthony’s Convent in Kollupitiya this movement outlined the plus points in the cow dung fertiliser mission and the sales amounted to about Rs.15,000. Some of those who bought five to ten packets said they were happy to see cow dung after a long time and would promote this eco-friendly principle among family members, relatives and friends.

These packets are ideal for home gardens or plant nurseries and those interested could contact 0777711044. In this unpolluted and natural food production programme, the government also needs to be careful about the kind of food that is promoted. Some decades ago transnational food giants even got the approval of the American Heart Association to promote soya all over the world. Later it was found that soya had some toxic elements and ironically had little or no effect on preventing heart disease. There is also the unlimited promotion of artificial milk which claims that it is essential for the proper growth of the child’s brain.

The government needs to closely monitor the promotion of such food items and also ensure the credentials of the nutrition advisors, some of whom are not qualified nutritionists while others are known to get sponsorships from transnational food giants. Thus while we commend the government’s mission to grow food that is not polluted or poisoned there is also some food for thought for the government in finding out who is advising what for whom.

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