EDITORIAL - The poisoning of Sri Lanka must stop

2016-03-04 01:37:00

The mission for a ‘Wasa Visa Nethi Ratak’-- a mission to make Sri Lanka free of poisonous agro-chemicals and thereby free of poisoned or polluted food including rice, vegetables and fruits -- will be officially launched on Sunday, March 6 with a three-day exhibition and sale of organically produced food items. This ‘Wasa Wisa Nethi Ratak’ was one of the main promises made during the election campaign which climaxed with the people’s silent revolution bringing President Maithripala Sirisena to office on January 8, 2015.

Significantly, the President himself will be the chief guest at the three-day exhibition and sale to be held at the BMICH with some 350 stalls. Organisers say that tens of thousands of people mainly farmer communities from all parts of the country, are expected to attend.

One of the highlights of this three-day BMICH programme will be  an international seminar on the theme ‘Wasa Visa Nethi Ratak’. President Sirisena will preside at this seminar to be attended by scientists of the Agricultural Research Officers’ Association, more than 5,000 farmer community leaders from all parts of the country and international agro-science specialists. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the head of the Cabinet’s Committee on Economic Management will also actively co-operate in this mission and be the chief guest at the opening of the exhibition and sale which will be held on March 6, 7 and 8 from 10 am to 9 pm.

Parliamentarian the Ven. Athuraliye  Rathana Thera, one of the main activists in the Wasa Wisa Nethi Ratak movement, said the 350 stalls would sell rice and other grains, vegetables and fruits at affordable prices. He said in a TV interview that the Good Market sale at Racecourse on Saturdays was good but he believed prices were too high and the food items were mainly for the rich and privileged classes as seen by the luxury vehicles parked there.

The prelate said that for the past few years he and other members of the ‘Wasa Wisa Nethi Ratak’ movement had conducted awareness and education programmes among hundreds of “Govi Mahaththuru’ in the farmer community. As a result about 50 acres of land was now being cultivated with paddy and other crops -- without the use of chemical fertilisers, weedicides or pesticides.  The Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera said that within three years they hoped to make tens of thousands of farmers aware of the dangers of poisoning Mother Earth and even the ground water through the excessive use of expensive agro-chemicals. The farmers had been tempted by transnational agro-chemical companies and their agents here to use these toxic agro-chemicals because they produced big harvests. But he hoped that when the farmers were made aware of the long term damage caused to Mother Earth by the use of agro-chemicals they would turn around and within three years he beleived that hundreds of thousands of acres of land would be cultivated with only organic fertilisers, bio-fertlisers and other hi-tech measures such as  regenerative agriculture.

According to Presidential Secretary P. B. Abeykoon, the total amount of foreign exchange  burnt in importing food to Sri Lanka is about Rs.400 billion annually. Of this Rs.60 billion had been spent on sugar and Rs.50 billion for powdered milk. About Rs.80 billion worth of agro-toxins are imported to Sri Lanka every year.

In a statement issued in connection with the launch of the programme ‘a wholesome agriculture -- a healthy population -- a toxin-free nation,’ Mr. Abeykoon said diabetes and other Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) had reached pandemic proportions in Sri Lanka. Due to the injecting of hormones into meat products including chickens, girl children as young as six or seven are attaining puberty at an alarming rate, while childhood obesity is becoming bellyful.

Ven. Athuraliye Rathana told Wednesday’s Rupavahini interview that almost all Sri Lanka’s people were being poisoned daily in small or big doses through every meal we had. This was mainly due to the excessive use of toxic agro-chemicals and a sovereign Sri Lanka could not and must not allow about 10 transnational agro-chemical monsters to swallow our beloved country.

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