The Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) made a statement to the media yesterday expressing concern over Minister of Agriculture Duminda Dissanayake’s recommendations to cabinet that the ban on agrochemical Glyphosate be lifted.
Secretary of the GMOA Dr Haritha Aluthge said attempts by current cabinet members to remove the ban were “purely political” and called on President Maithripala to have a proactive dialogue with the association, as well as environmentalists and economists, without making an impetuous decision about the ban.
Dr Aluthge said the Government had a responsibility to uphold its election promise to ban Glyphosate and consideration ought to be taken of the potential environmental, health and economic damage caused by the herbicide.
Whether the ban should remain has been a controversial Parliamentary topic in recent weeks, with UNP’s Rural Economic Affairs Minister P. Harrison recently blaming the ban for the party's’ failure in the last Local Government Elections. Harrison said the elections were an indication that the Government was "compelled to provide the poisonous synthetic fertiliser".
The Government issued a Gazette notification banning the popular herbicide on June 10 last year, which had the immediate effect of preventing its import and release. The ban was made under a directive of Minister Duminda Dissanayake.
The sudden decision was widely criticised by various stakeholders, including the Planters’ Association of Ceylon, which complained that no viable alternative was given by the Government, causing the tea industry to lose over $100 million in the first 18 months following the introduction of the ban.
The agricultural use of Glyphosate is contentious, with academics and researchers divided on whether the chemical had a direct link to the high prevalence of Chronic Kidney Disease of an uncertain aietology (CKDu) in Sri Lanka.
CKDu has killed over 20,000 people predominantly from agricultural regions in the last two decades and its direct cause is still unknown.
The GMOA maintains that that Glyphosate is a causative factor in CKDu and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Sri Lanka, and the pesticide was controversially classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “likely to cause cancer” in 2016.
However, whether glyphosate has a link to CKDu is still unclear, with the World Health Organisation and Presidential Task Force for CKDu Prevention stating in a joint International Expert Consultation in 2016 that evidence of a link between Glyphosate and CKDu was inconclusive.
Professor of Agriculture Buddhi Marambe from the University of Peradeniya said the decision to ban Glyphosate was made without proven scientific evidence of a causal link between it and CKDu, and highlighted that many problems had resulted from the absence of stakeholder consultation throughout the process.
“There is no proper alternative for weed control as such. Yield of important plants such as maize, have been significantly affected by the glyphosate ban,” Professor Marambe said.
“When a proven technology is taken away, what is the alternative? There should be a cost-effective and environmentally viable alternative available, especially when it is widely used in different industries. We have to strike a balance in all these cases,” he said. (Tilini Rajapaksa)
Comments - 8
DOCA Tuesday, 27 March 2018 02:43 PM
Shall we organize a Strike over this issue ?
KOLA KOTIYA Tuesday, 27 March 2018 02:50 PM
WHEN MAHINDA GIVE FERTILIZER FOR 350/ DID U CHECK THE QUALITY
Ka Tuesday, 27 March 2018 06:14 PM
Ha ha you fool, Glyphosate is not a fertilizer! It's a weedicide Gono!!!
K. C. John Tuesday, 27 March 2018 02:51 PM
Will the GMOA please provide a solution to managing the weeds that are turning our tea fields into jungles? The tea industry is so short of workers that there are none to manually weed the fields any more.Pluckers are refusing to enter weedy tea fields due to the danger of serpent bites and leeches.Fertilizer cannot be applied due to the weeds. Result - Tea yields are declining.So please, GMOA, provide a solution for one of our prime agricultural industries that is suffering immensely.
Kamal Perera Tuesday, 27 March 2018 03:09 PM
These comments are also political at this time. These so called professionals never shouted before(2015) to ban this.
dulan Tuesday, 27 March 2018 03:18 PM
Not just the lifting of the ban but this opposition to it by GMOA is also political! Why not go on strike?
Refaideen Tuesday, 27 March 2018 03:31 PM
Must be hurting somewhere someone’s pocket.
ndissanayke Tuesday, 27 March 2018 03:51 PM
Prof.Marambe is a board member of one of the leading pesticide import companies. please be careful re his advices
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