Powerful transnational corporations especially those involved in pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and food are known to be pushing hard to sell their products here in what social justice analysts see as economic neo-colonialism which is more dangerous than the old military colonialism.
We wish to spotlight today one such key area. In June this year, President Maithripala Sirisena, resisting pressure from TNCs and their highly paid lobbies, banned the import of the weedicide glyphosate on the basis that it was toxic and was contributing to the kidney disease epidemic mainly in the North-Central province. Ably assisting the President in the movement for sustainable agriculture without the use of agrochemicals is the activist parliamentarian the Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera. The prelate and others are carrying out an intensive countrywide campaign to convince our farmer community of the long-term benefits for them and the country by switching to homemade organic fertiliser.
Pharmacology specialist Dr. Channa Sudath Jayasumana who also played a leading role in conducting tests and bringing about the ban on glyphosate says fertilizer industrialists and agrochemical giants are importing other herbicides and pesticides, which are ten times higher in toxicity than glyphosate. According to him the chronic kidney disease (CKD) has taken more than 23,800 lives in the country’s North Central regions. The disease is wildly out of control in Rajarata and other agricultural regions in the dry zone with more than 69,000 patients.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the launching of his book “Wakugadu Satana” (The Kidney Battle), Dr. Jayasumana has urged the government to take measures to eradicate CKD on a firm footing and added the cause of the disease is agrochemicals. He is convinced that the main causes of the disease are high toxic herbicides and pesticides.
This week the Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera moved into the front-lines of the kidney battle. Speaking at a meeting of the Strategic Enterprise Management Agency (SEMA), the prelate pledged the ban on glyphosate would never be lifted. He charged that the Plantation Minister Naveen Dissanayake had promised to lift the ban on glyphosate to save the tea industry. The minister said the government was likely to allow the import of 800,000 litres of the weed killer glyphosate in the next two to three months. He told the recent Annual General Meeting of the Planters Association.
But the prelate countered the minister by saying one of the biggest issues in the national government’s campaign was for the ban on glyphosate. He pledged the government would put a stop to TNCs trying to run our country.
He said the former Rajapaksa regime had also decided to ban glyphosate but it was overturned within hours due to pressure from TNCs. That was one of the main reasons why the Jathika Hela Urumaya pulled out of the Rajapaksa regime.
He said the commitment to sustainable agriculture without the use of poisonous chemicals was a major policy decision of the national government and no cabinet minister would be allowed to undermine this.
The prelate also invited Marie-Monique Robin, French journalist and author of the book, ‘The World According to Monsanto,’ to advocate for keeping the ban on glyphosate. She stressed that given the health risks glyphosate posed, due to using glyphosate for the tea industry would soon face restrictions when exported to the European Union.
The prelate, the author and Dr. Jayasumana are to travel to The Hague on October 15 to present the case against the usage of glyphosate in Sri Lanka to the United Nations International Court of Justice.
Meanwhile, a group known as CropLife Sri Lanka said to be consisting of nearly 30 companies is launching a counter attack on the government’s ban on glyphosate and the move to switch to organic fertiliser instead of agrochemicals. Such groups are known to be part of the economic neo-colonialism and we urge the government to put Sri Lanka first and not surrender our freedom or sovereignty to TNCs.