Amidst confusion, controversy and conflicting reports on the toxic chemicals in milk powder imported from New Zealand, Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has disclosed that a toxic chemical has been found in imported white sugar.
The Minister said further tests were being conducted on the sugar imported from Brazil after it was found it contained substantial amount of the toxic chemical cadmium. He assured the people local sugar was safe. The Agriculture Ministry’s Additional Secretary D. B. T. Wijeratne who is in charge of agriculture technology said tests were also being conducted on imported fruits such as apples, oranges and grapes to check whether any toxic chemicals had been used on them. The new tests and disclosures have come in the aftermath of a World Health Organisation report that a kidney disease epidemic in the North Central province may be caused by not only polluted water but also toxic chemicals in food items.
These and other issues bring us to an awareness of the urgent need for a national policy on food and nutrition whereby the people of Sri Lanka could get nutritious local food at affordable prices instead of imported food with toxic chemicals or processed rubbish including some items which had been declared as unfit for human consumption in their country of origin.
" But after Sri Lanka swallowed the globalised capitalist market economic policy, the transnational corporations virtually destroyed the dairy milk industry "
As we said earlier the long term and lasting solution to the crisis over imported milk powder is the revival of our dairy milk industry. Until 1977 most people enjoyed nutritious fresh milk produced by farmers in Sri Lanka with fresh milk sellers and milk bars operating every area. But after Sri Lanka swallowed the globalised capitalist market economic policy, the transnational corporations virtually destroyed the dairy milk industry and we are paying a heavy price for it today both in terms of the people’s health and the millions of dollars spent on the import of milk powder.
Hundreds of other non-essential, highly expensive food items—some of them of dubious quality are also being imported. Under World Trade Organisation regulations the government cannot ban food imports without valid reason but it can educate and encourage people on the wisdom of using local nutritious foods at a low cost. These unrestricted imports and other factors are part of a world economic order which Pope Francis—in a prophetic thunderbolt on Thursday described as evil the current world economic order because it promoted the tyranny and cult of money. Addressing ambassadors to the Vatican he called on world political leaders and economic experts to work out a just and ethical economic order which would bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources instead of the present system which was faceless, dehumanized and dispossessed the poor people.
Sri Lanka which is facing a major foreign exchange crisis and depending heavily on the remittances sent by some 1.5 million toilng housemaids and others mainly in the Middle-East, needs to work out a new economic policy with a human face on the basis that those who do not share their goods or money with the poor, are robbing from those marginalized people.