Just as there were traitors in small developing countries which were militarily invaded by colonial powers during the past few centuries, such treason is also being committed in this new era of economic neocolonialism.
One important area where this is taking place on a large and devastating scale is the field of agriculture which has been part of Sri Lanka’s culture for thousands of years. But during the past 40 years of the globalised capitalist market economic system, agriculture has become agribusiness with powerful transnational companies manipulating the Third World.
Dr. Chinthaka Wijewardena, a member of the national health issues subcommittee of the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), said Cuba’s Foreign Minister during a recent visit to Sri Lanka had offered to transfer free of charge modern technology for organic or bio farming. But the Sri Lankan Government had not responded positively and Dr. Wijewardena charged that it was possibly because agriculture TNCs were ‘looking after’ politicians and officials in charge of agriculture. According to Dr. Wijewardena, Cuba has set an example to the world in organic agriculture while the use of chemical fertilizers, weedicides and pesticides is banned. In contrast, during the past four decades Sri Lanka was importing and using an ever-growing amount of agrochemicals for the cultivation of rice, other grains, vegetables and fruits. While hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent or wasted annually for these imports, the graver or deadlier dimension was that Sri Lanka’s people including children were being forced to eat some poison with every meal. This may be one of the main reasons why more people are falling sick more often and hospitals are crowded like market places while medical specialists in some cases cannot diagnose the ailment. It is apparently a case of slow food poisoning which gradually leads to non-communicable diseases like diabetes, high pressure and cholesterol, heart ailments and strokes.
Dr. Wijewardene charged that politicians and officials were not responding to Cuba’s offer of modern technology for good harvest through organic agriculture, largely because transnational agrochemical corporations were giving them various incentives including glorified bribes.
People-friendly agriculturists and nutritionists believe that most of these imported agrochemicals contain toxic substances. As a result, the food items are contaminated while Mother Earth is being polluted. Mother Earth is sacred and if we go on polluting it, it will be like killing our own mother.
Sri Lanka has maintained close ties with non-aligned Cuba and we urge the Rajapaksa Government to accept this generous offer from the Cuban Government to save our Mother Earth and our people. In addition to agro-chemical pollution or poisoning, it was revealed recently that TNCs and other producers are using as many as 1200 additives for food products. At a seminar conducted by the Medico-Legal Society, highly qualified nutritionists and other experts said the additives came in the form of preservatives, flavour-enhancing substances, artificial sweetness and substances for colouring or texture. Most of these are harmful to health. In addition, Colombo’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Ruwan Wijemuni revealed that the hygienic conditions in many of Colombo’s eateries and hotels were shocking. He said many of them did not have running tap water and obtained slightly muddy water from tube wells. As a result rice and vegetables were not properly washed and were stored in areas where there were insects and even frogs. The kitchens are not clean while some eateries don’t have toilets for the staff. He warned that those who wish to become sick could eat a popular kottu roti from one of these eating places.
This is a grave food crisis. So much so that not only the Health Ministry’s food advisory council but also top Government leaders must act urgently and effectively to save our people and our Mother Earth from poisoning or pollution by the neocolonialism of TNCs.