2018 Jul 19
In recent months, the word ‘Glyphosate’ has caused quite a disturbance in the community. Environmentalists cry out in outrage and most citizens remain troubled, while the government tries to placate them. But there are also some of us who do not know what is going on, how to react and are in a general state of confusion. Today we’re addressing the recent lifting of the ban on Glyphosate.
What is Glyphosate and why is it stirring up such unrest?
Glyphosate is a herbicide. In certain forms it can regulate plant growth and ripen fruit, but it is most effective in its role as a weed-killer. This component is designed to kill every plant except those that are genetically modified to withstand them.Without the aid of this weedicide, increased time and resources must be invested in to cover the cost of weeding, and weeding is essential to ensure crop safety.
With increasing reports of higher Glyphosate levels found in human urine, there have since been many studies with conflicting results on the herbicide:
High doses admitted to lab rats showed carcinogenic potential. The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared glyphosate to be “probably carcinogenic” in 2015. This statement was contradicted by the Environmental Protection Agency and the European Food Safety Authority making it a controversial topic up for debate. Regardless, Glyphosate has come to be associated with many detrimental health and environmental effects.
When not just exposed to be potentially cancerous but also linked to Chronic Kidney Disease, President Maithripala Sirisena was prompted to ban the substance since CKD is a prevalent disease in Lanka.
Environmentally, the substance is recorded to be very toxic to micro and macro organisms found in soil. Furthermore- given its high solubility rate- should Glyphosate be washed into rivers, aquatic animals would be vulnerable to its toxicity and water quality will allegedly deteriorate. Animals on land that have high residual traces of this compound in their dietsare said to be higher at risk for bloating, diarrhoea and pregnancy concerns.
What’s the current state of events?
Given the harmful effects, alleged or proven, that Glyphosate has been associated with, it came as a shock to the general public when the Cabinet of Ministers approved of lifting its ban in May for tea and rubber industries (for a period of 36 months).
However, resulting in more unrest, the Registrar of Pesticides lifted the ban on Glyphosate for all crops using a Special Gazette as of 11th July. The first load is set to arrive mid next month and will be issued only twice a year. Given the outburst at the lifting of the ban, a statement has since been declared that the Registrar of Pesticides, Plantation Industries Ministry, Tea Small Holdings Development Authority and Tea Research Institute will strictly monitor the use of the weedicide.
Why lift the ban at all?
Producing around 300 million kg of tea in a year, Lanka’s tea makes up our largest foreign exchange earning crop at the hefty income of $1.5 billion a year. The Plantation Industry Ministry has since revealed that the ban has resulted in the tea industry’s loss of Rs. 26 billion per year! Given this sizable loss and that the harmful effects of this substance is still an ongoing debate, it is safe to assume that our Ministers have considered the organizations deeming Glyphosate innocent to be accurate.
On yet another worrisome note, during the course of the ban, tea planters had no other alternative but to use various other weedicides. Crops harvested during this time had a high residue of weedicide that didn’t meet Japanese or EU requirements. This has raised the concern that this situation might be repeated with Glyphosate, which has been recorded to be injurious to health in high doses.
Whether the residual Glyphosate in crops meets requirements or not, the question remains: are we willing to risk it?