The ban on glyphosate has been officially lifted with the Registrar of Pesticides, Department of Agriculture, announcing yesterday that they would not be banning glyphosate as there is no justifiable reason to do so.
A committee appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, to look into Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown etiology (CKDu), in March this year announced they had found glyphosate to be directly linked to CKDu. Following the revelation, which was based on research done by Dr. Channa Jayasumana of the Rajarata University which proved that glayphosate found in agrochemicals has an adverse effect on human, the President issued a directive banning the use of glyphosate in the country. The Department of Agriculture while stating that 33 pesticides, which are highly poisonous, had been banned from 1970 to 2013, pointed out there was insufficient evidence against glyphosate and its impact on human health.
The Department also added they have not found conclusive evidence which relates the kidney disease to pesticides in general. The main authority, for the banning of the pesticide, is the Pesticide Technical and Advisory Committee (PeTAC). The decision not to ban glyphosate was based on the following considerations:
1. Glyphosate has been linked to CKDu based on a hypothesis and not on conclusive scientific evidence.
2. Glyphosate has no alternative and is the only pesticide available to kill weeds in paddy and other commercial crops like, tea, coconut and rubber.
3. Most paddy farmers in the country use glyphosate to kill weeds in paddy fields, and if it is banned, the only other option is to flood the fields to kill weeds. In a time where water is limited, this is not possible and the farmers will get into trouble.
4. The banning of glyphosate will greatly reduce yield and productivity of the crop, especially in that of tea which uses it extensively, a decrease of 20-40% is expected.
While stating that any pesticide used can be harmful to humans, the Department pointed out that the best solution available is to have famers use the pesticide in a controlled manner.
Special officers will be deployed at Provincial Council levels to monitor and train farmers on the proper usage of glyphosate, it said.
In the meantime, testing devices have been given to the Office of Registrar of Pesticides, so that they can test the heavy metal composition of all pesticides imported to the country. Pesticide content in fruits and vegetables can also be tested using these devices.