Saturday, August 25, 2018

Solving land problems in Sri Lanka

By - Sarath Fernando, Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform

Landlessness has been a serious problem in Sri Lanka for a long period. It has led to serious political conflicts in the country on many occasions. The Northern war that went on for around 30 years was largely based on conflicts that arose on land issues. Sinhala People were settled in agricultural settlements opened up in the Northern and Eastern provinces and this led to the Tamil political parties claiming that N and E provinces should be declared their “traditional home lands”. This ended up in the war for separation led by the LTTE. There had been other insurrections in the country and land reforms were carried out as a solution to the problem of youth rebellion. These reforms were in 1972 and 1975. After the second youth uprising in South Sri Lanka there was a Presidential Task for on distribution and Utilization of land which shows that the reasons for uprising was imagined to be related to land. The World Bank giving economic advice to the Government made recommendations to create a free land market in the country by introducing new Land ownership laws allowing the sale of land given by the Government to people under the Land Development Ordinance of 1930s. All these show the importance of land issues in the country. However none of the above measures have solved the land issues satisfactorily in Sri Lanka.

In Mahaweli and in irrigated agricultural settlements land given to landless farmers are not legally tradable. However, much of this land is now illegally transferred to others and thus land ownership in agricultural land has undergone considerable change. One view that prevails is that; and is too fragmented in the country for profitable investment and therefore land consolidation and accumulation of land should be encouraged. This is the thinking behind most of the land reforms that are being proposed now. “Bim Saviya”intends to give such legal ownership of land to small holders with tradable land rights, “Jaya Boomi”, “Swarnaboomi”, “Ratnaboomi” were other similar programmes which intended to encourage people to get land ownership and sell the land away. In the cities there are efforts to acquire land occupied by slums and shanties by shifting them into sky scrapers built in such locations and getting land in exchange of houses built in such flats. In Uva Province land is to be sold to big agribusiness companies for large plantations such as sugarcane. During the period of rebuilding after Tsunami there was an attempt to push out the coastal people from the beaches declaring coasts as buffer zones in order to promote tourism and build luxury cities on the beaches. This was proposed by TAFREN (Task force for Rebuilding the Nation). So there are complicated issues related to land ownership.

Another very serious issue is that plantation workers population is not given any land ownership at all. They have worked and earned so much for the country but they are not yet recognized as genuine citizens of the country. Unless they are given land they would not be proper citizens of the country and they would not accept Sri Lanka is their country too.

How do we solve these issues?

There are some principle concerns that have to be taken into consideration. Land is required for people to live on. Land is also required for production so it provides livelihoods to many people. Similarly sea is also a part of nature that provides many livelihoods and is a tremendous source of wealth. Since land is a major part of nature and it provides much of the natural resources land should be utilized in a way that would not disrupt the need and ability of nature to regenerate itself. Therefore land should be utilized in a manner that would not destroy the ability of nature to regenerate itself. Can people utilize land without disturbing its ability for regeneration?

This is possible in agriculture if ecological agriculture is utilized. In ecological agriculture soil erosion is reduced by making contour ridges, mulching and utilizing Sloping Agriculture Land Technology (SALT) system where appropriate. By recycling all organic matter, by growing as many trees as possible to capture maximum sunlight, by diversifying crops, by avoiding the use of agrochemicals so that the role played by microbes, earthworms and insects is unobstructed.

All these can be done effectively by small farmers doing small scale agriculture and not in large monocrop plantations. In such plantations heavy machinery is used and heavy inputs of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides are used. This becomes expensive and is damaging to nature, they poison soil, water and environment thus making the food poisonous, water polluted and land is killed. Due to such destruction of land people have to give up using such land and shift to other lands, making the land problem more acute. Diseases caused by such utilization of agrochemicals have become very serious.

It is therefore necessary to think of ways of changing the present patterns of land utilization and land ownership.

In hill country tea plantations

We have to begin this process in the hill country. When the hill country was forest before tea plantations were established it was possible to handle the rain fall better. The trees slowed down the rainfall which reduced erosion and the rich top soil could absorb and retain much of the water in the soil, there was less flooding and there was more water available for the less rainfall seasons. The water that flowed through the rivers and streams were diverted through canals to reservoirs and was available for farming year round. Now there is no such protective forest cover and erosion is heavy which has destroyed the top soil in the hill country. Thus much land is lost and left uncultivated. To restore this, it is necessary to reforest the high elevations, which can be done using agroforestry. People can settle on such land if community agroforestry methods are used. In the next elevations it is necessary to transform monocrop tea into diversified ecological agriculture by giving this land in smaller plots to plantation people to do ecological agriculture. It is very necessary to solve the problem of landlessness of plantation worker families if they are to be made genuine citizens of the country. The citizenship of plantation people was taken away in 1947 when they were seen as voting with the left parties. Now the citizenship that is given to the remaining plantation workers is not genuine unless they are given land to do their own farming, build their own houses and have better facilities of health and sanitation and education facilities to their children so that they become recognized as dignified citizens of the country. This can be begun by distributing the land in the plantation areas to them in small plots to grow their own food, have ther own cattle and so on. This transformation is advantageous to the whole country since ecology of the country cannot be improved without improving the ecology in the hill country. Use of agrochemicals in the hill country pollutes most of the water since the hill country is the main source of water and irrigation. For people in Rajarata ( North Central Province) to have safe drinking water it is necessary to stop pollution of water in the hill country.

In Coconut Plantation Areas

The next area where land problems have to be solved is in the areas where most of the land is utilized for large coconut plantations. This is in the North Western Province (the coconut triangle) here much of the coconut plantations cultivate only coconut and there are many landless people living in these areas. The reason for planting only coconut was not because other crops could not be planted in thecoconut estates but because many of the owners were absentee land lords who only wanted the coconut yields to be plucked during the plucking season. They had their watchers to prevent people entering such land.

Coconut plantations could be divided in to smaller plots of say ½ acre to 1 acre plots and given to landless people in those areas to be used for ecological mixed farming. It is possible to grow other plants such as pineapple, mangoes, arecunut , guava, jack, bread fruit and so on. It is also possible to gliricidia and grow pepper, grow vegetables without affecting the coconut. If ecological agriculture is used yields would increase. Soil fertility improves, recycling and mulching could be done. Dr. Ray Wijewardane’s coconut plantation illustrates this and he did not use any external inputs on his land, he used Dendro power to produce all the electricity needed. This can solve much of the land problems in the North Western Province.

In areas where irrigated paddy farming is done there should be measures to prevent farmers from illegally transferring land to rich farmers. This is largely to pay back their debts. Farmers get indebted since todays paddy farming is not profitable farmers do ther cultivation only to get loans. Indebtedness is due to the high cost of production and low prices they get for their produce. This can be changed by shifting to growing traditional varieties of paddy that do not require costly chemical inputs. Availability of such traditional seeds will have to be improved by encouraging more farmers to grow such varieties that fetch higher prices in the market. This will also improve the health situation of farmers as well as the consumers. Today there is a growing fear among people about diseases such as the Kidney disease which can be a helpful factor to be utilized.
In Uva Province

Another area that could be utilized to solve problems of land is in the Uva Province. There is more land available in this area compared to other provinces. In our studies we came to know that in Siyambalanduwa area each family had around 5 acres of land. However much of this land is not sufficiently utilized due to problems of lack of water. This can also be solved by doing ecological agriculture. If on a small plot of land many different plants are grown this will improve the soil fertility and improved humus content will make the soil retain more water. This land use pattern can be gradually expanded. The overall yield will be much higher. Growing of single crops such as sugarcane or maize must be changed. The overall yield the people get today by growing such single crops can be increased by growing a diversity of crops. Marketing should be arranged through cooperatives doing direct marketing between traders and consumers. The only way of solving water problems is not by construction of reservoirs but by improving the water retention ability of the soil. Use of ecological agriculture will improve soil fertility, water retention in the soil and reduce drought losses. These will make it possible for more people to share the land available in Uva Province. In areas where there are land shortages such as the highly populated areas in Gampaha district and in the Western province better use of land can be done by doing diversified crop farming as done in ecological home gardens. On a small plot of land of say ¼ acre it is possible to grow one or two mango trees, one avocado pears tree, one or two lime trees several orange trees, some vegetables and some murunga trees on the fence and so on. So if such arming is done in a cluster of 25 acres in all there would be a 100 times the number of such plants which is quite a lot.

In urban areas too there are techniques of urban home gardening that can be utilized. In a country such as Sri Lanka where the per capita land holding is small it is very necessary to improve the overall productivity of land. This has to be done without the use of external chemical inputs that are expensive and destructive and they have all to be imported too. This can be done in other areas too, such as in the North and East, in the coastal regions and in all agricultural areas in the country.

One basic principle that must be utilized in relation to land ownership can be learnt through this story.

“ When Prince Siddartha was still young he saw a swan falling from the sky, one day. He ran towards it and found that the bird had been hit with an arrow and was bleeding. He removed the arrow and stated nursing it. Prince Devadatta came running and claimed that the swan was his since he shot the arrow. Siddhartha replied saying that the bird did not belong to Devadatta since he was trying to kill the bird but belonged to Siddhartha since he was trying to save it’s life nursing it”.

Therefore land should belong to those who try to save land and its regenerative ability and not to those who kill land by destructively exploiting land.

Mahatma Gandhi when he launched the salt satyagraha said that the law proscribing Indians to make salt in their own sea was unjust and that he was going to violate this unjust law. He started a long march of about 200 miles and asked others to join. The British police could not stop his march and he made salt when he reached the coast. Others followed him and from next day all Indians began to make salt and the law became ineffective. Private ownership of land did not exist in Sri Lanka, King nominally owned land but the people were free to utilize land. British acquired ownership of land since they wanted to plunder land for their tea and coffee plantations. They cleared the hill country for tea and the next elevations for rubber. The Sri Lankan rich acquired the land for coconut plantations. They have all used land destructively. Therefore it is right for people to enter such land and convert such land for regenerative agriculture that would save life of land. This can be done nonviolently since people are going to allow land to be regenerated, preventing land from death and destruction. This would be the best way land problems could be solved in Sri Lanka.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

South India Floods: Paddy farmers, plantations, poultry and dairy sector suffer severe losses

Kerala, a Southern State in India, suffered devastating losses after torrential rains that lashed the state in three rounds, wreaked havoc all across. Over 320 people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands had to be evacuated from their homes – when shutters of 80 dams had to be opened due to heavy rains.
People living in districts close to the Western Ghats – namely Wayanad, Palakkad, Idukki, Pattanamtitta were severly affected by landslides and flooding. Parts of Ernakulam, Kottayam and Alappuzha were also inundated.
While a detailed estimate of the loss to agriculture and livestock is yet to be made, the damage to heavy rains from as early as July is expected to have affected small scale farms as well as plantations.
Devison Ak from the Kerala Coconut Farmers Association and also a member of the South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (SICCFM) – both of which are members of La Via Campesina – said “ It has been a total washout. Water levels rose up upto 10 metres and more. People had to be evacuated from the second and third storeys of buildings. An estimated 46,000 hectares of farm land has suffered losses. This was also a festive season in the State – with Onam and Bakrid just around the corner. Paddy, vegetables, banana have all been among the damaged crops.”
Media reports as early as July had indicated that the state would face a crunch in paddy production due to severe rains. With the latest round of heavy flooding witnessed in mid-August, it is expected to aggravate the supply of paddy. Reports indicate that the State requires 4 Million Metric Tonne of Rice every year, of which close to 1.4 Million MT is set aside for the food security of the most vulnerable. Much of it is imported from nearby States.  The economic implications of this flood are going to be severe.
Kannaiyan S, who is also involved in the relief efforts in the district of Wayanad applauded the significant role played by people of nearby States in offering support. “It is heartening to see people coming together at a time of crisis. The fisherfolks played an immense role in rescuing people from inalnds – where only their small boats could reach. In Wayanad – social activists from the district and Tamil Nadu are helpiing secure relief materials to places such as Sugandagini, Manda, Edakkal Caves, Mepadi – where a significant number of adivasis (indigenous people) are residing.”
Besides affecting Kerala’s agricultural sector, the devastating floods have dented the State’s animal husbandry and dairy sector, causing an estimated loss of around ₹800 crore, according to a report in The Hindu Businessline. It is reported that over 100,000 milch cattles and 400,000 poultry were lost.
There has been a loss of rich genetic resources of crop varieties and breeds and the flood-hit districts are some of the best agri production and promotion zones, the report added.


In the nearby state of Karnataka, the rains made known its fury. In Karnataka, which accounts for over 70 per cent of the coffee produced in the country, rain has damaged plantations in the producing regions of Kodagu and Chikmagaluru. At this point, some members of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha are helping with relief and rehabilitation efforts.

– This article is prepared based on preliminary reports coming in. It will updated as we have more information from the ground —

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Removing the ban on glyphosate: Making Monsanto rich at the expense of peoples’ health

By Sajeewa Chamikara -Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform
Last few years have not been that great for Monsanto as the people across the world are realizing the danger this company, now bought by Bayer, and other multinationals and their products, from agrochemicals to terminator seeds, pose. As people become more educated and informed, they have applied increasing pressure on these companies and courts of law across the world are giving verdicts against Monsanto and glyphosate, the most widely used and extremely dangerous herbicide. On August 10, a San Francisco jury’s awarded $289 million in damages to a man diagnosed with a lethal cancer due to the exposure he had when he sprayed school grounds with a weed-killer manufactured by Monsanto Co.
San Francisco newspaper stated that 'the jury found unanimously that Monsanto was responsible for Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and should have known of the dangers posed by the herbicide glyphosate, which it markets as Roundup and the more-concentrated Ranger Pro. The jury also found that Monsanto had “acted with malice or oppression” when it supplied glyphosate to Johnson’s employer, the Benicia Unified School District, without disclosing its potentially life-threatening effects.' This verdict could be a forerunner for the 4,000 lawsuits that have been filed across the United States by individuals who claim they were sickened by Roundup. Johnson’s case was the first to go to trial. On August 15, The state Supreme Court rejected a challenge by Monsanto Co. against California’s decision to list the main ingredient in its Roundup herbicide as a cause of cancer.
However the ministers, academics and officials who had insisted us that there is no harm in using glyphosate are quite about these rulings. Meanwhile Monsanto, though its agents here, attempt to suppress Sri Lankan knowing about these developments, using the power of the purse. Very little of this verdict has been written in local newspapers and electronic media has only given passing coverage of this ground breaking judgment. This judgment also vindicated the efforts we have taken, along with a lot of other socially conscious organizations and individuals to stop the government from lifting the ban on glyphosate. The verdict has invigorated all of us and will help us apply more pressure on the government to reimpose the ban on glyphosate which has caused grievous harm to many Sri Lankans.
After the present administration came into power, it banned the use of pesticides that contained the extremely harmful toxin glyphosate. This important and highly commendable decision was taken as a part of a promise they made to ensure the wellbeing of the people and the environment. However three years after the ban was imposed the government decided to lift the ban on glyphosate, as Monsanto mounted pressure on the government and managed to convince state officials and ministers to intervene in favor of their case. This decision which will have adverse harm to the public and the environment has been passed without cabinet approval. The minister of plantations and the minister of agriculture told media that lifting of the ban on the glyphosate weedicide only for tea and rubber industries for a period of 36 months. They were carrying out an agenda that the big plantation companies wanted at the expense of the health and wellbeing of the estate sector community. This was a clear indication that the present administration, that vowed to bring good governance and democracy, does not care about the wellbeing of the people. The government is more keen on securing the interests of multinational companies and to ensure that these companies will keep on making billions of rupees in the coming years.
In Sri Lanka the agenda and the interests of Monsanto was carried out by Croplife Sri Lanka organization. This organization, which is a combination of companies that import agro-chemicals into Sri Lanka, is headed by Rohitha Nanayakkara, Chairman of Zegro Singapore (pvt) Ltd. This organization is behind the lifting of the glyphosate ban and the organization has managed to ensure that its members will benefit from the suffering and pain of the average men and women who will be affected by the direct and indirect effects of glyphosate.
Misleading the people about the lifting of glyphosate ban
In the election manifesto of the United National Front for Good Governance, “A New Country in 60 Months: Five Point Plan”, there was a clear emphasis on the banning agro chemicals that cause great ecological and societal distress. The manifesto promises that the government will promote carbonic agriculture and attempt to capture the growing international market for green products. Moreover it promised to secure the food sovereignty and security.
The manifesto also sated that they will continue ban the import of agro-chemicals that harm nature and humans, especially those that cause CKDu, which had been banned within 100 days of assuming duties. Moreover the election manifesto of President Maithripala Sirisena, 'A Compassionate Governance', stated that he will immediately ban the import and distribution of harmful agro-chemicals that cause CKDu.
Thus on May 27, 2015, President Sirisena presented a cabinet proposal calling for the ban of import and use of glyphosate and other harmful agro-chemicals, which was causing a CKDu across the country. He stated that the overuse of agro-chemicals have caused many problems across the country as many in the farming community contracting incurable diseases. The Cabinet approved the proposal and the Registrar Pesticides issued Gazette Extraordinary No. 1937/ 35 of October 23, 2015, an order made under Section 11 of the Control of Pesticides Act No.33 of 1980, cancelling every licence issued in respect of pesticides containing the chemical glyphosate. Earlier imports and use of Glyphosate were banned on 11 June 2015 by gazette notification 1918/22 issued under sub sections 4 (3) and sections 14 and 20 under the Import and Export (Control) Act, No. 01 of 1969. This gave the Customs the power to confiscate consignments of glyphosate and re-export or destroy them.
However attempts to restrict the use of glyphosate goes back to December 2014, when the sale of agro-chemicals containing glyphosate was banned in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala and Moneragala districts and Dideemaliyedda and Kandaketiya divisional secretariat areas in Badulla District based in gazette notification 1894/4 issued by the Registrar of Pesticides under the powers vested on him under Control of Pesticides Act.
All the gazette notifications banning the usage and sale of glyphosate, issued under Control of Pesticides Act, clearly states that the this caption has been taken to ensure the safety of the public and according to the technical and advisory committee on Pesticides. However in the Extraordinary gazette notification 2079/37,dated 11 July 2018, issued by the Registrar of Pesticides "in the interest of the public and on the advice of the Pesticides Technical and Advisory Committee" has rescinded an order issued earlier canceling the license for the pesticide. This does not only rescinded the order on 2015 but also the order in 2014 to stop the sale of agro-chemicals containing glyphosate in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala and Moneragala districts and Dideemaliyedda and Kandaketiya divisional secretariat areas in Badulla District. However there has been no Cabinet approval prior to issuing this Extraordinary Gazette.
However when the gazette was issued the cabinet had not granted approval. This is an indication that the government was under tremendous pressure from agrochemical companies to lift the ban on glyphosate. On the face of pressure from agrochemical companies, the government seemed to have forgotten about the wellbeing of the people or the necessity to follow laws and regulations.
As mentioned the Extraordinary gazette notification 2079/37, dated 11 July 2018, issued by the Registrar of Pesticides states that he has rescinded an order issued earlier canceling the license for the weedicide
In the interest of the public surely this must be the first time in the world that a government has authorized the use of an extremely toxic agrochemical 'in the interest of the public.' On bottles containing glyphosate, there is a label which advises the users to be careful when handling the contents of the bottle. However Registrar of Pesticides has openly stated that glyphosate is a harmless agrochemical that can even be orally consumed. Thus a senior public official has socialized a dangerous and misleading opinion about a dangerous weedicide for the interest on Monsanto. This is a clear and significant violation of ethics.
From 1970, various Sri Lankan administrators have banned the import and use of 36 agrochemicals. However lifting the ban on glyphosate, which is one of the most dangerous agrochemicals known to man, is the first time that a government had rescinded an order issued earlier canceling the license for an agrochemical. Thus it is obvious that the lifting the ban on glyphosate was one taken by individuals who have sold their countrymen down the stream for money and other privileges. Those who had benefited from Monsanto do not care about whether a large number of people become victims to chronic kidney issues, they don’t care whether thousands contract cancer or if a large number oif babies are born with defects. They especially don';t seem to care about if the environment and ecological systems collapse. For them the only concern is the losses that Monsanto and their agents in the country or if the top management of plantation companies make a few million rupees less. None of these officials or politicians, ho had received blood money from Monsanto, care about the consequences on the people and environment.
The Monsanto millions have made them forget that they have come into power from the votes of the people, that they promised people to usher in an era of good governance and that they only have the power to take decisions that benefit the people of the country. Officials and politician seem to have come to the conclusion that they are servants of powerful private entities. When a person believes that, it is no surprise that they come into conclusion that the ban on glyphosate has no scientific basis. Thus they have no hesitation in saying that lifting the ban on glyphosate was in the interest of the public. Thus they have no problem in violating ethics, the contract they have with the public or laws.
Who represents the interests of Monsanto?
A number of politicians, officials and academics have received money and other privileges for serving Monsanto. Among these are Dr. Buddhi Marambe, Dr. Parakrama Waidyanatha, Professor Oliver D. Illeperumaa, former minister of agriculture, Duminda Dissanayake, minister of plantations Navin Dissanayake and the former Registrar of Pesticides.
These politicians, officials and academics do not see the sufferings of millions of people across the world or the results of a number of studies that clearly show the adverse effects of glyphosate. In fact they go out of the way to ensure that the people do not know about facts that are emerging from research in other countries. On the other hand they socialize and popularize results of research, paid for by Monsanto directly or indirectly. They also attempt to prevent people from reading up on the results of independent studies on the effects of glyphosate use. Thus they attempt to convince the people that glyphosate is not a highly toxic agrochemical and that the research on the weedicide is still inconclusive. Unfortunately most people do not know that these people are motivated by the Monsanto money and that they have long ago forfeited any independence.
The ownership of Glyphosate
Glyphosate is a second generation broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant used to eradicate annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops. It is absorbed by the weeds through the foliage, and through roots to some extent, and inhibits a plant from creating three amino acids that are vital for the development of a plant. Glyphosate was first synthesized in 1950 by Swiss chemist Henry Martin, who worked for the Swiss company Cilag. However his findings were never published and it was Monsanto chemist John E. Franz was found that it can be an herbicide in 1970. Monsanto developed and patented the use of glyphosate as a weedicide in the early 1970s and first brought it to market in 1974, under the Roundup brand name. However in 2000 Monsanto's last commercially relevant United States patent expired. Monsanto is the fifth largest producer of agrochemicals in the world and the largest seed producer in the world. From the 2000 it has continued to make glyphosate more potent by combining it with other chemicals. Currently there are over 750 products containing glyphosate for sale in the U.S. They have resorted to this measure as in 2000 Monsanto's last commercially relevant United States patent expired. Thus to maintain the demand for glyphosate, in response to the global emergence and spread of glyphosate resistant weeds, and to compete with other agrochemical companies, Monsanto continues to 'improve' their formula by making it more potent, i.e. making it more toxic. Thus, as if glyphosate alone isn't bad enough, when we use glyphosate based weedicides we are also adding other harmful toxins into the soil and water.

How glyphosate works
Glyphosate has been synthesized to negate the enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS), produced by plants and microorganisms to drive plant growth.
The EPSP synthase is necessary for the biosynthesis of amino acids phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan. Moreover EPSP synthase is necessary for the synthesis of plant hormone oxines, lignans and folic acids.
Agro-chemicals that contain glyphosate must be sprayed on the leaves of the target plant as there is little impact in putting it in the ground. Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and is absorbed through foliage, and minimally through roots, and transported to growing points. It is only effective on actively growing plants and cannot prevent seeds from germinating.
However if glyphosate falls on to the ground, it quickly binds with soil particles. Then the soil particles become inactive and glyphosate is highly absorbed into soild that have a high number of carbonic ingredients. It is said that glyphosate has strong sorption characteristics, thus reducing the risk of leaching. However, researcher PR Hagner states that several studies have indicated that in some circumstances there is a risk of the leaching of glyphosate into deeper soil layers, where it could end up in ground and surface waters. Studies have also shown that phosphate moiety of glyphosate is responsible for its strong adsorption to soils and that soil phosphate capacity is related directly to glyphosate adsorption.
In other words inorganic phosphate may influence the adsorption of glyphosate to soil surface sites as inorganic phosphate could compete with glyphosate for surface absorption sites. Thus when glyphosate is mixed with soil and if the soil already has low amounts of inorganic phosphate, there is a possibility that the soil will more Phosphorus. However glyphosate can remain active for longer periods on surface water and affects the microorganisms, fish, fresh water prawn, fresh water crab, fresh water clams and aquatic invertebrate.
Scientists in the United States has studied the impact of glyphosate on fresh water crab and have found that when exposed to the agrochemical the possibility of baby crabs dying increased. Moreover, when they do not die, the time taken for their metamorphosis has decreased. When exposed to glyphosate frogs showed decreased snout-vent length at metamorphosis and increased time to metamorphosis, tail damage, and gonadal abnormalities. Most likely these were caused by disruption of hormone signaling. Glyphosate is also a serious threat to freshwater fish. Studies have shown that there are biochemical and histopathological effects of glyphosate on the liver of freshwater fish. A study by Bawa and Al in 2017 found that decrease in protein and lipid content of the liver following exposure of fish to the herbicide suggest enhanced protein catabolism, hepatocellular damage and increased utilization of energy stores to compensate for higher energy demands during stress.' The Acetylcholine enzyme in the fish who are exposed to glyphosate are severely affected and this has an adverse impact on their breeding. Tate and Al in 1997 have found that glyphosate affects snail reproduction and development.
Moreover studies commissioned by the European Union have found that glyphosate can have several negative effects on aquatic plants. Researchers found that glyphosate caused significant decreases to wet and dry weights, the number and length of leaves, and chlorophyll content. At the end of the exposure period, some leaves even showed signs of chlorosis, a potentially fatal condition in which leaves do not produce enough chlorophyll.
In addition glyphosate has an adverse effect on bacteria that enhanced the nitrogen content in the soil. Studies have shown that glyphosate negatively affect all microscopic beings that live in the soil and when that happens, the soil balance is destroyed and becomes sterile. Thus those who use glyphosate needs to apply fertilizer from outside.
Glyphosate is a second generation broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant used to eradicate annual broad leaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops. However in recent decades several glyphosate-resistant weed species have emerged across the world. US based National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a part of the United States National Library of Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, in a 2018 report, noted that glyphosate resistance first appeared, in the form of rigid ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) in an apple orchard in Australia in 1996. By May 2018 Thirty-eight weed species have now evolved resistance to glyphosate, distributed across 37 countries and in 34 different crops and six non-crop situations. In Sri Lanka a number of plant varieties have been identified, for example geta kola, wild rubber and derise, as glyphosate-resistant varieties. These super weeds are the outcomes of the continuous use of these pesticides.
Another creation of Monsanto are Roundup Ready crops, which were introduced in 1996. These are crops genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicides Roundup, a Monsanto product that contain glyphosate. Thus farmers who use them must use Roundup to keep other weeds from growing in their fields. Roundup Ready crop seeds are also known as "terminator seeds" because the crops produced from Roundup Ready seeds are sterile. Because of this farmers must purchase the most recent strain of seed from Monsanto. Thus Monsanto is able to have a firm grip on the lucrative seed market.
The effects of glyphosate on human health
The effect of glyphosate on human health happens in many ways. One adverse affect is the direct impact on human health on direct exposure to the agrochemical and the other is the affect created by other components used in these agrochemicals. It is important to pay close attention to both these aspects.
The human body absorbs glyphosate in several ways. It can be absorbed through water, food, touch and inhalation. No matter how you absorb glyphosate, the harm caused is immense.
Glyphosate is a derivative of glycine, the simplest possible amino acid, and thus can substitute for the native amino acid in proteins. Thus some researchers claim that such mis-incorporation of glyphosate in place of glycine can lead to 'polypeptide chain misfolding and aberrant cellular biochemistry' that could lead to disease. Following this line of thought, some researchers argue that there is a link between glyphosate exposure and an extremely large spectrum of disease conditions, including diabetes, obesity, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary edema, adrenal insufficiency, hypothyroidism, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, prion diseases, lupus, mitochondrial disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, neural tube defects, infertility, hypertension, glaucoma, osteoporosis, fatty liver disease, and kidney failure. Glyphosate is also alleged to be responsible for non-alcoholic liver disease by researchers who conducted experiments using mice.
In 2015 International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the highly respected cancer arm of the World Health Organization, stated that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue. Monsanto has carried out a continuous campaign using 'scientists' in their payroll to discredit IARC findings. IARC has continued to respond to these accusations. Despite the millions of dollars used to suppress information, the truth about glyphosate keeps coming up making us realize the danger this poses on human life. The IARC came to this conclusion after assessing the carcinogenicity of five organophosphate pesticides. They point that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) had originally classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans in 1985 on the basis of tumours in mice. They also stated that 'Glyphosate also caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, although it gave negative results in tests using bacteria. One study in community residents reported increases in blood markers of chromosomal damage (micronuclei) after glyphosate formulations were sprayed nearby
Further studies have shown that glyphosate can adversely affect the cells that make human skin. A study conducted by Italian and Brazilian researchers in 2016 showed that people who are exposed to glyphosate herbicides and some fungicides in their work are more likely to suffer from an aggressive form of skin cancer called cutaneous melanoma.
Moreover new research has found that glyphosate causes cell and DNA damage to epithelial cells derived from the inside of the mouth and throat. According to research by Dr. Sirinathsinghji human buccal epithelial cells were exposed to glyphosate and Roundup equivalent to a 450 fold dilution of the spraying solution for 20 minutes, and it was shown that cells were much more sensitive to the Roundup formulation than glyphosate. This is another example of how attempts by Monsanto to make herbicides containing glyphosate have made these agro-chemicals much more dangerous. There have been many studies that have demonstrated that exposure to certain herbicides; including glyphosate can lead to Parkinson’s. This disease targets the nigral neurons, which supplies dopamine to the stratum to help coordinate movement. However when these neurons die motor function goes haywire and the classic symptoms set in, including namely tremors, slowed movements, and rigidity. Exposure to glyphosate is one of the agro-chemicals linked with this.
A study in Berlin, conducted using persons who have o direct contact with glyphosate has shown that traces of the active compound glyphosate were found in human urine samples. Since that there has been no occupational exposure, it was obvious that this was caused by dietary exposure. According to Argentinian scientists short term exposure to glyphosate leads to respiratory diseases, diarrhea, nausea and skin diseases. Long term exposure leads to cancer, infertility, birth defects and long term respiratory issues.
According a report by the Argentinian government there is high cancer prevalence in the agricultural areas of the Chaco Province. Argentina started adopting agricultural practices created by the biotechnology revolution in the mid-1990s and a study in 2012 showed that 33% of those living in agricultural areas had someone in the family had cancer in the last 10 years. However in the ranching community in the same province just 3% of those asked said they had a relative with cancer. This includes a 300% increase in cancer among children. The farmers in these areas use a lot of genetically modified crops and use a lot of glyphosate products and many researchers in the area claim that there is a direct relationship between glyphosate and cancer. Between 2000 and 2009, there has been a 400% increase in birth defects and one of the assumed causes is the exposure to glyphosate used in the genetically modified soy beans and paddy.
Genetically Modified (GM) or Roundup Ready (RR) soy has expanded steadily in Paraguay after neighboring Argentina approved its production in 1996. The expansion of GM soy monocultures and their dependency on a single herbicide have created increased tolerance and/or resistance among pest populations, resulting in the need to increase the quantities applied per unit of surface and the need to apply other herbicides. This has caused a threefold increase in the import of agrochemicals in to Paraguay over the past years. In parallel to this development there has been increase in anomalies in the brain, decrease in the size of the size of the skull and deformities. Exposure to glyphosate has caused various complications in pregnant women as well.
A 2012 study has shown that exposure to glyphosate at lower doses leads to a testosterone decrease of 35%. In Europe semen quality and testosterone levels of men have been going down rapidly and some studies have suggested that common underlying causal factor is either a change in lifestyle or an environmental toxin, especially endocrine disrupting chemicals. Incidentally glyphosate use has been rising in Europe and in the rest of the world since the 1980s to 1990s. Meanwhile a 2018 study has found that glyphosate-based herbicides contain toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, chromium and nickel and stated that 'this could also explain some of the adverse effects of the pesticides.'

The effects of Monsanto’s false advertising
In the United States, glyphosate is not only used in mass scale farms bu also in home gardens. This popularity is not purely based on the effectiveness of the herbicide but also due to a continuous and concentrated advertising campaign by Monsanto. By 2007, glyphosate was the most popularly used herbicide in the United States. Along with this popularity and the increased use, the number of reported cases of cancer among farmers have also increased. Currently thousands of cases against Monsanto has been filed across the United States by family members of those farmers.
In 1996 the New York Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Monsanto for falsely advertising the weed killer as being “safer than table salt” and “practically non-toxic” to mammals, birds and fish. The New York Attorney General claimed that Monsanto was giving farmers and agricultural workers the impression that Roundup was non-toxic. This is remarkably similar to the statement made by our Registrar of Pesticides. A judge in Brazil is also fined Monsanto for false advertising that entices the people to use the dangerous substance. Currently there are 1000s of cases filed by people against Monsanto in various courts. In 2001 Colombian court banned the use of aerial spraying of glyphosate on illegal coca plantations in the Colombian - Ecuador border. Between 2002 and 2004 an Israeli court stopped aerial spraying of Roundup on Bedouin farmers’ crops in the Negev region of Israel, after a coalition of Arab human rights groups and Israeli scientists reported high death rates of livestock, and a high incidence of miscarriages and disease amongst the people. According to Sirinathsinghji, in 2010, a regional court in Argentina banned the spraying of glyphosate near populated areas of Santa Fe province. In 2012, 'a network of 160 physicians, health workers and researchers demanded a ban on aerial spraying of glyphosate and other pesticides in Argentina, based on increases in cancer and a range of other illnesses since the introduction of glyphosate-tolerant GM soybeans. The illnesses affect development, reproduction, and skin; and immune, respiratory, neurological, and endocrine systems.'
On May 2012 Pesticide Action Network in Europe and Green Peace challenged a verdict, given by a court appointed commission, to delay the evaluation of glyphosate for three years. They expressed their concern on the decision to ignore latest findings that link glyphosate to cancer, genetic diseases and birth defects.
Countries that have banned glyphosate
Despite the best efforts of Monsanto a number of countries have either banned the use of glyphosate or restricted its use. Malta, a European country, has banned the use of glyphosate. Six Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman have banned the use of glyphosate. France will ban glyphosate "for its main uses" by 2021, and "for all of its uses" within 5 years and it is likely that the European Union would ban the use of glyphosate in five years. In 2016 Waitrose, a chain of British supermarkets, which forms the food retail division of Britain's largest employee-owned retailer, the John Lewis Partnership, and London garden centers W6 and N1 stopped selling glyphosate-based products.
Meanwhile Germany’s agricultural minister, Julia Kloeckner, announced on April 17 this year that she was finalizing a draft regulation to end the use of glyphosate. Her plans include a ban on the weedkiller in household gardens, parks and sport facilities, and “massive restrictions” on its use in agriculture. Belgium, Argentina, Bermuda, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, New Zealand, Scotland, Nederlands, Italy, Portugal, Canada and El Salvador have decided to limit the use of glyphosate by banning it from being used in home gardens, in selected cities and in public places and to use it only for selected commercial crops. Meanwhile in Australia Numerous municipalities and school districts throughout the country are currently testing alternative herbicides in an effort to curtail or eliminate glyphosate use and a few days ago a Brazilian judge ruled that new products containing glyphosate could not be registered in the country.
Most importantly on August 10, 2018 a California jury awarded $289 million to a former groundskeeper who said the popular weed killer Roundup caused him terminal cancer. The BBC reported that the ruling said the potential risks of the product were known by the scientific community and Monsanto failed to "adequately warn" of the danger. The BBC added that jurors found that the company had acted with "malice" and that it should have provided a label warning of the potential health hazard of its product. Following this ruling Bayer’s, a company that recently bought Monsanto, stock slumped more than 10 percent in trading.
Taking these developments into consideration the Sri Lankan government must reimpose the ban on glyphosate. Right now the Sri Lankan small scale farmers have become victims of the propaganda of Monsanto and other multinational companies. They use/abuse agrochemicals out of habit and the belief that there is no other way. As a result we have had to build the largest hospital for kidney diseases in South Asia and we keep on expanding the cancer hospital. Moreover the abuse of agrochemicals have also deprived us the opportunity to reach the international market. Those in the developed nations, and even China, are increasingly aware of the dangers of glyphosate and other agrochemicals and are looking for organic alternatives. Although some plantation companies insist that they need glyphosate, we might use the ability to export our tea to some markets in the future.
As mentioned earlier the same multinationals that lured our farmers to use agrochemicals are now popularizing genetically modified crops in the country. Once farmers start using these crops they are compelled to put increasing volumes of fertilizer and herbicides into their farms as these crops are extremely resource intensive. As the expenditure increases the profits made by small scale farmers decrease and they become indebted.
What is more startling is that our Department of Agriculture is now being run by agrochemical companies. The officials, who are paid from our tax rupees, are representing the interests of these companies. In recent months we have seen how they attempted to popularize agrochemicals. this is unethical and unacceptable but this has become 'normal 'in our country.
Thus we insist that the government bans agrochemicals including glyphosate, and encourage farmers to shift into organic and carbonic agriculture. This will strengthen the smallholders and ensure that we have food sovereignty and food security as our dependence of multinationals lower. This will also allow us to be a healthy nation.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Karnataka Farmers stage protest on Independence day, seek complete loan waiver

Farmers staging a silent protest demanding loan waiver without any riders, in Mysuru on Wednesday.(PC-M.A. Sriram )

Farmers belonging to the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) and the Hasiru Sene staged a silent protest here on Wednesday asking for complete loan waiver without any riders.

They tied black scarves around their mouth and distributed pamphlets to the public to highlight their demands.

Pre-poll promise by Karnataka CM

The farmers wanted Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy to keep his pre-election promise of total loan waiver without any riders and not set any limits.

Farmers staging a silent protest demanding loan waiver in Shimoga district.

The farmers said that apart from crop loans, the government should also waive agriculture development loans. Reminding the Chief Minister of his pre-election promise, the farmers said loans taken to purchase bullocks and bull carts, to women’s self-help groups too should be brought under the purview of waiver.

The KRRS and Hasiru Sene said they would continue with their protest and intensify it in case the Chief Minister failed to meet their demands.

The two organisations also sought a special package for revival of the agricultural sector and rejuvenation of the rural economy.They also urged the India  government to stop import of milk, and arecanut. 

This report originally appeared in The Hindu.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Mobilise for a UN Declaration, Now is the time to Globalise Our Struggle!


After ten long years of negotiations in Geneva, a ‘United Nations Declaration on Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas’ is now at the point of being finalised.
The draft text of the declaration, was discussed during the Fifth Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIWG) session between the 9th and the 13th of April 2018 at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). According to the Chair-Rapporteur of the session, “States commit the highest relevance and political will for the prompt adoption of the draft United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas”.
The Chair also stated that, “On the basis of the work carried on in the fifth session and informal and bilateral consultations, a final version of the draft declaration [will] be prepared by the Chair–Rapporteur and [will] be submitted to the Human Rights Council for its adoption”.
Later this year at the September session of UN HRC, countries will vote to adopt the text. Thereafter, the text will be tabled for final voting and adoption at the UN General Assembly.


Today over 1.2 billion peasants and their families, representing a third of the global population, face increasing violation of their rights – in the form of evictions from their lands and territories, unfavourable production and market policies, poor working conditions, ongoing criminalisation and killings, among others. This is a highly disturbing situation. Peasants and other people working in rural areas are key to achieving food security and food sovereignty, realising the right to food, fighting climate change, conserving biodiversity and revitalising rural areas.
This declaration will set a new standard for human rights. It promotes food sovereignty and supports the development and implementation of socio-economic policies that improve our food and agriculture system. It will also pave the way for the creation of public policies in favour of peasants and rural workers in countries where such policies do not exist. The UN Declaration will become a credible reference to improve existing policies further and give millions of rural peasant communities and workers an international voice.
It is therefore important to pressurise our governments to vote in favour of the final text of the declaration at the next session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018 and during the UN General Assemblyin New York.
In this context, La Via Campesina – a global movement of peasants, indigenous people, landless people, agricultural workers, women, and young people – is calling upon all our members and allies to mobilise and reach out to the respective governments, demand and convince them to vote in favour of this initiative that upholds humanity. We encourage everyone to create decentralised strategies to take the message of the Declaration to rural communities.


Send us the details of your mobilisations to and also spread the message wider on social media platforms. This is our chance to make ourselves heard, loud and clear!