Human health and nano-fertilizers – where is the safety clothing?
By Chandre Dharmawardana,
The rationale for banning agro-chemicals in May 2021 and “going all organic” was mostly the claimed (but false) “poisoning of the food chain” by “chemicals”. It was well known that organic farming even at its best can only supply a tiny fraction of any nation’s food requirements, unless drastic steps are taken (like halving the population and forcing all to be vegetarians; see https://www.dh-web.org/green/CD-Mueller-OrganicL.pdf). Today, having realized the impossibility of providing the vast amount of “organic fertilizer” needed even to get minimal harvests and avert famine, the government has done a knee-jerk purchase of nano-fertilizer from India.
A government working in the crisis mode has NOT asked if nano-urea can be a health hazard to farming communities, and instead accepted what the Indians say. The product was launched only on 31st May 2021 and sells in India at about $3-4 for a 500ml bottle. It is claimed that 11,000 farm trials were conducted by the Indian National Agriculture Research System in the preceding years. Looking at the published materiel I suspect that these only looked at yields and did NOT monitor the health of the farming communities. The preceding years even overlapped with the pandemic when health chaos prevailed.
Whether with DDT, thalidomide, glyphosate or nuclear waste, the impact on human health requires studies over several generations. With conventional materials, tests on micro-organisms and smaller animals with short life spans provide useful information. But this is not true for nanoparticles as their toxico-kinetic pathways are still quite unknown. Although the Indians say that the nano-urea has been tested for bio-safety and toxicity following Indian government guidelines as well as OECD “international guidelines”, no details have been published. It is an open secret that there are no accepted OECD guidelines for the toxicity of various nanomaterials. The earliest nanourea declared nearly two decades ago in the CN1269774C Chinese patent, other products like the hydroxy-apatite nanourea from SJP university which is a few years old, or the Indian product which is only a few months old, have not been adequately investigated for their environmental and health impact.
The claim by the Indians that their product is “eco-friendly” and safe to humans is an unsubstantiated statement, very likely to be false.
Nanoparticles are ultra-small. Their size is that of Covid-19 Corona virus particles. Being ultra-small, nanoparticles penetrate into foliage, roots or soil extremely efficiently. These materials, especially when sprayed, can get into human skin, eyes, ears, lungs, intestines etc., and instantly penetrate through epithelial layers into every organ and cell, womb and fetus, brain and neuron, chromosome and gene. They will act with high efficiency becoming hundreds of times more toxic than the parent substance from which the nanomaterial was manufactured. While the nanoparticle penetrates the foliage like a “magic bullet”, their action on soil and leaf organisms, and pollinating insects can be akin to a “cluster bomb” that destroys indiscriminately.
Lung inflammation, granuloma, and focal emphysema are found in studies on SiO2 nanoparticles. Gold nanoparticles are used in food technology and found to cause chromatin changes in the nucleus of human lung fibroblasts, making changes in gene expression in mouse fetus leading to lung cancers. Silver nanoparticles enter the intestinal mucus barrier and increase oxidative stress, damaging cell membranes, DNA, and chromosomes as well. Even at low concentrations, the toxicological effects of silver nanoparticles become evident, while abnormal cell damage, shrinkage, apoptosis, and skin cancers occur at higher concentrations.
Use of nanofertilizers creates a sophisticated agricultural industry that is the future. Nanofertilizers will increase yields, but they should be deployed with highly sophisticated safety clothing and usage protocols. Full-face masks and overalls should be unpenetrable to nanoparticles. The nanomaterials must be applied by trained farm technicians with the discipline of semi-conductor “clean-room” technicians who engage in the fabrication of nanomaterials.
My research on nanomaterials at the National Research Council of Canada since the 1980s have been for optical and electronic technologies where sealed fabrication plants are used in manufacturing. Similarly, in the context of agriculture, I have long advocated that the steps beyond the green revolution are these sophisticated technologies, but deployed within “sky-scraper” grow towers sealed from the environment, thereby freeing up farmland for reforestation. The alternative of using these technologies in the unprotected environment is like releasing synthetic viruses (nanoparticles) into ecosystems whose evolutionary tools have no defense against them.
Let us forget about the environment for the short term and ask about human safety. Where is the necessary nano-impregnable clothes and masks for the 1.2 million farmers who spray the nanourea? Furthermore, Nanourea should be sprayed so that the flora and fauna other than the targeted plants are spared. The long-term effects of such exposure are UNKNOWN at present.
In contrast to nanomaterials, conventional agrochemicals have been used for many decades. Substances like glyphosate or DDT have faced large-scale studies and periodic reviews sinCe the 1970s. The large-scale health study of the US government on Glyphosate with its adjuvents involved monitoring some 54,000 farming families over nearly a quarter century, ended in 2018 and established its safety. There had been many in-depth studies on most agrochemcials, and in many countries. In contrast, nanofertilizers have been available for a very short time, and we do not have reliable health-safety guidelines for these new materials.
The agricultural policies of the present government, or the previous government had been increasingly set by pseudoscience activists mesmerized by elite-class propaganda about creating toxin-free environments for themselves. They get their cues from wealthy environmental NGOs in California and Europe that list genetically engineered food as “Franken-food”. The local movement was strengthened by nationalists who equated traditional agriculture to “organic farming”, and by leftists who “heroically” target multinationals like Bayer-Monsanto.
So an unlikely combination of Colombo-7 tree-saving (“Ruk-Raekaganno”) types, Buddhist monks like Ven. Ratana, Marxist-inspired MONLAR activists, “Nath Deviyo” inspired shamans like the late Ms. Senanayaka of “Helasuvaya”, misguided academics like Dr. Nalin de Silva and their acolytes, lined up with medical doctors like Anurddha Padeniya of the GMOA, and Sanath Gunatilleke of California inspired by figures like Stephanie Seneff and “Dr”. Mercola.
Their band wagon blamed every non-communicable disease on agrochemicals. The rise of an unusual form of Kidney disease, now believed by many researchers to be caused by geologically polluted water containing fluorides and other salts was a trump card for them. A staunch supporter of traditional agriculture (and traditional medicine) could write (quite incorrectly) that “Paddy and other cultivations have been done in this country for thousands of years without chemical fertilizer. During these times there were no serious CKD problems. Started using Chemical Fertilizer from 1950s and after about 20 – 30 years serious CKD problems arose”.
Meanwhile scientists themselves had rightly begun to express serious concern over the excessive use of agrochemicals and the degradation of the soil and environment. This had begun to occur after the arrival of an uncontrolled “free” market, further primed by subsidized fertilizers.
So, the stage was set for tighter restrictions on agrochemicals. Instead, the Toxin-Free bandwagon set the pace. First came a ban on the popular herbicide “RoundUp” by the Sirisena government. Ven. Ratana was Sirisena’s prime mover in agriculture. This debilitated all agricultural sectors, causing a loss of at least three times the bond scam, and created the prospect of a collapse of tea exports. However, ideologically driven movements do not learn from evidence, and the present government decided to outsmart not only the Srisena government, but all other nations, by becoming the first to “go 100% organic” by banning all agrochemicals.
That ban was imposed like a bolt from the blue in May 2021. Even the military was diverted to making compost, while shipments of “chemical” fertilizers and pesticides were turned away. That it was impossible to generate enough organic fertilizer, containing at most a mere 2% of nitrogen to replace urea fertilizer with 46% N dawned on the government planners only when their yeoman efforts failed. This had been predicted in our earlier articles, already during the Sirisena era when the threat of the so-called “toxin-free” agriculture had loomed over the country.
So, in trying to create a “toxin-Free nation” based on 100% organic, a desperate government has come to its very antithesis, i.e., very high technology that deals only with artificial materials that are beyond anything organic or inorganic. It plans to explode a cluster bomb of nanoparticles on a fragile ecosystem and an unsuspecting citizenry.
Obtaining fresh mandate unavoidable requirement
by Jehan Perera
The government’s plans for reviving the economy show signs of working out for the time being. The long-awaited IMF loan is about to be granted. This would enable the government to access other loans to tide over the current economic difficulties. The challenge will be to ensure that both the old loans and new ones will be repayable. To this end the government has begun to implement its new tax policy which increases the tax burden significantly on income earners who can barely make ends meet, even without the taxes, in the aftermath of the rise in price levels. The government is also giving signals that it plans to downsize the government bureaucracy and loss-making state enterprises. These are reforms that may be necessary to balance the budget, but they are not likely to gain the government the favour of the affected people. The World Bank has warned that many are at risk of falling back into poverty, with 40 percent of the population living on less than 225 rupees per person per day.
The problem for the government is that the economic policies, required to stabilize the economy, are not popular ones. They are also politically difficult ones. The failure to analyse the past does not help us to ascertain reasons for our failures and also avoids taking action against those who had misused, or damaged, the system unfairly. The costs of this economic restructuring, to make the country financially viable, is falling heavily, if not disproportionately, on those who are middle class and below. Fixed income earners are particularly affected as they bear a double burden in being taxed at higher levels, at a time when the cost of living has soared. Unlike those in the business sector, and independent professionals, who can pass on cost increases to their clients, those in fixed incomes find it impossible to make ends meet. Emigration statistics show that over 1.2 million people, or five percent of the population, left the country, for foreign employment, last year.
The economic hardships, experienced by the people, has led to the mobilization of traditional trade unions and professionals’ organisations. They are all up in arms against the government’s income generation, at their expense. Last week’s strike, described as a token strike, was successful in that it evoked a conciliatory response from the government. Many workers did not keep away from work, perhaps due to the apprehension that they might not only lose their jobs, but also their properties, as threatened by one government member, who is close to the President. There was a precedent for this in 1981 when the government warned striking workers that they would be sacked. The government carried out its threat and over 40,000 government officials lost their jobs. They and their families were condemned to a long time in penury. The rest of society went along with the repression as the government was one with an overwhelming mandate from the people.
The striking unions have explained their decision to temporarily discontinue their strike action due to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s willingness to reconsider their economic grievances. More than 40 trade unions, in several sectors, joined the strike. They explained they had been compelled to resort to strike action as there was no positive response from the government to their demands. Due to the strike, services such as health, posts, and railways were affected. Workers in other sectors, including education, port, power, water supply, petroleum, road development, and banking services, also joined the strike. The striking unions have said they would take up the President’s offer to discuss their concerns with the government and temporarily called a halt to their strike action. This would give the government an opportunity to rethink its strategy. Unlike the government in 1981 this one has no popular mandate. In the aftermath of the protest movement, it has only a legal mandate.
So far, the government has been unyielding in the face of public discontent. Public protests have been suppressed. Protest leaders have been arrested and price and tax hikes have gone ahead as planned. The government has been justifying the rigid positions it has been taking on the basis of its prioritization of economic recovery for which both political stability and financial resources are necessary. However, by refusing to heed public opinion the government has been putting itself on a course of confrontation with organized forces, be they trade unions or political parties. The severity of the economic burden, placed on the larger section of society, even as other sectors of society appear to be relatively unaffected, creates a perception of injustice that needs to be mitigated. Engaging in discussion with the trade unions and reconsidering its approach to those who have been involved in public protests could be peace making gestures in the current situation.
On the other hand, exacerbating the political crisis is the government’s continuing refusal to hold the local government elections, as scheduled, on two occasions now by the Elections Commission and demanded by law. The government’s stance is even in contradiction to the Supreme Court’s directives that the government should release the financial resources necessary for the purpose leading to an ever-widening opposition to it. The government’s determination to thwart the local government elections stems from its pragmatic concerns regarding its ability to fare well at them. Public opinion polls show the government parties obtaining much lower support than the opposition parties. Except for the President, the rest of the government consists of the same political parties and government members that faced the wrath of the people’s movement a year ago and had to resign in ignominy.
The government’s response to the pressures it is under has been to repress the protest movement through police action that is especially intolerant of street protests. It has also put pressure on state institutions to conform to its will, regardless of the law. The decisions of the Election Commission to set dates for the local government elections have been disregarded once, and the elections now appear to have to be postponed yet again. The government is also defying summons upon its ministers by the Human Rights Commission which has been acting independently to hold the government to account to the best extent it can. The government’s refusal to abide by the judicial decision not to block financial resources for election purposes is a blow to the rule of law that will be to the longer-term detriment of the country. These are all negative trends that are recipes for future strife and lawlessness. These would have long term and unexpected implications not to the best for the development of the country or its values.
There are indications that President Wickremesinghe is cognizant of the precariousness of the situation. The accumulation of pressures needs to be avoided, be it for gas at homes or issues in the country. As an experienced political leader, student of international politics, he would be aware of the dangers posed by precipitating a clash involving the three branches of government. A confrontation with the judiciary, or a negation of its decisions, would erode the confidence in the entire legal system. It would damage the confidence of investors and the international community alike in the stability of the polity and its commitment to the rule of law. The public exhortations of the US ambassador with regard to the need to conduct the local government elections would have driven this point home.
It is also likely that the US position on the importance of holding elections on time is also held by the other Western countries and Japan. Sri Lanka is dependent on these countries, still the wealthiest in the world, for its economic sustenance, trade and aid, in the form of concessional financing and benefits, such as the GSP Plus tariff concession. Therefore, the pressures coming from both the ground level in the country and the international community, may push the government in the direction of elections and seeking a mandate from the people. Strengthening the legitimacy of the government to govern effectively and engage in problem solving in the national interest requires an electoral mandate. The mandate sought may not be at the local government level, where public opinion polls show the government at its weakest, but at the national level which the President can exercise at his discretion.
Sing-along… Down Memory Lane
Sing-alongs have turned out to be hugely popular, in the local showbiz scene, and, I would say, it’s mainly because they are family events, and also the opportunity given to guests to shine, in the vocal spotlight, for a minute, or two!
I first experienced a sing-along when I was invited to check out the famous Rhythm World Dance School sing-along evening.
It was, indeed, something different, with Sohan & The X-Periments doing the needful, and, today, Sohan and his outfit are considered the No.1 band for sing-along events.
I’m told that the first ever sing-along concert, in Sri Lanka, was held on 27th April, 1997, and it was called Down Memory Lane (DML), presented by the Moratuwa Arts Forum (MAF),
The year 2023 is a landmark year for the MAF and, I’m informed, they will be celebrating their Silver Jubilee with a memorable concert, on 29th April, 2023, at the Grand Bolgoda Resort, Moratuwa.
Due to the Covid pandemic, their sing-along series had to be cancelled, as well as their planned concert for 2019. However, the organisers say the delayed 25th Jubilee Celebration concert is poised to be a thriller, scheduled to be held on 29th April, 2023.
During the past 25 years, 18 DML concerts had been held, and the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will be the 19th in the series.
Famous, and much-loved, ‘golden oldies’, will be sung by the audience of music lovers, at this two and a half hours programme.
Down Memory Lane was the brainchild of musician Priya Peiris, (of ‘Cock-a-Doodle-Do’ fame) and the MAF became the pioneers of sing-along concerts in Sri Lanka.
The repertoire of songs for the 25th Jubilee Celebration concert will include a vast selection of international favourites, Cowboy and old American Plantation hits, Calypsos, Negro Spirituals, everybody’s favourites, from the ’60s and ’70s era, Sinhala evergreens, etc.
Singers from the Moratuwa Arts Forum will be on stage to urge the audience to sing. The band Echo Steel will provide the musical accompaniment for the audience to join in the singing, supported by Brian Coorey, the left handed electric bass guitarist, and Ramany Soysa on grand piano.
The organisers say that every participant will get a free songbook. There would also be a raffle draw, with several prizes to be won,
Arun Dias Bandaranaike will be the master of ceremonies.
President of the Moratuwa Arts Forum, Melantha Perera, back from Australia, after a successful tour, says: “All music lovers, especially Golden Oldies enthusiasts, are cordially invited to come with their families, and friends, to have an enjoyable evening, and to experience heartwarming fellowship and bonhomie.”
Further details could be obtained from MAF Treasurer, Laksiri Fernando (077 376 22 75).
CATCH 22 for
‘Ranpota’ hitmaker Nimal Jayamanne has got a new outfit going, made up of veteran musicians.
The band is called CATCH 22 and they, officially, started performing at The Warehouse (TWH), on 2nd March 2023.
The members are Nimal Jayamanne, R. Sumith Jayaratne, Duminda Sellappruma, Keerthi Samarasekara and Sajith Mutucumarana.
Says Nimal: “I took this name (CATCH 22) as a mark of respect to the late and great Hassan Musafer, who was the drummer of the original Catch 22.
You could catch Nimal in action, on Thursday evenings, at TWH, from 7 pm onwards.
Till recently, Nimal, who underwent a cataract operation, on his left eye, last week, was with Warehouse Legends, and has this to say about them:
“Thank you Warehouse Legends for letting me be an active member of your team, during the past year and 14 days. I wish you all the best.”
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