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Toxin gonibillas cry wolf again, wanting agrochemical ban

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Organic farming uses manual weeding and tilling of soil. It uses water to control weeds in paddy fields. All these greatly add to soil erosion, land and water use. They are out of the question if the world is to avert a climate catastrophe where the tropics would become un-inhabitable by 2050. Instead we need an agriculture with NO tilling, reduces land and water use. We need net-negative carbon. Organic agriculture or “traditional” methods, meso-american milpas, Israeli Fellah’s farms etc., cannot do this and feed an eight-billion world population.. Even a very gradual adoption of “organic” is not feasible.

By Chandre Dharmawardana,
chandre.dharma@yahoo.ca

Grave economic damage and political turmoil were triggered in Sri Lanka by fear mongering and indicting agrochemicals as dangerous toxins that should be banned. The bogeymen have shamelessly emerged from the woodwork again, even after the protests of farmers whose destiny has been compromised by Colombo Elites who demand to choose what they eat – organic food, bio-dynamic recipes, traditional but low-yielding rice varieties, etc., while the poor die of hunger and add their bodies to the compost heap of the toxin-free farmer.

Dr. Ranil Senanayake (RanilS) writes in the guise of replying Prof. Oliver Illeperuma (OilverI), and talks of “The fiction of healthy toxins” ( https://island.lk/the-fiction-of-healthy-toxins/) whereas Oliver I had titled his write up as “Lifting glyphosate ban – fact and fiction” (https://island.lk/lifting-glyphosate-ban-facts-and-fiction/). By changing the title, Dr. Senanayake ignores the issue of glyphosate entirely, sets up a false strawman and raises the specter of the toxin bogeyman (Gonibilla). RanilS engages in alarmist fear-mongering instead of replying Dr. Illeperuma’s focused discussion on the banning of Glyphosate.

The simple answer to RanilS is that Glyphosate is NOT a toxin when compared to the highly toxic copper sulphate pal-manikkam, mineral sulphur and many other dangerous toxins” that he and other advocates of organic farming believe in adding to soils under the labels of “organic farming”, “hela govithena”, “traditional agriculture, sustainable farming” and so forth.

Even 300 mg of Vitamin A is a toxin, but Vitamin A is utterly beneficial (and necessary) to good health at the recommended doses. Glyphosate is not toxic to humans or higher animals even at 500 times the recommended usage in agriculture, and does NOT bio-accumulate in plants or animal tissues as we rise up the web of life. Unlike DDT and other “fore-ever chemicals”, glyphosate does not accumulate in the ecosystem. Research shows that when glyphosate is added (accidentally or by design) to contaminated soils, such soils rejuvenate and the biomass of microorganisms, earthworms etc., INCREASES in number (see: Zhou et al, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, volume 33, pages 2351–2357, year 2014).

Meanwhile, Dr. RanilS says “Bioaccumulation or bio-concentration in this sense does not refer to the human body as suggested by the ‘kidney’ comment; it refers to the agroecosystem! The concentration ratio means that if there is one part of toxin in the environment, it will be concentrated along the food chain at increasing levels. The concentration ratio of standard agrotoxins ranges from 1:3900 to over 1: 92,000.

Let us take copper sulphate that Dr. RanilS and other organic farmers believe in adding to their soils. If the copper is accumulated in plants, and if those plant debris is reused in composting, the bioaccumulation will be repeated at an even greater intensity in the compost. And yet that is exactly what Dr. RanilS wants farmers to use, when he switches off the fear-mongering to support “organic”.

Can Dr. RanilS name one plant that can accumulate glyphosate even at 1:1 let alone 1: 92,000 ratio?Composting, crucial to Organic farming releases methane and also carbon dioxide. Both are greenhouse gases (GHG) that accelerate runaway global warming. The effect is more serious than from the Harber-Bosch process (HBP) for the production of urea. HBP scavenges methane from oil fields and prevents its release as a GHG.So in practice HB is a net-green process. Furthermore, where a few kilos of mineral fertiliser suffice, the organic farmer has to deploy a tonne of compost to get the same harvests, and so generate a thousand times more GHG than in using modern agrochemicals.

Organic farming uses manual weeding and tilling of soil. It uses water to control weeds in paddy fields. All these greatly add to soil erosion, land and water use. They are out of the question if the world is to avert a climate catastrophe where the tropics would become un-inhabitable by 2050. Instead we need an agriculture with NO tilling, reduces land and water use. We need net-negative carbon. Organic agriculture or “traditional” methods, meso-american milpas, Israeli Fellah’s farms etc., cannot do this and feed an eight-billion world population.. Even a very gradual adoption of “organic” is not feasible.

Nostalgia-based farming models illustrated in the documentary movie (Biggest Little Farm, https://www.apricotlanefarms.com/biggest-little-farm/) mistakenly believe that everything can be accomplished using increased bio-diversity in farms. It may work if the world population were below 4 billion, and if humans consumed no meat or dairy products. So, what RanilS and others are advocating is nothing short of accelerating the climate catastrophe that is upon us. I have given a more detailed discussion in: https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/beyond-the-green-revolution-how-humanity-needs-cutting-edge-technology-to-save-itself/

Not surprisingly, Dr. RanilS does not want questions on the ban of glyphosate. Venerable Ratana, who championed the glyphosate ban in the Yahapalanaya era cited RanilS as a “scientist who is with us”. In “Banning glyphosate: A political time bomb? 26-May-2015 Island I outlined the scientific error and the dangerous endgame of such a ban. That time bomb, re-launched by the Pohottuwa government exploded in the hands of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa when the farmers revolted.Dr. Buddhi Marmbe, a leading agricultural scientist had shown (see: Weed Science, volume 68(3), pages 246-252, year 2020) that the economic damage to the country from the glyphosate ban perpetrated by the Yahapalanaya government, instigated by Ratana Thera and his advisors, amounts to many times the damage done by the Bond scam. And yet, Ven. Ratana, Dr. RanilS as well as Dr. Anurudhdha Padeniya campaigned claiming that Sri Lankans have been poisoned since the 1970s with the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Dr. RanilS in fact produced an incorrect graph in 2016, claiming that the incidence of non-communicable diseases (e.g., diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, dementia, cardio-vascular diseases) has grown EXPONENTIALLY since 1970.

But his very graph established his grievous error, as it showed NO exponential behaviour, and NO evidence for the claimed toxicity, but merely displayed the expected linear increase associated with the increase life-expectancy resulting from the gross reduction in malnutrition produced by modern agriculture! A number of us pointed out in 2021 December the error in Dr. RanilS’s exponential-growth fallacy. Then he excused himself saying that the graph was drawn in haste. But now, in 2022 October he again writes in the Island,

“It is sad to witness the defence of the indefensible. If one looks at the statistics of rural health, it is clearly seen that the appearance of non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) in the rural sector began in the early 70s and has been rising exponentially since. If one looks for a significant correlation, it will be seen that it was around this time that the nation began its entry into the ‘green revolution’ or fossil energy and chemical supported agriculture. If the price for self-sufficiency in rice leads to a national health disaster should one not be promoting the popular slogan of toxin free agriculture?

So, Dr. RanilS is deliberately disseminating falsehoods, knowing that there is no exponential growth, given the admission at an e-mail symposium on biofilm fertilizers that we conducted in November-December 2021, which may be accessed at https://dh-web/green/BBF?index.html

However, quite unfazed by their own slips and fallacies, Dr. RanilS, Dr. Padeniya and their friends want the Sri Lankan farmer to adopt farming methods where the output is less than two metric tonnes per hectare, while modern farming methods easily yield 4-6 tones/ha, while more optimal good farming practices should yield up to 10-12 tonnes/ha, as in India or Egypt. It is these higher yields that have given the people an 80-year life expectancy, unlike prior to the 1960s.For those who seek more detailed analyses of the fear-mongering falsehoods of the RanilS-Ven. Ratana camp, I add the following internet links to useful documents.

The nonsense that Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya has broadcast, claiming that agrochemical toxins have made Sri Lankans sick, in following the ideologies of Dr. Ranil Senanayake et al has been rigorously shredded by the renowned environmentalist Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda in a U-tube response in Sinhala that may be accessed at: https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AJp%2DCX5bpWS4LUo&cid=B41356F321656C67&id=B41356F321656C67%2192406&parId=B41356F321656C67%2192398&o=OneUp. My shorter, English-language response may be found at https://dh-web.org/green/cdw-Padeniya18May2021E.pdf

Surprisingly, those who are taking a number of economists and politicians to the courts for causing economic damage to the country failed to include the rogue “agriculturalists”, rogue “doctors” and rogue “clairvoyants” who claimed direct knowledge from God Natha and misled the policy makers in a matter as crucial as food security.



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Opinion

Science vs religion – II

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Of course, there are many shortcomings and limitations of the scientific method. Scientific knowledge alone is certainly not enough to make humans attain their full potential. The human values we live by, and questions of meaning and purpose, morality or ethics. are not amenable to hypotheses, modelling, and mathematical equations. They rely on methods that are interpretive, speculative, and philosophical.

By GOVIND BHATTACHARJEE

(The first part of this article reproduced from our Asia News Network partner in India, The Statesman, appeared on 25 Nov.)

“The known is finite, the unknown infinite”, the British biologist Thomas Huxley wrote in 1887, “Intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land.”

Before the last century, the vast unknown territory of inexplicability was ruled by religion.But the last century has seen a tremendous explosion of scientific knowledge, and ever since, science has been reclaiming more and more territory from religion so that scholars started predicting a diminishing relevance and eventual disappearance of religion from human society.

While it is true that religion’s stranglehold has been remarkably weakened in most countries during the last half-century, except in the diehard Islamic states which stubbornly refuse to reform Islam, the resurgence of religion in our contemporary socio-political life negates the prediction of religion’s demise.

There is too much religion on the streets now that is increasingly intruding unto our lives. It is not the spirituality that Sagan had talked about, it is religion in its crudest original form – bloodthirsty, demanding total and unquestioning allegiance from its followers who would not shy away from spilling the blood of non-believers. While science continues to conquer ever newer frontiers and invents technologies that are revolutionising our society, a full transition to a scientific society is not possible without the complete displacement of religion.

From medicine to biotech, from electronics to telecommunication, from AI to nanoscience, the progress of science during the last 50 years has completely transformed the way we organize society, conduct business, and connect with people for ideation.

The paradox is that while we are exploring the frontiers of science and technology driven by limitless human yearning and thirst for knowledge, we are also reinforcing the prejudices, bigotry, and intolerance of contrary ideas and beliefs in our social and public life with renewed vigour and pride. Of course, there are many shortcomings and limitations of the scientific method.Scientific knowledge alone is certainly not enough to make humans attain their full potential. The German philosopher Edmund Husserl argued against recurrent tendencies of applying the methods of natural science in the research of human affairs, which are essentially outside empirical scientific approaches.

The human values we live by, and questions of meaning and purpose, morality or ethics, etc. are not amenable to hypotheses, modelling, and mathematical equations. They rely on methods that are interpretive, speculative, and philosophical. This is always an epistemological problem in social sciences, and this is where religion is supposed to supplement the techno-scientific worldview of science to understand how Nature works her laws in the universe and in human society.

But Nature also includes her children and us humans, and her well-being depends on their activities. No one knows that better than us, especially at this juncture of time when the world is precariously poised between sustainability and irreversible devastation from uncontrolled human greed.

Religion was supposed to impart and promote morality, ethics, love, and compassion among humans to make them understand their symbiotic relationships with nature, with fellow beings, and with animals. Religion was supposed to teach humans to limit their greed, increase empathy towards others, and strike a harmonious balance with nature to make the world a better place for all to live. What it has done and the moral blindness it has promoted instead is for all to see and judge.

Religion today is relentlessly marching to colonize every aspect of our socio-economic and political life with increasing aggressiveness. Suffering has been trivialised by it, the pain has been glorified by it, killing has been sanctified by it and the tattered social fabric that has resulted is being flaunted with egotistical pleasure and pride.

Though it will be unfair to blame religion alone, it has to take a large share of the blame for this sorry state of affairs. It is propelling us energetically to forget our humanity and respect for those who do not share our faith and driving us towards an Orwellian world where intercultural understanding, the richness of culture and diversity, and the ideal of an inclusive and pluralistic society are strongly denounced in favour of a blind pursuance of faith as dictated by its self-proclaimed guardians and their bigoted followers.

The ideal of peace and harmony are receding at the speed of light as religion strives to regain the territory it has lost to science and is countering science with what can best be described as a pseudoscience that is carving out a niche for itself – and a wide one at that.To quote Huxley again, “The question of all questions for humanity is that of the determination of man’s place in nature and his relation to the Cosmos.”

Religion derived sustenance from the concept that humanity was positioned proudly at the centre of God’s magnificent creation, the Earth, around which revolved everything, and humanity – the crowning achievement of God’s creation in his own image, the pinnacle of his divine handiwork, occupied the centre-stage on this earth.Science would shatter the concept, but not before thousands of Giordano Brunos were burned at the stake for holding a contrary view.

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Thomas Kuhn convincingly explained how paradigm shifts take place in the history of science when one dominant worldview is replaced by another. He showed that scientific progress is like Darwinian evolution – a process of selection of one amongst all the competing theories that have the most predictive power puzzle-solving ability, a concept that was later supported by Bas van Fraassen in The Scientific Image (1980).

But each such major paradigm shift has shaken the edifice of religion from which it could never recover. Thus, when the geocentric Ptolemaic worldview was replaced by the Copernican worldview, man lost his centrality in the scheme of things. Till then, heaven was in the sky, hell was underground and God in heaven ruled all three while religion regulated the entry to heaven or hell.

Copernicus banished the earth from the centre of the Universe, and later Hubble displaced the entire Milky way from the centre of the universe, giving us instead an expanding universe of billions of galaxies in which neither is humanity at the centre of creation nor is the earth at the centre of the universe; in fact, the universe itself is one tiny dot in a multiverse of many universes.

Thus, God’s magnificent creation has been relegated to the position of a second-rate planet attached to a third-rate star, discarding religion’s medieval fancies. Today we are humbled by the immensity of the universe and mesmerized by the eternal silence of infinite space.

But for religion, the determination of man’s place in nature and his relation to the cosmos was not a question, it was an irrefutable truth questioning which meant inviting risk. Copernicus wrote De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelesticum on his deathbed in 1543, beyond the morbid reach of the Inquisition.

Galileo and Bruno were not that fortunate. Science established that neither does life enjoy any special privilege – countless worlds exist in deep space devoid of life, and countless species have become extinct in the course of evolution. We may be one someday, and going by our misdeeds on this planet, that day even may not be too far.

Darwin would finally dislodge humanity from the centre of the biological universe, giving it a lowly ancestor that was too humble compared to an almighty God to be a creator of such intelligence as possessed by man. Thankfully, the inquisition was dead, but prejudiced minds that shun logic were not. They are again back at the centre stage in force, flaunting scriptures, dictating how we should conduct ourselves, threatening to push us into a hell of ignominy and violence if we disobey.

Creationism is still being taught in many US public schools, despite the Supreme Court ruling to the contrary. Half the people in the USA still don’t believe in evolution, their share in India is unknown. But here, vigorous attempts are now on somehow bringing God inside the classroom in any guise, be it a hijab, or anything else.

Worship only makes you a slave. A slave forgets his reason, and his purpose for existence, and ultimately becomes an automaton to serve the master – Religion – and obey its commands without thinking.Religion is not the source of spirituality, peace, morality, virtue, and ethics any longer. Its principles may be eternal, but its methods are gross. It has now become the source of violence, hatred, unconcealed greed, corruption, and a road to power.

Instead of breaking barriers, it is building them afresh, destroying the very roots upon which mankind has built civilizations through the millennia. Don’t expect the State to control religion and the street will always celebrate it with ever-ostentatious pomp and splendour. It is therefore for us citizens to shield our children from the corrupting influences of religion. It has no place in the fabric of the mind of civilized men and women, just as God has no place in the fabric of the space-time that science tries to untangle. We don’t need the ancient wisdom of the spirit to guide us, because religion which was supposed to imbibe it has lost its divinity. It is now for science to redeem religion.

(Concluded)

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Opinion

A dreamer’s dream

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Last night as usual I watched the local news, leaving aside the World News and the FIFA matches on TV, looking for some encour-aging news about the financial situation in our country. On all TV Channels The daily scenes in Parliament are always the same very chaotic and a waste of time to listen. The arguments in Parliament resembles the Maria Kade fish market between some women, accusing one another in filth.

Rather disappointed I fell asleep. I dreamt I was at the Aragalaya on the Galle Face Green packed with jolly enthusiastic people seemed on holiday-spirit singing and enjoying the music, and some drowning the noise with speeches through loudspeakers. Walking around I noticed there was a bus with a full load of passengers stuck and surrounded by a mob who was trying to topple it.

Finally the bus toppled and they all clapped and cheered not caring for the poor frightened passengers in the bus. One of the mob leaders gave a speeh and then got the bus upright, and tried to start it, but couldn’t. Then they pushed and it wouldn’t start as the tank was empty . The wounded passengers came out crying some wounded with fractures and bleeding. Someone phoned for ambulances but none came. To my horror the Aragalaya then attacked that mob who toppled the bus and in the utter choas I woke up in a cold swept.

Recollecting my dream I wondered whether this dream is similar to what would happen to our country.

D. L. Sirimanne,
Kohuwela

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Opinion

How many people can the Earth sustain?

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=On Nov 15 November 2022, we became a world of 8 billion people. 

It’s a milestone we can celebrate, and an occasion to reflect: How can we create a world in which all 8 billion of us can thrive? The growth of our population is a testament to humanity’s achievements, including reductions in poverty and gender inequality, advancements in health care, and expanded access to education. These have resulted in more women surviving childbirth, more children surviving their early years, and longer, healthier lifespans, decade after decade.

Looking beyond the averages, at the populations of countries and regions, the picture is much more nuanced – and quickly takes us beyond the numbers themselves. Stark disparities in life expectancy point to unequal access to health care, opportunities and resources, and unequal burdens of violence, conflict, poverty and ill health.

Birth rates vary from country to country, with some populations still growing fast, others beginning to shrink. But underlying these trends, whichever way they point, is a widespread lack of choice. Discrimination, poverty and crisis – as well as coercive policies that violate the reproductive rights of women and girls – put sexual and reproductive health care and information, including contraception and sex education, out of reach for far too many people.

We face serious challenges as a global community, including the mounting impacts of climate change, ongoing conflicts and forced displacement. To meet them, we need resilient countries and communities. And that means investing in people and making our societies inclusive, so that everyone is afforded a quality of life that allows them to thrive in our changing world.

To build demographic resilience, we need to invest in better infrastructure, education and health care, and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. We need to systematically remove the barriers – based on gender, race, disability, sexual orientation or migration status – that prevent people from accessing the services and opportunities they need to thrive.

We need to rethink models of economic growth and development that have led to overconsumption and fuelled violence, exploitation, environmental degradation and climate change, and we need to ensure that the poorest countries – which did not create these problems, yet bear the brunt of their impacts – have the resources to build the resilience and well-being of their growing populations.

We need to understand and anticipate demographic trends, so that governments can make informed policies and resource allocations to equip their populations with the right skills, tools and opportunities.

But while demographic trends can help guide the policy choices we make as societies, there are other choices – including if and when to have children – that policy cannot dictate, because they belong to each individual. This right to bodily autonomy underlies the full range of our human rights, forming a foundation for resilient, inclusive and thriving societies that can meet the challenges of our world. When our bodies and futures are our own, we are #8BillionStrong.

(UNFPA)

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