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What should one do when scientists differ on safety of glyphosate?

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by Chandre Dharmawardana,
chandre.dharma@yahoo.ca

Ravindra Jayananda (RJ), has written to The Island (18-10-2022) expressing concern on my article (14-10-22, The Island) entitled “Toxin gonibillas cry wolf again, wanting agrochemical ban”. I thank him for raising these concerns, although I myself, and previous writers like Dr. Waidyanatha, Dr. Illeperuma, Dr. C. S. Weeraratne, Dr. Buddhi Marambe and many others have also addressed them from time to time, in previous newspaper articles.For instance, Jayananda (who I believe is an engineering academic), has raises the following issues.

(a) He (i.e., Professor Dharmawardana) claims that Glyphosate is not a toxin and goes to say that, even 300 mg of vitamin A is a toxin…(then)…everything is toxic depending on the dose.

Exactly. This was stated six centuries ago by Paracelsus, the father of toxicology, with his famous dictum, “What is there that is not poison? All things are poison and nothing is without poison. Solely the dose determines that a thing is not a poison.”

There are basically two extremes of toxicity, known as “acute toxicity” and “chronic toxicity”. The relevant dosages are quite different, and it is very important to distinguish between them. Acute toxicity is the immediate toxicity if you ingest a large amount of the substance at once, either orally, via the skin, or by inhalation. The lethal dose for oral, dermal, or inhalation toxicity are widely different even for once substance. For oral acute toxicity to kill 50% of the rats in a sample, approximately 4-5 grams of glyphosate per kilo of body weight are needed. Animal and human data suggest that a 60 kg human would be at extreme risk if he/she were to drink a cup (200 ml) of full-strength glyphosate. So, it is much safer than many common pharmaceuticals and household cleaners as far as acute toxicity is concerned. A safety factor of 100 is applied to results based on animal experiments in extrapolating to humans.

However, what is important is the chronic toxicity of any substance. This results from prolonged intake of very small quantities over a long time. The Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) is an expert ad hoc body of the FAO and WHO for the purpose of risk assessments of pesticide residues and their long-term effects. A press statement by the JMPR, May 16th 2016 in Geneva, states that no significant chronic toxicity has been found for glyphosate. This is definitely the case for all higher animals. This assessment was re-confirmed by the “Giant Study” published in 2018 on glyphoaste toxicity to humans conducted by the US government Dept. of health using some 54,000 farmers and their families (amounting to over 90,000 people) who regularly used commercial glyphosate formulations (containing adjuvants), over a period of 23 years (see: http://www.dailynews.lk/2018/04/19/features/148615/glyphosate-ban-has-gmoa-studied-research/ ) . No unusual increased risk of cancer among them was found, when compared to the general population that does NOT use agrochemicals.

However, a controversy has been launched, mainly by the opponents of Genetically Modified (GM) Foods who also oppose glyphosate for its key role in GM agriculture, based on the fact that glyphosate is toxic to some micro-organisms and hence they argue, invoking the so-called “precautionary principle” that the glyphosate should be banned. Furthermore, based on such observations, the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC) ruled in 2014 that glyphosate may probably be carcinogenic to humans although not established to be so. This was prior to the 2018 Giant Study by the US Dept. of health. Hence at that time it was classified as a class-II carcinogen, unlike tobacco, wine or red meat which are established carcinogens and hence classified as class-I.

The anti-Glyhosate and anti-GM lobby continue to quote the IARC classification of 2018, while ignoring the JMPR press release of 2016, or the Giant US Dept. study released in 2018. When litigation is made against glyphosate, the jurors selected from the general public are already frightened by the fear-mongering that has gone on for decades against glyphosate, and court verdicts are invariably against the use of glyphosate.

Environmental organisations like the so-called “Friends of the earth”, Greenpeace, etc were warned by a joint press statement signed by 107 Nobel laureates (carried by, e.g., The Washington Post, July 2016 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/06/29/more-than-100-nobel-laureates-take-on-greenpeace-over-gmo-stance/ ), inviting those “environmental organizations” to not to propagate false information or back so-called “research” which is “setup” to give results against agrochemicals and GM foods.

(b) The ban of Glyphosate by advanced countries is a strong indication that there is a problem with the use of Glyphosate.

This shows the political power of fear mongering against agrochemicals that started in the advanced countries. The legitimate cry of warning against the misuse of agrochemicals initiated in the 1970s by writers like Rachel Carson was used by Richard Nixon, a cunning US politician to win the Green vote in California by banning DDT, and imposing punitive sanctions on countries that use DDT. However, in 2006 the Pasteur Institute in France showed that the domestic use of DDT for the control of mosquitoes was completely safe, while its use in agriculture is not. The US still prevents the export of DDT to African countries where it is badly needed.

Most bans of glyphosate are “paper legislation”. Various politicians campaign to ban glyphosate, and even pass legislation, but remain without being gazetted or applied in practice, or the ban is lifted when farm incomes collapse, as in Sri Lanka. In Lichtenstein, the legislation contravenes EU rules and is under a Court Injunction. In France, President Macron promised to ban Gylphosate, but delayed its application indefinitely. In Macron’s new second term too, practical reality has displaced electoral polemics (see the review in the French newspaper Le Mond, 19-Oct-2022). Health Canada, US Dept. of Health, and similar agencies in the UK, Japan, China, India, and News Zealand have upheld the safety of glyphosate.

(c) There are numerous research articles by scientists on this topic… and that they emphasize the negative effects of the use of Glyphosate.

Indeed, when scientists differ, the public (as well as scientists who are not directly in research on the topic) should follow the mainstream point of view. Google, Scopus etc., should be used for an initial search and only peer-reviewed publications or symposia sponsored by learned societies should be used. The WHO, FAO and their offshoots like IARC, JMPR etc., provide the main-stream scientific view on pesticide usage.

The “numerous research articles” against glyphosate may quote reviews articles, e.g., by Mayers et al (2016, Environmental Health, DOI 10.1186/s12940-016-0117-0) or that by Vandenberg (2017), “Is it time to assess current safety standards for glyphosate-based herbicides? However, such reassessments, even those published since the 2018 completely and conveniently ignore the Giant Study by the US Dept. of health and similar studies in their so-called “reassessments! The EU will make a new official reassessment in December 2022, and most probably re-affirm its usage for another four years.

(d) We should not forget that the multinationals are famous for influencing even the scientific researchers by providing grants for research and PhD degrees. So, if such contrary results can be found … the scientific community has not conclusively given their verdict on this issue

This is precisely why we should follow the UN-based international organisations like the WHO, FAO etc. rather than individual Ph.D studies. The influence-peddling multinationals are not just agrochemical companies, but also foreign-funded NGOs and political operators and organic-food lobby group wanting to capture a larger share of the food market. At present they cater merely to the elite strata, and provide less than 2% of the world’s food needs. In spite of their efforts, many large chains of organic food in Europe have filed bankruptcy in the inflationary aftermath of Covid.

An Engineer launching a building project follows the accepted Building code rather than the ancient “Mayaamatha” building manual based on astrology used medieval ancient Sri Lanka.

The views on agriculture expressed by “Friends of the Earth” groups, self-styled “Environmental Justice” activists, the likes of Vanadana Shiva in India, Ven Ratana, or Ven SamanthaBadhra of the Umandawa project, (or the views of Prof. Nalin de Silva who rejects modern science as a fallacious Western tool for domination), or those who push the teachings of “traditional hela agriculture”, are inconsistent with main-stream science.

While Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and many other countries that lagged behind Sri Lanka in the 1960s are now advanced countries with high standards of living, Sri Lanka has failed due to continued experiments with its destiny by implementing ideology-based developmental policies inspired by jingoism and “revolution”, rather than depending on evidence-based technology-inspired policies.



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Opinion

Dr. Mrs Malwattage Josephine Sarojini Perera

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An embodiment of elegance, dedication, compassion and love

A tribute

It is just three years on the 6th of December 2022, since you left this mortal world and were taken by a posse of God’s angels to your heavenly abode. That occurrence submerged all of us, in your immediate and extended family, as well as all your friends and your patients, in the intolerable gloom left by a dazzling light being extinguished forever. Even in death, you had that radiant smile that you were renowned for, the one which warmed the cockles of all our hearts, day in and day out.

The lady was always like the lovely moon that brings light to the darkest night. Indeed, for all of us her loved ones, she was like no other woman that you are ever likely to meet. In her life on planet earth, she had the temperament of a celestial being, together with the marvellous spirit of a very gentle and gorgeous member of humanity. She was also the absolute embodiment of what it was like to be a lady of uninhibited grandeur. To have and to hold a woman like that, one had to be tremendously lucky; in return, one simply had to try ever so hard to treat her like the precious treasure she was.

Her heart was as soft as the wings of a butterfly and it beat ever so serenely in a way in which she would try her best to give even the world to her loved ones. She has occasionally been through moments gloomier than midnight but she always, and ever so quickly too, came out of them, to end up that much stronger, richer in spirit, and even more resilient than ever before. Her only weakness was that she cared so much for others. In everything she did, she hardly ever, if not never, put herself first. One of the kindest of souls that walked the earth, she was ever ready to forgive even some lapses on the part of those around her and the people she loved.

In her chosen vocation in healthcare, in a career spanning 45 years, which involved operative surgery, paediatrics, out-patient stints, blood bank work, rheumatology, sexually transmitted diseases, and finally working with those afflicted and affected by HIV/AIDS, she was just like a beacon of hope and succour to a flock of suffering mankind, who had the good fortune to come under her empathetic radar. Sitting and watching her dealing with a woman who had caught HIV through no fault on the part of the patient, was an abject lesson in medical professionalism. Sarojini did her very best for her patients, even more than anybody could ever have asked for. She would go even further than that legendary extra mile for them, as much as she did for those who needed her attention and care, and for those whom she loved in this world. I consider myself to have been ever so fortunate to have been one on whom her love was showered; in abundance at that.

The Good Lord above, in his perpetual wisdom, had elected to spare her the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current economic crisis by taking her into his bosom in 2019. Yet for all that, if she was with us, she most certainly would have been in her element and would have taken all those problems in her stride. She would have given her all to those suffering in the pandemic and the economic crisis. That would have been her response; one that anyone could have counted on, and one which would have been implemented with no strings attached.

I knew her for over half a century, from the time she entered the Faculty of Medicine, Colombo in my immediate junior batch and for 44 years 7 months and 11 days I had been tied to her with the golden thread of wedlock. Those were most definitely the happiest days of my existence. The rewards were unbelievable. She was the absolute epitome of a model wife and a splendid mother.

We do uncontrollably grieve at our loss, day in and day out. Our tears of desolation see no bounds whatsoever. However, we also try ever so hard, to take solace in the immortal words of Her Majesty, the late Queen Elizabeth the second “Grief is the price we pay for love.” In Sarojini, even in our worst hours of despair, we remember the sterling and fabulous memories of a unique woman for whom the word ‘love’ was ever so special. She was indeed the pure essence of love.

I am quite certain that if my late wife Dr Sarojini Perera was to reply to our lamentations, the following would be her characteristic, abiding and natural response.

So……, live your life

As I sit in heaven and watch you every day,

I try to let you know with signs, that I never went away.

I hear you laughing, and watch you as you sleep,

I even place my arms around you, to calm you as you weep.

I see you wish the days away, longing to have me home,

So, I send you signs, so you know that you are not alone.

Do not feel guilty, that you have a life, that was denied to me,

Heaven is truly beautiful, just wait and see.

So……, live your life, laugh again; enjoy yourself, be free,

Then I know, that with every breath you take, you will be taking one for me as well.

We try ever so hard to console ourselves with the words of the religion that we believe in, as written in Isaiah 57:1 “The righteous pass away; the godly often die before their time. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come”. We earnestly believe that she was taken to heaven, way before her time, just to fulfil that axiom.

Rest in everlasting peace in your spiritual dwelling my beautiful angel, till we meet again in heaven. You may have left us three years ago, but you will never ever be forgotten. Darling Sara, even though we are going through the unbearable agony of missing you in person, we treasure the wonderful memories of you, which will continue to resonate and live in our hearts, forever more.

by Dr B. J. C. Perera
On behalf of the family

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Opinion

Power tariff hikes and need to revamp CEB

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By Ordinary citizen

Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has again requested for an increase of 70% in electricity tariffs to settle its past losses. What are these losses and how can the CEB be run as a profit-making Institution? Recently, the Chairman of Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) has claimed that the CEB had a net profit of Rs. 1 billion last month owing to the increase in rates a few months ago. Is it fair to burden an already economically oppressed public with a 70% increase in rates? While the CEB is making these unfair claims, the minister is silent on solving the problem which is the CEB itself. He even claimed that half the employees of CEB are redundant and what has he done to remedy this situation? CEB and Ceypetco are the biggest loss-making state-owned enterprises (SOE). In spite of losses they continue to pay bonuses and huge salary increases to its employees. They get a 25% salary increase every three years and recently CEB paid Rs. 3679 million to its employees under various ruses. In spite of that CEB employees recently demanded a 36% salary increase and the management has agreed to pay the usual 25% increase and this is at a cost of Rs. 9 billion! A meter reader in the CEB gets a salary of Rs. 120,000, about twice paid to a graduate teacher. General Manager of CEB gets a salary of Rs. 655,310 and a Grade 1 engineer gets a monthly salary of 533, 895 according to their own circulars. In addition, they get additional remuneration for site inspection, overtime, fuel allowance, telephone bill reimbursement etc.

These disproportionate salaries have arisen owing to the high handedness of the Board of Management which has taken decisions against court orders, cabinet decisions and Management services decisions. Since the whole country is dependent on the electricity supply, all Governments in the past have conveniently sidestepped confronting the CEB employees and given all what they ask for.

The Auditor General has pointed out that CEB has paid 1712 million in 2018 and 1873 million in 2019 going against cabinet decisions made in 2007 and Management services circular of 2009. In 2014, CEB Board proposed a 100% salary increase to only Engineers (circular no. 2014/GM/46/Pers dated 27 November 2014 and according to a Court decision (CA/WRIT/193/2015) this circular is illegal, null and void and any payments based on this circular is illegal. However, flexing its muscle, CEB granted a 85% of the salary as an allowance to engineers through Presidential decision on the advice of the attorney general which tantamount to contempt of court. Our politicians have been intimidated with the threat of strikes so as to cripple the entire country and they have no spine to oppose such exorbitant salaries and allowances of CEB employees. They have openly flouted the Government rule that limits all allowances to a maximum of 65%. If we consider other allowances on top of this 85% salary it comes to a whopping 138% of the basic salary! Furthermore, even the PAYE tax of its employees is paid by the CEB in clear violation of the Inland Revenue Act which specifically says that the income tax of an employee has to be paid by the individual and not the employer. These matters have been questioned by the COPE on several occasions but no corrective actions have been taken.

This reminds me of the courage Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew had in dealing with a work to rule campaign of the Singapore airline pilots union in 1980. He summoned the pilot’s union representatives and gave them a choice. In his legendary remarks, he told them, “If you continue this I will by every means at my disposal teach you and get the people of Singapore to help me to teach you a lesson you won’t forget. And I’m prepared to start all over again or stop it,” Lee said. He further said, “They know that I’m prepared to ground the airline. They know that I can get the airline going again without them. And let there be no mistakes about it. Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. Or give it up. This is not a game of cards. This is your life and mine. I spent a whole lifetime building this. And as long as I’m in charge, nobody’s going to knock it down.” And with that, the matter with the Pilots union was resolved. We do not have leaders of Lee Kuan Yew’s calibre and put the country first leaving aside politics. They meekly surrender to unfair demands of strong unions such as those of the CEB who hold the whole country to ransom with strike actions.

Other actions of the CEB have contributed to the losses incurred by the CEB. They have continuously scuttled cheaper energy options such as solar and buy power from private power plants at exorbitant rates. The powerful Engineers union has blocked new power generating projects such as the 300 MW LNG plant Sobodhanavi. According to them it is cheaper to purchase emergency power from private power plants which is far from the truth. Also, some of these plants could have been absorbed by the CEB through the initial agreement, yet they continue to pay not only the unit cost but also their investment expenditure. CEB has procrastinated actions on at least eleven low cost renewable energy projects in the Long Term Generation Expansion Plan (LCLTGEP) for reasons best known to them and although former President Gotabhaya in his election manifesto promised to get 70% of our energy from renewable sources, the high handed CEB Engineers: union has continuously opposed the implementation of any of the renewable energy projects. Some examples are the 100 MW solar projects at Siyambalanduwa and Pooneryn and the 100 MW wind power project at Pooneryn.

It is grossly unfair to burden ordinary consumers with high electricity tariffs when a complete overhaul of the CEB is what is needed. If the engineers’ union completely blocks such low-cost projects, it is better to go for a 100% privatisation of the CEB, which appears to be the only solution. No politician either present or past have the courage to face the unfair practices at the CEB and this requires the action of the Government at the highest levels and the parliament should debate this crucial issue in parliament and come out with a long-term strategy to provide for our energy needs. Our President appears tough on hapless student leaders and what actions he proposes to take against them. However, he has been silent on this crucial issue while the treasury is pumping around Rs. 500 billion annually to sustain the corrupt CEB and this amount has not even been included in his budget speech. No wonder why we are in such a precarious position where our economy is crumbling.

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Opinion

Alan Henricus- A Stalwart Sportsman Of Yesteryear Passes Away

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Alan Henricus (10-Feb 1933 – 26 Nov 2022)

by Hugh Karunanayake

Alan Henricus the youngest of five outstanding sporting brothers who represented their school Royal College, and their country then known as Ceylon, passed away a few days ago. He would have been 90 years of age if he survived up to his birthday in February next year.

The Henricus brothers grew up in Kohuwela where their father a former Feather Weight Boxing Champion of Ceylon lived. He served as an administrator of the sport first as Hony Secretary of the Amateur Boxing Association of Ceylon and later as its President. He helped build the Baptist Church in Nugegoda and was its Treasurer for 25 years. The road leading to their property was named Henricus Mawatha in honour of this outstanding family.

Alan represented Royal in Boxing, Athletics and Rugby, and won school colours in all three sports. He was also a school prefect, highly respected and regarded by both his schoolmates and staff. The family consisting of five brothers and two sisters were all nurtured in the best sporting traditions of colonial Ceylon. Eldest brother Barney represented Ceylon in boxing at the Empire Games and won a gold medal winning the feather weight title. The next, Basil, held the national record for 100 yards sprint and I believe his record still stands. He also represented the Havelocks Sports Club and All Ceylon at Rugby. The next brother George, for many years the Master Attendant in the Colombo Port was also a champion boxer, as was Derrick the fourth in line.

Remarkable sportsmen such as Alan reached their great heights from a base of raw innate talent fostered by regular training and a disciplined approach to life. When I was a 10-year old schoolboy I used to watch with awe and admiration Alan doing his training run at 6 a.m in the morning, jogging all the way from his home in Kohuwela to the Havelock Park and back on most weekends. Alan was senior to me in school by about three years and in those days that was an age gap filled with respect and admiration for a senior student. To us younger kids the high achieving Alan was a hero.

I recall in one Public Schools Athletics meet for the Tarbat Cup, either in 1950 or 1951,Royal College was able to obtain a total of 15 points only, and were never serious contenders for the trophy. However the 15 points that Royal earned was almost single handedly collected through Alan’s efforts. He won the pole vault event, was first in the 120 metres hurdles, and was a member of the 4 X 400 metre relay team which won the event. Although the Tarbat Cup was won by another school, the assembled gathering of Royalists carried Alan shoulder high around the grounds!

From school he was selected for training as a Naval officer cadet in Dartmouth in Devonshire in England. Fellow Royalists the late Norman Gunawardena, and Humphrey Wijesinghe were among the cadets who were selected for Dartmouth together with Alan. On returning to Ceylon after his naval training at Dartmouth, he served the Royal Ceylon Navy and its successor Sri Lanka Navy for several years until retirement. On retirement from the Navy he served for a short period as an Executive in a Mercantile firm in Colombo, before migrating with his family to Australia.

The stint at Dartmouth would carry many precious memories for him, as that was where he met Maureen the love of his life. On migrating to Australia in the 1970s Alan joined the Royal Australian Navy which he served with distinction as Lieut Commander. On my migrating to Australia in 1984 I met Alan and Maureen at a Sunday luncheon hosted by the late Brendon Goonratne. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and Alan and Maureen remained very close friends of ours.

Over the years we used to meet every three months at lunch at the Rosehill Bowling Club organized for old Royalist Seniors through the initiative of Chandra Senaratne. Other social engagements over the years have strengthened our friendship, and it is with deep distress that I heard of his terminal illness about two months ago. I rang him immediately and he was stoic as ever, the brave naval officer that he was. He said in no uncertain terms that he was not seeking to extend his life on this earth, and that he would wait in his home until the final call.

Alan’s departure marks another severance with the old Ceylon we knew, and its traditions and honorable ways. The Last Post will be played at his funeral at the Baptist Church, Epping on Friday December 2 at 3pm. He is survived by his dear wife Maureen, sons Andrew and Richard,, daughter in law Caroline, and grandson Ryan.

“The song is ended but the melody lingers on “

Farewell dear Alan.

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