The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 1

Sunday, October 20, 2013
LKR 40.00
8 Sections | Volume 8 No 22
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Nothing fresh
about
‘fresh
produce’
Nearly 50% agro-products tainted with toxins
Misuse of agrochemicals the problem
Only informed consumers can reverse trend
Rukshana Rizwie and
Sandun Jayawardana
A recent research conducted
by the Hector Kobbekaduwa
Agrarian Research and Training
Institute (HARTI), on the country’s
agriculturalproductshaverevealed
that nearly 50 percent of all fresh
produce is affected by increasing
heavy use of chemicals.
Researchers, who submitted
a recent policy brief titled
‘Minimizing the Damages of
Pesticides’, cited that upcountry
vegetable and specially potato
farmers use 73 branded pesticides
out of 462 commercial brands
marketed in Sri Lanka while some
of them are openly classified by
the World Health Organization
(WHO) as highly toxic.
The research was conducted
by M.M.M. Aheeyar, M.T. Padmajani
and M.A.C.S. Bandara from HARTI
who based their findings on a
survey of 240 randomly selected
vegetable and potato farmers
in Badulla and Nuwara Eliya
Districts.
“Our findings revealed that
there’s an overuse and misuse of
pesticides,” said M.M.M Aheeyar,
one of the authors of the policy
paper. “We also found out that
most farmers use more than the
recommended levels through
unacceptable practices.”
According to him in order to
produce high yields in short span
of time, farmers apply an overdose
of pesticides and commercial
fertilizers. “There is a prescribed
pre-harvest period where farmers
are not supposed to do anything
to the crops, whereas here four in
ten farmers spray pesticides even
when they see no pest in sight.”
Out of fear that the crops may
wither, farmers douse vegetables
plots with excessive chemicals.
According to this research,
farmers use 50% or higher dosage
than recommended. Toxic
substances in pesticides can cause
enormous damage to the human
body, including its immune and
reproductive systems, and could
even lead to infertility, warned Dr.
Varuna Gunathilake, Consultant
Physician and Department Head
of the Toxicology and National
Poisons Information Center of the
Colombo National Hospital.
He said ‘developmental toxins’
in these chemicals may adversely
affect thedevelopment in children.
They may also act as endocrine
disrupters, leading to hormonal
imbalances.
The damages from such toxins
were diverse and extensive, he
further said.
“These chemicals are also
not biodegradable (able to
decompose naturally). As such,
they persist for a long time and
get transferred into the food
chain. This means that over time,
they get deposited in the human
body,” Dr. Gunathilaka observed.
He warned consumers were at
serious risk from ‘irrational use’ of
pesticides by farmers.
When contacted, Minister
of Agriculture Mahinda Yapa
Abeywardena said he agreed with
the research conducted by HARTI,
and said the only way to counter
the health issues posed by such
pesticideswas tocreateawareness
among farmers regarding the
dangers of using such highly toxic
chemicals on their produce.
“The Ministry is currently
conducting a range of awareness
campaigns involving farmers and
is trying its level best to educate
them on this issue. We are
making progress on this front,” he
stressed.
The number of farmers
overusing pesticides on their
produce is nowreducingas a result
of such awareness campaigns
conducted
by
agriculture
authorities, the Minister claimed.
(See LENS for detailed
story on this issue)
Sajitha Prematunge
Questions
pertaining
to conflict of interest have
been raised due to GSMB
Technical Services (Pvt) Ltd,
a subsidiary company of the
Geological Survey and Mines
Bureau (GSMB) compiling
a project proposal for the
controversial Dedigamuwa
Hillock quarry project of
WA Perera & Co. Ltd. The
project proposal is subject
to approval by the parent
‘company’, GSMB.
Although GSMB had
previously
issued
the
company a permit for
quarrying, quarry activities
had ceased due to protests
by
local
environmental
pressure groups such as
Dedigamuwa Organization
for the Protection of Nature
and Environment.
Accordingtotheirwebsite
the GSMB Technical Services
(Pvt) Ltd was registered as
a fully government owned
limited liability company
in September 2001 by the
Registrar of Companies
under the Companies Act
no 17, 1982. But how a ‘fully
governmentowned’company
be tagged ‘(Pvt) Ltd’ remains
to be answered.
In the project proposal
in question, compiled by
GSMB Technical Services
(Pvt) Ltd Engineer HKM
Gunasekera on behalf of WA
Perera & Co. Ltd, various
methods to mitigate possible
environmental impact, such
as a green belt, silt traps,
methods to minimize soil
erosion and blast vibration
are included.
When asked whether it is
not unethical for a subsidiary
companyofGSMB,tocompile
a project proposal subject
to approval by its parent
‘company’, GSMB Director
General BA Peiris said that
the company has produced
many such documents in
the past, for which there had
been no legal restrictions. “I
do admit that there could be
an ethical conflict here. But
we have no direct contacts
with the company.” When
asked whether the subsidiary
company, housed in the same
premises, is staffed by GSMB
employees, Peiris refused to
answer.
»
See Page 2
Conflict of interest
and the interest in
Dedigamuwa Hillock
(BBC) Police in the Maldives have
stopped a presidential election from
going ahead on Saturday, plunging the
country into fresh political uncertainty.
Electoral commission head Fuwad
Thowfeek said police had entered his
offices and were stopping officials
from distributing election materials.
The Maldives has been in turmoil
since ex-President Mohamed Nasheed
was ousted in disputed circumstances
in 2012. The latest move has caused
alarmamongthecountry’sinternational
partners.
India’s foreign ministry said it was
“seriously concerned at attempts to
stall the democratic process”.
A US embassy official in Sri Lanka
said the failure to hold Saturday’s
election “represents a real threat to
democracy in Maldives”.
UK Foreign Secretary William
Hague said he was “deeply dismayed”
and called for the democratic process
in the Maldives to be allowed to
proceed.
Commonwealth observers in the
country also issued an angry statement
denying suggestions by the police
that they had sought Commonwealth
advice before stopping the election.
»
See Page 2
Maldivian police prevents Presidential poll
‘Matara Veeraya’: Mangala’s fantasy
On October 4, 1957, a peaceful procession of the UNP was attacked in
Imbulgoda in Gampaha by supporters of the SLFP. A violent attack on a march
by a faction of the UNP took place at Devinuwara and Matara on October 5,
just a day later, 56 years apart.
»
Page 6
Police fight to clear
‘Corrupt’ tag
Police spokesman SSP Ajith
Rohana claimed that less than 30
officers had been arrested for soliciting
bribes within the last five years. Yet,
the stigma of corruption has long been
a thorn in the side of the department;
one that has been extremely difficult to
remove.
FINE
EU tough on tobacco
With more people, especially
among the younger generation
being tricked into taking up smoking,
the European Union is looking at
tightening tobacco regulations.
LENS
What is Karu?
Whenever the UNP is in serious
trouble, Karu Jayasuriya’s name comes
into the limelight as the person who can
cure the malady.
» LENS
The streets of Korea are paved in gold?
Students who sat for the proficiency test in Korean Language discussing the paper after the exam. The examination was
held at Thurstan College, Colombo yesterday.
Pic by Rukshan Abeywansha
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