Medical doctors and academic researchers have revealed the existence of a racket involving the smuggling of a highly toxic and powered form of the banned agrochemical Glyphosate, the use of which could precipitate an environmental catastrophe.
The World Health Organization has declared that Glyphosate is a carcinogen.
Head of the Department of Pharmacology of the Faculty of Medicine and Allied Sciences of the Rajarata University, Dr Channa Jayasumana said that the concentration of the illegally-imported-powdered Glyphosate was 71% in strength.
Prior to it being banned in the country, Glyphosate was available in liquid form and the strength was 36% according to Dr Jayasumana.
It is being produced in the Indian state of Haryana and the packet is sold in Sri Lanka under the name ‘D-Era’.
According to information received by Dr. Jayasumana, a group from Kilinochchi has been smuggling the product that is now being distributed and sold through a select group of farmers known to them.
“Local retailers in the North Central Province informed us of this after they noted a drop in sales of other products. Farmers in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Puttalam are using this. Not only does this form and concentration product wipe out all weeds, but also all greenery,” he said.
Accordingly, the earthworms below the soil’s surface, upon its use become white and die when they surface.
“The soil in these areas is rough. Farmers have to prepare the soil by running a tractor over it several times to loosen the soil and when one uses D-Era, the soil becomes loose, even buttery and only once does the farmer have to use a mammoty,” he added.
He said that the scientific basis is that the high concentration of the chemicals acts as an antibiotic to the microbes in the soil, thereby leading to the death of these microbes.
“There are over 10,000 reservoirs and tanks and bunds made with soil in the said areas and once the Glyphosate gets accumulated in the soil, this could result in a huge disaster when the Northeast monsoon rains start in October,” he pointed out.
The National Poisons Information Centre (NPIC) at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka said that although they had received no reliable information in this regard, Glyphosate though banned and illegal to sell, may be available in the market and the report may contain a truthful account.
Head of the NPIC Dr. Waruna Gunathilake emphasized that if first hand evidence was available, such information along with the locations where they are sold should be conveyed to the Registrar of Pesticides.
“Even though such a product is banned it may be available in the market sporadically. When it was banned farmers resorted to alternatives such as Gluphosinate which has also been banned. Stocks in older storages may have been released to the market or it may have been smuggled recently. Glyphosate is a powerful weedicide,” Dr Jayasumana added.
Registrar of Pesticides Dr. G. Anura W. Wijesekara was not available for comment.