“There is no arsenic in our rice” - Minister of Agriculture; “ That is certainly true” - Agribusiness Corporations

Research conducted recently by a group of scientists of universities in Sri Lanka has shown that there is arsenic poison in rice produced in the country and that around 20,000 farmers in Rajarata have become ill and have died due to arsenic poison that is in the rice produced in the country. The research has revealed that this was due to the arsenic poison mixed in the agrochemicals used in Rajarata.

Agribusiness corporations have become very upset by this revelation and have published a full page advertisement with 20 such corporations coming together . It denies this and has the caption that “ scientific truth that protects agriculture will ever prevail”. In the mean time the Hon Minister of Agriculture issues a statement saying that “There is no arsenic in t he rice produced in the country”. He says that “28 varieties of agrochemicals were tested and there was arsenic present only in two of those”.

During the last 20 years there were around 20,000 farmers in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa districts who were killed by this mystery Kidney disease ( axiology /origin – CKDu ) which baffled the doctors. Last week a group of scientists comprising of chemists, phamocologists, botanists, medical doctors, forensic doctors of the universities of Kelaniya and Rajarata fond the following facts. In this research done for six months they found that the disease was connected with the agrochemicals that the farmers were using. This was linked with arsenic poison. The farmers had this suspicion for quite a long time and now it has been proved with evidence conclusively. However, the perpetrators have not yet accepted this . These scientists have investigated 8 varieties of agrochemicals The hard water in this region converts the arsenic in agrochemicals into Calcium arsenate ( Ca3( AsO4 )2 , which is a highly poisonous chemical. This dissolves in water. Due to the hardness of water in Rajarata this becomes even more dangerous. “We are 100 sure that there are dangerous quantities of arsenic in the agrochemicals imported into the country. We have to continue our reaserch a little more to show that this is linked to the CKDu disease in Rajarata” says the head of the research team Prof. Nalin De Silva.

We invited the importing agrochemical companies to look at the research that we were doing. Three of them came and they have not challenged our researches. In testing these agrochemicals it was proved that they contained between 100 to 3,000 micrograms per kg. This is a dangerous lethal quantity of poison that can kill a human person. Importing of agrochemicals that contain arsenic is against the Sri Lankan law.

It takes time for symptoms of arsenic poisoning to appear. So patients find it too late for treatment Arsenic poisoning can cause heart attacks, diabetes, weakening of body immunity etc. frequent attacks of viral diseases occur. It is also causes cancer. It can cause deformed babies too. In Padaviya out of a population of about 10,000 over 500 people suffer this disease. In this area 40% of the people who die are due to this disease says the doctor in charge of Padaviya hospital.

The important question is this. All agrochemicals are poisonous. They are poisonous to animals, poisonous to plans, poisonous to microbes in the soil, poisonous to insects. T here is no doubt that they are poisonous to the human body in diverse ways. It is impossible to completely get rid of pests with chemical pesticides. It only leads to breeding of more resistant pests and creating pest epidemics of larger scale.

So, what is “the scientific truth that protects agriculture that will prevail”. Agriculture is something given by nature free of charge. Sunlight given free of charge, CO 2 gas also given free, and water given free is absorbed by the leaves of trees. The required minerals are transformed by the microbes and earthworms of the soil. This all happens free. What we do by using agrochemicals is the killing of this free process given by nature. We kill nature, kill animals, plants and finally humans. This is an unscientific falsehood that destroys agriculture and nature. Therefore what we need to do is to give up this entire destructive process of chemical farming.

Mr. Olivier De Schutter, the special Rapporteur on the right to food of the United Nations submitted a report to the Human Rights Council of the UN on 17 December 2010 titled “Agro ecology and right to food” (Report no. A/ HRC/ 16/ 49 ) where he says that the way to solve the hunger crisis of the world is by adopting agro ecology. He says that states must pay serious attention to reorienting their agriculture systems towards a mode of production that are highly productive, highly sustainable, and contribute to the progressive realization of human right to food and that this can be done by adopting agro ecological methods. What we need to do today is to save the scientific truth of agriculture from the agribusiness TNCs that propagate the unscientific farming with poison for increasing their profits.

Sarath Fernando

MONLAR ( Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform ), 1151/58A, 4th Lane Kotte Road, Rajagiriya e-mail : monlar@sltnet.lk and sarathfdo@sltnet.lk

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  1. It is true that there are no arsenic in rice however the CKDu in NCP in srilanka is due multiple aeitiology.Accordi g to resent who findings and some preveous reserchapers its likly cause is multifactorial.as I was revealed this kidney disease to public in way back 1999/2000 years my datas and clinical impression for cause for CKDu in NCP are
    1/dehydration of farmers
    1/heavy metal biomagnification mainly cadmium ans arsenic,mainly with soil,and water
    3/source of heavy metals probably,water,insecticides,tobacco( beetle chewing),
    4/hardness of water causing fluride,calcium combine with cadmium,arsenic and probaly aluminium.

    The answer for this problem as temparary measure is to provide pure drinking water ,source should be mineral spring water.
    Dr Wasantha P Dissanayake
    Teaching Hospital Kurunegala.


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