Glommed on to Glyphosate | Daily News

Glommed on to Glyphosate

It is basically a derivative of an amino acid of known by the name Glycine, which is found in our body (for that matter any living organism) abundantly and also produced in our body as part of essential proteins for the body and life. Amino acid Glycine is industrially phosphonated to yield – Glyphosate with IUPAC name N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine and though identified as an organophosphorus, it is rather a phosphonate compound - (phosphonomethyl)amino]acetic acid, which is very broad-spectrum weedicide, fungicide as well as an antibacterial – therefore an economic saver and at times a booster for agricultural sector. Glyphosate has not been included in compounds tested for by the Food and Drug Administration’s Pesticide Residue Monitoring Programme. (Poisonous Pesticide listing)

This product Glyphosate has been promoted to be used in by Tea Research Institute Sri Lanka since 1984, first in Tea estates then, popularly gain ground save solution against the ever dominant weeds in dry zone to save the crop cultivations particularly paddy fields. Those placed the ban on Glyphosate shall realize that weeds are always successful dominant to absorb the nutrients as well as the wetness needed by the crops thus can cripple the yield of any cultivation even coconut, and prolonged absence of proper weeding and weedicide will endanger the Food Security of the Nation.

This Glyphosate should never be confused with another highly very dangerous weedicide Glufosinate.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in Sri Lanka

Though this disease has been prevalent among the people of Dry Zone alone quite a long time, for more than 15 years and extensive reporting after the end of the war, researchers are yet to define an etiology of the CKD, but the politically motivated authorities have made many ad hoc attributions as cause the disease. The main attribution made was fertilizers and weedicides leaching the water sources long before establishing it scientifically, blindly banned all the artificial fertilizers and commercial weedicides – a heavy blow for agricultural economy thriving.

Somewhere in 2010, I reported to Ministry of Health accrediting CKD to a Zoonotic infectious disease Borreliosis that may cause urine with heavy metals such as cadmium and phosphorous as found in CKD patients – nothing I heard until a doctor attached to Medical Research Institute (MRI) told me that there was a paper by my name at MRI about the ongoing CKD – at a rendezvous for another common cause on November 6 at the Medical Council Office. I believe still some extensive work goes on to isolate the etiological organism and to establish the exact animal species’ involved as carriers for Dry Zone farmers.

CKD patients passing urine with heavy metals prompted the authorities to suspect water leaching or pollution by organophosphorus compounds used in agriculture, and the political authorities who always find the shortcut for popularity without trying to identify which and which is (or) not leaching the water placed the total ban on agriculture aiding chemicals. Politically motivated people including few Buddhist monks with vested interests dragging the country into further trouble by preaching for impractical chemical-free agriculture in the modern era.

Some unknown facts about Glyphosate

By the 2000 year Government, USA and EU announced Glyphosate is free of any health hazards for humans though far latter some organisations aroused suspicion as of carcinogen only to be officially doused by expert researchers. The U.S. has determined the acceptable daily intake of glyphosate at 1.75 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day (mg/kg/bw/day) while the European Union has set it at 0.3, and these values are very far higher than expected daily exposure level by the end users.

Efficacy and mode action of Glyphosate against microorganisms including numerous bacteria and fungi had been described since its invention in 1970 and is very effective against Malaria causing Plasmodium falciparum along with Toxoplasma gondii, and Cryptosporidium parvum. The latter two are worldwide zoonotic infectious and has been a very effective antimicrobial agent in mammals, and as well has been allowed to be used in grazing grasslands after successful extensive lethal dosing testing in various animals. Since 2008 glyphosate has been identified as an ideal herbicide for the revival of the ecosystem as well as for agriculture by the Department of Agriculture USA and by the weeding experts of Australia.

Sri Lankan blunder through not knowing the facts

A significant advantage carried by Glyphosate readily binds and absorbed into the soil and thus the polluting the water on its own very minimum unless it is sprayed directly into the water source areas, or soil erosion that occurs as a result of heavy rain immediately after spraying of Glyphosate onto the fields. Even it reaches the water by above-described means, it is not broken down readily by water or sunlight. Therefore Glyphosate is far superior safer than any other herbicide proposed to replace all of which failed bind to the soil hence released their dangerous degradation products free and fast. From the discussions above, if the water pollution is responsible for CKD, it would have been upcountry peasants who should have affected by CKD first and not alone by Dry Zone farmers, but there is not a single case CKD reported from upcountry Wet Zone; thus it is absolute nonsense to implicate Glyphosate as water pollutant as well as with CKD. Further detergents used by the peasants at the natural water source front can release the same degradation product aminomethyl phosphonic acid as Glyphosate, if at all Glyphosate or its salts or any other carbonic fertilizers actually leaches the waterfront and degrades into finer molecules.

By 2017 November, EU, usually very sensitive of Safety and Toxicity controls allowed Glyphosate to be used as herbicide without further analysis for next five years. This is after the 2016 joint meeting of the United Nations (FAO) Panel of Experts on Pesticide Residues in Food and the Environment and the World Health Organization Core Assessment Group on Pesticide Residues freed Glyphosate as of any health hazard danger at the anticipated exposure level while used by individual farmers. EU expert panel explaining the WHO stand of 2 A carcinogen, demands strict surveillance of distribution of various trader products of Glyphosate, because Glyphosate in its pure form is free of any harm, but the additives as preservatives and surfactants for enhanced penetration of cuticle of herbs as in the case of Roundup of Monsanto USA. Therefore it is crystal clear the situation demands a close scrutiny of what is brought into the country rather than total ban that allows our opportunistic clever traders use the plight of the farmer community to import any other dangerous replacer or unregulated Glyphosate and sell at exorbitant prices.

Glyphosate is an acid molecule, so it is neutralized as a salt with a weaker base for packaging and handling. Various salt formulations include isopropyl-amine, di-ammonium, mono-ammonium, or potassium as the counter-ion. The active ingredient in the Roundup of Monsanto herbicides is the isopropyl-amine salt of glyphosate. Another important ingredient in some formulations is the surfactant, poly-ethoxylated tallow amine. Some brands include more than one salt. Some companies report their product as acid equivalent of glyphosate acid or some report it as the active ingredient of glyphosate plus the salt, and others report both. To compare the performance of different formulations, an acidity test be carried out; given that different salts have different weights of glyphosate, the acid equivalent is a more accurate method of expressing and comparing concentrations.

Therefore not only the ban should be lifted there should be a tax relaxation for import towards nearly 100% Glyphosate, to boost the agricultural economy of the nation. Toxicologists have thoroughly investigated all such glyphosate-containing formulations presented by all companies as well as the glyphosate alone.

Glyphosate is absorbed through foliage, and minimally through roots, and transported to growing points. It inhibits a plant enzyme involved in the synthesis of three aromatic amino acids: tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine. Therefore, it is effective only on actively growing plants and is not effective as a pre-emergence herbicide. Glyphosate by binding to soil help even desiccation of crops as well to be cultivated evenly, saving time and economy. (Short-term crops)

Last week Sri Lankan Tea industry has received the first major blow by the ban of Glyphosate, as Japan has rejected last two consecutive consignments of tea from Sri Lanka, as the tea leaves have been found with residues of MCP, a replacer weedicide of Glyphosate. This will escalate further to eliminate the tea industry as the traditional and attractive foreign exchange earner if Glyphosate ban persisted any further.

WHO - 2 A Carcinogenic category 2015 – represents “There is not enough evidence of carcinogenic for human, but there are evidence of carcinogenic in animals mechanistically similar to Humans”.

This promulgation was challenged for misinformation by many quarters as of trader aligned and that brought WHO to sit with FAO for a fresh promulgation the following year 2016 - a joint meeting of the United Nations (FAO) Panel of Experts on Pesticide Residues in Food and the Environment and the World Health Organization Core Assessment Group on Pesticide Residues reported that studies conducted in mammal animal models showed that oral applications of glyphosate at doses as high as 2000 mg/kg was “not associated with genotoxic effects in an overwhelming majority of studies”, and that glyphosate was “unlikely to be genotoxic at anticipated dietary exposures”. It also reported that glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic in rodents and concluded that glyphosate was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans” from dietary exposure.

(The writer is a former Mobile Veterinary Surgeon UN-FAO, National Consultant Wildlife Veterinarian, Department of Wildlife Conservation, Asst. Lecturer Medical and Microbiology and Zoonotic Diseases Faculty of Medicine, University of Jaffna)


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