A news item states that the Task-force on Kidney Disease of unknown origin (CKDU) has got the government to ban , a harmless herbicide, in agricultural provinces like Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Badulla. “Doing something” about CKDU has become a political necessity.
But glyphosate is the sentinel that stands guard against weeds clogging up our plantations. Minister Abeywardena says that according to agricultural experts “the country’s economy would collapse if glyphosate was banned”, but “the loss of a life could not be measured in terms of money”. What proof lives will be saved? Unfortunately, not one human life will be saved, although the lives of many weeds will be saved.
It is a grievous case of a strong divergence between the public perception and scientists’ perception of things. The type of unreasonable public fear resulting from incomprehension is quite common.
Many readily accept that CKDU, and all sorts of other ills are due to industries or modern agriculture. Of course, generally speaking this is good sense, especially in societies where the rules regarding public safety etc., are not properly enforced. The collusion between politicians and big business wishing to cut corners and make a profit is well known. The same is suspected of the global food business which sells unhealthy highly-sugared pop-drinks and salted, processed , preservative-laced foods. These are, however, much safer than the traditional “Kalu-dodol, vatalappan or Kiri-paeni” etc. for sugar, and “Lunu-miris, Jaadi or karawala” or “kola-kaenda” for salt. In fact, the “environment” has become far safer than ever before. Hence people live longer, and the population is increasing at a dizzing rate. Their common ailments (diabetes, hypertension, and consequences there of) are related to their life-styles or due to aging (cancer, dementia etc.) rather than to “the environment”.