Effective Immediately: Sri Lanka Bans Glyphosate and Monsanto's Roundup

Claire Bernish
May 27, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Monsanto was dealt a swift and decisive blow on Friday, when Sri Lanka’s newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena announced an immediate and comprehensive ban on the herbicide glyphosate, including a halt to distribution of already imported supply.

This ban on the world’s most heavily used herbicide, marketed as Roundup, is an effort to both protect the Sri Lankan farming community and curb the rise in chronic kidney disease (CKDu) which currently affects a full 15% of the working age population in the country’s North.

Of particular concern to President Sirisena were two studies by Dr Channa Sudath Jayasumana, which found drinking from abandoned wells, where concentrations of metals and glyphosate are higher, or even simply spraying the herbicide as intended, leads to a five-fold greater risk for developing deadly CKDu. Around 400,000 Sri Lankans suffer from CKDu, resulting in an estimated 20,000 deaths. Though a previous ban one year ago only endured for two months, it was prior to Dr. Jayasumana’s studies and the WHO’s explosive declaration in March that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Sri Lanka is now the second country to ban the dubious weed killer. In 2013, El Salvador cited the same fears about glyphosate’s connection to CKDu when it was included on a list of 53 prohibited chemicals. Bermuda may soon follow suit as well. The country instituted a temporary ban on May 12, citing a commitment to “promoting safe practices as part of our stewardship of [the] delicate environment.” A thorough assessment will now determine if further use of the herbicide is warranted.

Monsanto first patented glyphosate as Roundup in the 1970s, and by 1996 had genetically engineered crops to withstand high doses of the chemical applied in a blanket application, thus decreasing time spent removing weeds. Now 80% of GM crops worldwide are “Roundup Ready”.

An extremely vicious cycle of dependence appears to have been cleverly created by Monsanto.  Some herbicide-resistant GM seeds are also designed with genetic use restriction technology — sterile — so farmers are forced into purchasing new seeds annually. Years of liberal glyphosate application on Roundup Ready crops have led to herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds,’ and therefore even heavier usage of the chemical — 159 million pounds of it in 2012. This is absurdly short-sighted and unsustainable, and cannot logically be safe for human consumption.

Until the US follows Sri Lanka and El Salvador in a total ban of glyphosate, buying local and/or organic is clearly the safest choice to avoid glyphosate as mounting evidence points to the chemical as a health and environmental threat.

For more information about glyphosate and its effects, visit the WHO’s Feed the World.

For information on a number of Monsanto-related issues, visit our Monsanto archives.

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