Dr. Parakrama Waidyanatha Courtesy The Island
Dr Anurudha Padeniya, President of the GMOA in a LankaCNews presentation overwhelmed this writer with trepidation and fear. What is his mission in public fear-mongering?
The title of his talk (in Sinhala) was Agrochemical which is a mass-exterminator” kills ten times more than Corona”. He claims that while the Corona has killed 500 patients per year, the Rajarata Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology (CKDu) kills ten times more. Incidentally, the etiology of the kidney disease is now known, and the ‘u’ from the acronym, should be removed. He confidently claims that CKD is caused by agrochemicals. Regrettably, he appears to know neither the research nor the statistics on the subject.
No evidence that the kidney disease is caused by agrochemicals
First, let me present a quick profile of the key research findings.
International Consultation on CKDu in Sri Lanka (2017) concluded that there was NO EVIDENCE that agrochemicals caused CKDu.
Dr. Padeniya is still in 2013, when a WHO study tentatively stated that CkDu patients secreted more trace amounts of cadmium, arsenic and some pesticide residues in their urine, compared to reference limits. However, the Report, for some unknown reason, did not reveal, as shown from subsequent analysis of the raw data, that there were two to four times more subjects in the non-CKD control” area (Hambantota) with HIGHER cadmium, arsenic and pesticide levels than in the CKD area.
A dramatic study compared two adjacent villages in Girandurukotte, namely, Badulupura”, on high ground where the people exclusively drank water from dug wells and Sarabhumi in the plain where the people drank water from the river, reservoir or wells dug close to their homes. The Baduluprua people contracted the disease, which affecting virtually none from Sarabhumi. Analysis of the water in the wells in the Badulupura and Sarabhumi revealed that the Badulupura water was hard and heavily contaminated with fluoride, a highly nephrotoxic chemical, while being FREE OF AGROCHEMICALS.
Further evidence for a role for fluoride in the disease is that CKD patients also often have dental fluorosis.
Several independent research groups also have shown that high fluoride and magnesium contents in the hard water of the wells (fed by regolith aquifers) were the causative agents of CKD.
Further, the Medical Faculty, University of Peradeniya and the Institute of Fundamental studies, showed that rats fed with fluoride containing hard water contracted the disease, but not those fed with tap water. This was independently confirmed by Dr. Thammitiyagoda et al using well water from an endemic area (Ceylon Medical Journal 2018).
University of Tokyo studies on input water (2020) used in reverse-osmosis units in Ginnoruwa also confirmed the link to fluoride and magnesium, and the absence of agrochemicals in the water.
Meanwhile, Badulupura households were provided roof-top tanks for harvesting rainwater. Consequently, with the drinking of rain water, the incidence of CKDu in the village DECLINED over the years.
Now people in the CKDu affected areas are aware of the etiological agent and avoid drinking well water. With all this evidence deleting the ‘u’ from CKDu is justifiable’
Fertilizer and pesticide consumption
Displaying a copy of the Dinamina”, Dr Padeniya uncritically claimed that Sri Lanka is the world’s highest consumer of agrochemicals as reported in that paper. Regrettably, He has rushed to the microphone without checking authentic sources.
Table 1 gives the World Bank fertilizer and pesticide consumption figures of several countries which shows that Sri Lanka consumes the LEAST amount of agrochemicals in this part of the world, even below India. That is not all. As reported by the Department of Agriculture, from 2006, we have reduced the use of the most toxic, Class 1 and 2 pesticides by 98% and 29% respectively, and increased the least toxic ones of Class 3 and 4 by 91% and 41% respectively.
However, there is rampant overuse of agrochemicals resulting in the presence of phosphates and nitrogen in the runoff water. But, according to chemical analyses by Prof. Chandrajith et al., University of Peradeniya, no heavy metals above reference levels have been detected in the aquatic bodies, confirming the studies by University of Tokyo. So educating the farmers and misinformed gurus” like Dr. Padeniya is needed. I have, in my The Island article, May 19, 2021, already dealt with the need to educate the farmers for which strengthening the drastically run down agricultural extension service is a critical need.
Returning to old food habits and traditional varieties
The good doctor is recommending a return to old food habits and traditional rice varieties which, he claims, are more nutritious and healthy — another claim unsubstantiated by appropriate research.
Together with Ven. Ratana and the ‘toxin-free agriculture’ group, during the Yahapalana regime, Dr. Padeniya claims planting traditional varieties (TVs) or rice which yield at best only 30-40% of that of the new improved varieties (NIVs); see Table 2. His claims that although low yielding, the TVs have high nutritious with health benefits. Sadly, he is not aware that, apart from very high yields some of the new varieties have much of those attributes. However, the staple food provides the calories, while the other nutrients are usually obtained from other foods.
If we go back to the TVs, as evident from Table 2, we need at least double the current extent of land under rice to feed the population. And where is the land? Norman Borlaug, Nobel Laureate and the Father of the Green Revolution, addressing the Nobel forum in 2000, reminded the environmentalists and other critics of the Green Revolution technologies, the likes of Dr Padeniya, that had the pre-green revolution of yields of the 1950s remained today the world would need three times more land to feed the population with far more disastrous environmental consequences than we have today with conventional farming.
Re-installing ‘sekkuvas’ in the villages for coconut oil production Another of Dr Padeni
ya’s half-baked recommendations is to make pure” coconut oil using sekkuwas” (stone mills worked by oxen), to stop palm oil consumption. Palm oil is the world’s number one vegetable oil with an over 40% global output; and over 50% inclusion in our food etc. It’s as safe as any other saturated fats, and many health benefits have been claimed for it. He is one of the key advisers to the government’s foolish move to ban palm oil and uproot existing oil palm cultivations. However, the palm oil import ban had to be lifted. No country has banned palm oil except Sri Lanka.
The ‘sekkuwa’ proposal is more pie in the sky” than going fully organic.” Besides, it carries the high risk of afflotoxin contamination. The villagers usually sun and air-dry the coconut kernel, thus inviting the fungus Aspergillus to produce afflotoxin. According to a Coconut Research Institute food expert, a ‘sekkuwa’ cannot be totally cleaned of bits of poonac, an ideal medium for Aspergillus growth.
Dr Padeniya often quotes the wise words of Hippocrates(460-370 BC), the father of medicine: ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. And yet, Dr. Padeniya knows that even the best” food cannot save the world from viral epidemics. Did he not get his vaccine shots? Even if food were the only issue, the massive and increasing global population and the limited land and water, make conventional agriculture the only viable approach, while ever correcting its weaknesses. Organic farming experts like Adrian Mueller agree that its two percent output can never be increased to feed the world. It was abandoned in the 1850s when, even then, it failed to provide food to the increasing population globally.
Dr. Padeniya says we have been eating poison since 1950, but our life expectancy has steadily increased since then. It is far more appropriate in the current context of global agriculture for him to preach the wise words of the father of pharmacology, Bombastus Paracelsus, rather than those of Hippocrates: ‘ All substances are poisons, there is nothing which is not a poison. It is the dosage that differentiates poison and remedy’. The farmers need to judiciously use agrochemicals. Then the poison becomes remedy.
He would also do well to remember the wise words of Lord Buddha: ‘Speak only when you feel that your words are better than your silence.’
Dr Parakrama Waidyanatha
*Original article online at https://www.lankaweb.com/news/items/2021/06/21/gmoa-president-misleading-the-public/
*See also published studies from Sri Lanka at http://fluoridealert.org/studytracker/?search=Sri+Lanka&fulltext=&fantranslation=