Glyphosate ban to be relaxed

The Cabinet-appointed committee to review the import ban on glyphosate, a widely-used herbicide, has recommended that the plantations industry should be allowed to import the weed killer under carefully controlled and supervised conditions. Following their investigations, the committee has recommended a six-step scheme (See page 4) and has requested the Ministers of Plantation Industries and Agriculture to report to Cabinet on the operation and effectiveness of this scheme within six months.

The committee has submitted their recommendations to the ministers two weeks ago. Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake is expected to present a Cabinet paper for relaxing the ban shortly.

The committee recommends the Registrar of Pesticides permits the imports of glyphosate subject to all stocks of this herbicide being stored only in the warehouses of licensed importers and the Tea Small Holdings Development Authority under the direct supervision of the Registrar of Pesticides.

When asked about the possible lifting of the ban on glyphosate, Plantation Industries Minister Navin Dissanayake said he is planning to present a Cabinet paper based on the recommendations of the expert committee soon. But he declined to indicate a timeframe. “It is a secret,” he said. “Secrets are secrets.”

A ban on glyphosate was imposed by the government in 2015 following claims of a causal link between glyphosate and chronic kidney disease (CKD) although the link has not been scientifically proven.

However, the Sunday Observer learns that Minister Dissanayake has had discussions recently with President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Ven. Athuraliye Rathana thera, on whose recommendations the ban was imposed two years ago. According to plantation industry sources, the Minister Dissanayake has been working aggressively to support the tea industry, which directly got affected by the ban. He has made representations to get an exemption be granted for the tea industry which requires 800,000 litres of glyphosate annually.

The cabinet appointed committee led by Ajita de Costa (Chairman, Western Region Megapolis Planning Project) comprised Dr. Rohan Wijekone D/G Agriculture, Dr. Jerry Jayawardene, Advisor/Ministry of Agriculture and Chairman, Council for Agricultural Research Policy, Dr. Upali Marasinghe, Secretary/Ministry of Plantation Industries, Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda, Chairman/Sri Lanka Tea Board, Dr. Sarath Abeysinghe, Director/Tea Research Institute, Dr. Ranil Senanayake, Prof. P. I. Yapa, Professor of Ecological Agriculture, University of Sabaragamuwa, W. Sakalasooriya, Director/Food Security Program, Presidential Secretariat and C. Maliyadda, Adviser, Ministry of National Policies and Economic Affairs, Convener and Coordinator.

The committee was appointed on November 15, 2016. 

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