Agrochemical pesticides and kidney related diseases, Sri Lanka

Monsanto, Bayer and other companies importing illegally prohibited pesticides and acting against preventive measures taken.


Description
Over the last decade, a new form of kidney disease of unknown etiology has emerged in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. The occurrence is mainly amongst males of age group 30–60 years engaged in agriculture. Almost 80% of these patients eventually die from kidney failure within the first two years after diagnosis. High prevalence of Chronic Kidney Disease(CKD) has become an environmental health issue of national concern in Sri Lanka. Hypertension and Diabetes is known to be the main causes for renal failure, but in areas with high prevalence of CKD, the majority of patients do not show any identifiable cause, thus, it has been named CKD of unknown etiology (CKDue). Endemic occurrence of the kidney disease was recognized in the 1990s in the North Central Province, situated in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, and this has been increasing over a period of 10–15 years. High prevalence of CKDue is observed in two main districts of the North Central Province —Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. The prevalence is now spreading to the adjoining districts of North Western province, Uva province, Eastern province, Central province and the Northern province [1]. Recently this epidemic has been found in the Southern province near Hambanthota as well. The affected area covers approximately 17,000 square km and with a population about 2.5 million in which more than 95% live in rural areas [2] The presence of high levels of fluoride widespread use of agrochemicals, presence of heavy metals like cadmium, lead and arsenic and uranium in soil and water are postulated as contributory factors. Up to now, there is no unequivocal evidence to recognize the possible environmental causative factors. The prevalence of the disease is mostly among paddy farmers and agriculture laborers. Many of these farmers die simply because they cannot afford the cost of treatment. Apart from the cost, it’s the lack of availability of dialysis facilities in nearby hospitals that makes it extremely difficult for the poor to avail treatment. Most cases, people found they are sick at a very late stage, so that it's not possible to reverse the situation. This grave situation calls for mobilization of public support for fund raising activities as the morbidity and mortality of these patients are often related to their state of poverty [2]. In most households both mother and father suffer from the disease. There is a strong scientific debate regarding the causes of spreading of CKDue. Scientists suspect the illness is caused by a combination of factors including chronic dehydration from hard labor in tropical heat, and exposure to toxins such as pesticides. In 2014 Dr. Jayasumana, from Faculty of Medicine of the Rajarata University published a paper [3] where hypothesis, glyphosate bonds with toxic heavy metals in the environment such as cadmium and arsenic, forming stable compounds that are consumed in food and water and do not break down until reaching victims’ kidneys. Moreover a study conducted in Sri Lanka in 2013 by the World Health Organization [4] detected both cadmium and glyphosate, as well as other pesticides and heavy metals, in the environment of endemic areas, and in kidney patients’ urine. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide Roundup. Concerned the chemical may be linked to the kidney disease killing agricultural workers, Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa on March 2014 ordered a ban [5] on glyphosate. Immediately reply arrived from USA's Monsanto, who retaliated, saying that the new studies are based on untested theories rather than hard data. Facing political opposition and questions about its scientific evidence by sponsored Pesticide Technical Committee, Monsanto and agrochemical industry groups, Sri Lanka’s government has placed on hold its decision to ban the top-selling Monsanto herbicide glyphosate [6]. Already in June 2011 an Open Forum on Agro-Chemicals was held at the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agriculture Research and Training Institute, in Colombo, with the participation of over 200 people representing farmers, Trade unions, civil society organizations, academics and researches. This was organized by Vikalpanie Centre for Environmental Justice, Monlar, Sri Lanka Soba Samuhikaya, New Era, Swarnahansa Padanama, and the Buddhist Actions on Nature and other Civil Society organizations. During the meeting team of researchers from the Kelaniya and Rajarata Universities found that high levels of Arsenic in number of pesticides. They claimed that Chronic Kidney Disease found in Rajarata is due to Calcium Arsenate as a result of these pesticides. However, researchers in University of Peradeniya says that the kidney failure is due to high levels of Cadmium in Fertilizer [7]. CEJ and other EJO are launching campaign for - awareness - demand to Court to control the pesticide - increases facilities for the pre-identification of the disease - increases facilities for the treatment of the disease CKDue is not the only disease related with the abuse of pesticide. Pesticides imported to Sri Lanka contains harmful constituents such as Arsenic, Mercury and other heavy metals. These unauthorized pesticides are imported to the country by submitting forged and illegal data and documents to the Sri Lankan authorities. The “Arsenicosis” is a chronic illness resulting from drinking water with high levels of Arsenic. According to scientific researches, it has found that these are cause number of cancer types including Skin cancer, Bladder cancer, Lung cancer etc. There are number of effects which cause variety of impacts to human bodies. Neurobehavioral and Naturopathic Effects, Effects on Memory and Intellectual Function, Reproductive Effects, Steatosis (Fatty Liver), Cardiovascular Disease, Ischemic Heart Diseases (IHD), Carotid Atherosclerosis, Respiratory System Diseases, Effects on Hormonal System, Diabetes Mellitus are some of them [8].
Basic Data
NameAgrochemical pesticides and kidney related diseases, Sri Lanka
CountrySri Lanka
ProvinceDry zone. North Central Province —Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. North Western province, Uva province, Eastern province. Southern province near Hambanthota
SiteMedawachchiya, Anuradhapura, Girandurukotte, Mahiyanaganaya, Padaviya, Sripura, Medirigiriya, Hingurakgoda, Dehiattakandiya, Nikawewa and Kabithigollawa, Monaragala, Wellawaya, Rajarata
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Agro-toxics
Specific CommoditiesPesticides
Project Details and Actors
Project Area (in hectares)1,700,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected PopulationAccording to the oficials CKDue affected people are arround 30,000. However, unofficial information suggested it coud be over 400,000 people [9].
Start Date1990
Company Names or State EnterprisesMonsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
Bayer from Germany
Hayleys from Sri Lanka
Syngenta from Switzerland
Lankem from Sri Lanka
Relevant government actorsRegistrar of Pesticides – Department of agriculture

Ministry of Health

Central Environmental Authority

Commissioner General of Agrarian Development

Consumer Affairs Authority

World Health Organsation
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCentre for environmental justice (CEJ)

Monlar Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR)

Sri Lanka Soba Samuhikaya

New Era

Swarnahansa Padanama

Buddhist Actions on Nature
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Landless peasants
Religious groups
Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Local government/political parties
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Women
Informal workers
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Other Environmental impacts
OtherUnsuitability of soil for life forms
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
OtherKidney disease,, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts such as: Neurobehavioral and Naturopathic Effects, Effects on Memory and Intellectual Function, Reproductive Effects, Steatosis (Fatty Liver), Cardiovascular Disease, Ischemic Heart Diseases (IHD), Carotid Atherosclerosis, Respiratory System Diseases, Effects on Hormonal System, Diabetes Mellitus.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherFamilies of treated people must use most of their income for treatement and medicine.

Migration due to the inability of land work.

Social exclusion. Sons of illness people can faces problems to marry because other families fear their daughters or sons might also come down with the disease
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseNew legislation
Moratoria
Project temporarily suspended
The Agriculture Ministry banned the import, distribution and sale of four pesticides and one weedicide.
The pesticides – Carbaryl, Chlorophyriphos, Carbofuran and Propanil and the weedicide Glyphosate have been banned. However, put under pressure, Sri Lanka’s government placed on hold its decision to ban the top-selling Monsanto herbicide glyphosate [6]
Development of AlternativesSustainable and biologic agricultures

Improvement of the health care system
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The epidemic is spreading more and more all over Sri Lanka.

However, a positive note is that the Agriculture Ministry banned the import, distribution and sale of four pesticides and one weedicide.

The pesticides – Carbaryl, Chlorophyriphos, Carbofuran and Propanil and the weedicide Glyphosate have been banned.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. International code of conduct on the distribution and use of pesticides (amended to include prior informed consent in Article 9 as adopted by the 25th session of the FAO conference in November 1989). Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization; 1990

Control of Pesticide Act No. 33 (1980)
[click to view]

References

[4] N. Jayatilake, S. Mendis, P. Maheepala, F. R. Mehta and On behalf of the CKDu National Research Project Team. Chronic kidney disease of uncertain aetiology: prevalence and causative factors in a developing country. 2013

[6] Newspaper article from: The international consortium of investigative journalist. By S. Chavkin. Herbicide ban as kidney disease origin remains elusive. April 2014
[click to view]

[1] Chandrajith R, Nanayakkara S, Itai K, Aturaliya TN, Dissanayake CB, Abeysekara T, Harada K, Watanabe T, Koizumi A. Chronic kidney disease of uncertain etiology (CKDue) in Sri Lanka: geographic distribution and environmental implications. Environ Geochem Health, 2010

[3] C. Jayasumana, S. Gunatilake, P. Senanayake. Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka?
[click to view]

[2] S. Johnson, S. S. Misra, R. Sahu, P. Saxena. Environmental contamination and its association with Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in North Central Region of Sri Lanka, Centre for Science and Environment, 2012, New Delhi

Links

Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), Sri Lanka
[click to view]

Medical mystery: Kidney disease killing farm workers in Sri Lanka
[click to view]

[9] Newspaper article from: The New York Times. By the associated press. Mystery Kidney Disease Killing Sri Lankan Farmers. January 2015
[click to view]

[7] Centre for Environmental Justice. Campaign Launched "Let Us Live -Don't poison us"
[click to view]

[5] Newspaper article from: The international consortium of investigative journalist. By Sasha Chavkin, Sri Lanka bans leading Monsanto herbicide citing deadly disease fears. March 2014
[click to view]

[8] Centre for Environmental Justice. Press release CASE NO.CA Ap 531/11 Arsenic in Pesticides. August 2011.
[click to view]

Other Documents

Protest outside the FAO office in Bauddhaloka Mawatha Source: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/121021/news/fao-blamed-for-spread-of-chronic-kidney-disease-17441.html
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorCentre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update05/12/2016
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