Don't Miss Out

Subscribe to OCA's News & Alerts.

Sri Lanka Killer Kidney Disease Linked to Monsanto Weedicide, Phosphate Fertilizer: Study

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Genetic Engineering Page and our Millions Against Monsanto Page.

 A herbicide developed by US-based Monsanto and contaminated fertilizer may be behind an epidemic of mystery kidney disease in Sri Lanka and South America where rice and sugarcane is grown, a research study has suggested.

The paper by Channa Jayasumana (Rajarata University, Sri Lanka), Sarath Gunatilake (California State University, USA) and Priyantha Senanayake (Hela Suwaya Organization, Sri Lanka) has been published in Swiss-based International Journals of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Glyphosate-metal complex

N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine a widely used herbicide better known as glyphosate, could be helping carry heavy metals toxic to kidneys, occurring naturally and in agro-chemicals such as phosphate fertilizer, the researchers said.

Chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu) first appeared in Sri Lanka's rice growing areas in the north central province in the 1990s and has been spreading into other areas including the South, with over 20,000 estimated deaths so far.

Glyphosate was originally used as a de-scaling agent to clean out calcium and other mineral deposits in hot water systems, the study said. De-scaling agents tie themselves to on metals like Calcium and Magnesium and makes them water soluble.

It was later sold as a herbicide by US-based Monsanto under the brand name 'Round up' and was under patent until 2000. By 2012 China became the largest producer of glyphosate in the world.

The mystery kidney disease is mostly found in areas with 'hard' ground water (water containing Calcium, Magnesium, Strontium and Iron and other chemicals) except in Sri Lanka's northern province where the ground water is also hard.

But in the Northern Province agro-chemical use was banned until the end of a civil war to prevent them being used to make bombs until a few years ago and there was no CKDu epidemic there yet, providing evidence to a recent agro-chemical link, the paper said.


Other researchers have earlier found Arsenic in hair and nails of victims and even healthy individuals in the affected areas.

The researchers cite findings saying the affected rice growing areas are naturally rich in heavy metals including Nickel, Chromium, Cobalt and others.

Triple-super-phosphate (TSP) fertilizer used in farming was also found to contain heavy metals and Arsenic.

"...[W]ithin a couple of weeks after the spraying of glyphosate farmers apply triple phosphate (TSP) to the paddy fields," the researchers said.

"Recent findings have shown that the TSP available in Sri Lanka is contaminated with significant amounts of Cd (Cadmium), Cr (Cromium), Ni (Nickel) and Pb (lead).

"Furthermore, it was also found that TSP used in Sri Lanka is a very rich source of arsenic."

The paper cited anecdotal reports of shallow wells that have becoming increasingly contaminated and being abandoned by farmers.

The disease was also not found in people drinking from natural springs which had no hard water and pipe-borne water.