New UN Report stuns organic fertiliser critics | Sunday Observer

New UN Report stuns organic fertiliser critics

19 September, 2021

Those who are seething against the principled policy of organic fertiliser replacing the chemical stuff that we were used to, should read the recent UN report on farm subsidies.

A new UN study castigates the farm subsidies that are pumped into the dairy industry in developed countries, and for chemical fertiliser and insecticides used in the developing world.

Almost 90 percent of the $540bn in global subsidies given to farmers every year are “harmful”, a startling UN report has found, writes The Guardian’s Environment Editor. This is the fat end of the world subsidy enterprise, in which there is a liberal infusion of money that’s injected to boost industrialised farming each year — “ big farma”, if you will.

The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has castigated the organic fertiliser policy, and various pundits have inveighed against it from the safety of their air conditioned office cubicles in urban dystopia.

Support for the “outsized” meat and dairy industry in rich countries must be reduced, while subsidies for polluting chemical fertiliser and pesticides must fall in lower-income countries, the UN analysis states.

There must be considerable egg on the face of the critics who opposed the chemical fertiliser ban in its entirety — even though some criticisms on the modus operandi of the new policy would have been, at the very least, rational. But what did we have?

Hysterical rants basically extrolling the virtues of chemical fertiliser accompanied by tirades on the wooly headedness of the organic fertiliser initiative.

The Guardian article goes on: “The UN report found that between 2013 and 2018, support to farmers totalled an average of $540bn a year, of which 87 percent ($470bn) was “harmful”. This included price incentives for specific livestock and crops, subsidies for fertiliser and pesticides and distorting export subsidies and import tariffs.”


The JVP and SJB know-it-alls have been tone deaf to the known negative effects of chemical fertiliser and now it appears they are at least by default in cahoots with the “big farma” subsidy culture that’s ruining the planet.

How about those protests then, that have been mounted by the ‘harried farming community’?

“Changes in subsidy regimes are likely to be politically controversial and could spark protests among farmers and other groups,” Morgan Gillespy of the Food and Land Use Coalition said. “But just because it is hard, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. The facts are now clear.” (British Guardian.)

The farmer protests here have mostly been orchestrated by the JVP’s overactive political machine. It’s been their usual methodology — i.e.: to cause a crisis and then stage a protest citing negligence and worse.

For example, they agitate for Covid-19 related shutdowns at the drop of a hat and when the closures in fact take place, they bring out a parade of the “hungry and neglected” claiming the lockdowns kept these people famished and in abject penury.

The UN report substantially gives the lie to the campaigns carried on by vested interests on various fronts.

Strident interest groups for instance have been agitating to keep the imported milk food industry going. Powdered milk, in the form that it’s sold, is useless to the consumer but then, these are highly subsidised “big farma” products that come to us from countries that have these industrial scale dairy farming projects in place, as it were, to dupe the consumers in foreign countries — and contribute in colossal quantities to global warming, to boot.

We can no longer have lobby groups — SJB, JVP or NGO backed, that stand the truth on its head by demonising organic fertiliser projects, and celebrating the use of chemical fertilisers, while deploring the import restrictions on foreign origin powdered milk food products.

In today’s context, lobby groups that stick to such policies for whatever professed reasons, must be peopled by either ignoramuses and yokels — or those who have indentured themselves to vested interests for collateral reasons.


The Government’s move is towards global sustainability and it’s a long game. Those who are opposed to it on principle are in the dark ages — because they are basically cheering on a project of laying waste to vast tracts of land.

The UN report cited above states that such acts of desertification caused by subsidised farming and chemical fertiliser usage could be rectified by the practice of agroforestry.

Agroforestry is “the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic, and social benefits.” It’s is organic farming in its essence because it helps carbon sequestration which is the process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere to be held in the soil (for crop nutrition).

These are the enlightened practices that the JVP and the so called socially conscious elite should be cheering for if any one of them have a progressive bone in their body. But they have been getting along with the vested interests, now exposed in the UN report.

“What is needed by Sri Lanka at the present juncture is to go for a second green revolution to improve its agricultural yields. As mentioned above, the first Green Revolution was based on the development of high yielding varieties, application of chemical fertiliser and pesticides.” That’s a quote from a recent article by a so called former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank.

Its one thing to oppose the organic fertiliser initiative based on the detail i.e. to say that it’s too all-encompassing and so on, but the above quote shows how far into the dark ages the so called policy elite have regressed.

The former Deputy Governor wants more application of chemical fertilisers and pesticides— a second Green Revolution, he calls it.

From under exactly which rock did he emerge recently? The UN warns of the dire consequences of subsidised chemical fertiliser use and industrial scale dairy farming and so on, and points out that these practices are egregiously harmful to the planet, but here we have an ex-Central Bank policy mandarin saying we should double down on the toxic culture of the agriculture of the past.


This sort of blanket caving into vested interests as the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna MP Mohommed Muzammil said on TV once, begs the question — how far have these vested interests gone in trying to influence people? Is it the money?

It cannot be put past these interest groups — the possibility that they have used material inducement to acquire supporters.

However, it’s unlikely that the ex-Central Bank officer was in the pay. But shouldn’t such folk be more aware of how damaging their support for these regressive causes can be — especially when they can be used by the aforementioned vested interests to promote their harmful practices?

Of course food security issues are ever present. They cannot be wished away. But does it mean that the obvious harmful effects of ‘big farma’ agricultural practices should be completely ignored? That we turn a blind eye to land desertification and so on that potentially could cause more hunger in the long run?

That’s not just myopic, it’s totally irresponsible behaviour. The JVP, SJB types owes the nation an unqualified apology for touting regressive policy as progressive, and ex-Central Bank types could join in too.

On a matter of principle it’s settled science that organic farming is fast becoming a necessity because the Green Revolutions so-called came at a price.

High yielding crop varieties are one thing, but unquestioning reliance on chemical fertilisers and unsustainable agricultural practices such as industrial scale dairy farming are absolutely a thing of the past.

If anyone is encouraging powdered milk imports under these circumstances they belong in the Stone Age.

The long game under the new organic fertiliser initiative is hard, and challenging. But transforming takes sacrifices. The project may need adjustment because there are considerations such as crop yield no doubt that ought to be thought about. But to oppose the initiative on principle as our pundits have done, is phenomenally ignorant, period.