ECONOMYNEXT - Legislator Wimal Weerawansa alleged that an infestation of Fall Armyworm in Sri Lanka had been triggered through imported seed from multinational companies, and not through aerial transmission as conspiracy theories took wing in parliament.
Weerawansa said officials had claimed that the pest was transmitted to Sri Lanka though the North-East monsoon.
"The Fall Armyworm (larvae form of Fall Armyworm moth), could not have come with the monsoon winds because it lives only seven days," Weerawansa, a legislator backing the opposition Sri Lanka Podujana Party said.
"Monsoon winds come from countries like Bangladesh and Thailand and the caterpillar would die before it came to Sri Lanka.
"The government is trying to hide the fact that the pest came from imported seeds," he charged.
Agriculture minister P Harrison said the worm (larvae) could not fly.
"It is the moth that flies, not the worm," he told Weerawansa. "Worms cannot fly."
"The caterpillar is part of its life cycle and so is the moth."
The Fall Armyworm belongs to the order Lepidoptera, the second largest order among insects after Coleoptera (Beetles), to which moths and butterflies belong. Moths are mostly nocturnal and dull coloured.
Lepidoptera goes through a cycle involving egg, larvae (caterpillar), pupae and adult (moth).
Harrison said the moth could fly over 100 kilometres a night and it had spread throughout India in a few weeks.
Scientists have also suspected in other countries that the species could probably propagate with tourists and through imports.
However in Sri Lanka the first infestation had been noted in Amparai in the North East of the island.
Other opposition legislators floated more conspiracy theories charging that multinational firms may have spread the worm to Sri Lanka to sell more pesticide.
There were also questions whether importers of maize had brought the worm, so that crops are destroyed, to help them import more. (Colombo/Jan23/2018)