Endosulfan: meet in Geneva begins, India still in denial

Sharad Pawar says many states had asked him not to ban the pesticide

By Savvy Soumya Misra
Published: Monday 25 April 2011

Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar is rooting for endosulfan just before the fifth Conference of Parties (COP) of the Stockholm Convention meets in Geneva

India softens its stand on endosulfan
Day 5- April 29:

The last day of the Stockholm Convention, ushered some good news for all those crusading against endosulfan in India. Endosulfan has finally been brought under the Annex A of the Stockholm Convention, which means that Endosulfan should be banned globally. India softened its stand and agreed to the listing without any opposition. This was a welcome move as India had become almost notorious for opposing any ban on endosulfan in the international arena ever since it was introduced as a persistent organic pollutant in the fourth Stockholm Convention in 2008.

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from April 25 to April 30 to decide the fate of the pesticide.

There seems to be a pattern in Pawar’s resistance to banning endosulfan. Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha on February 22, the minister misled the House and said many states did not want a ban on the pesticide.

Pawar reiterated his inability to ban at a meeting with National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) officials in Delhi on April 19. He contends there are no studies to prove that endosulfan is harmful. Eighty-one countries have either banned it or are in the process of banning it. In India, Kerala and Karnataka have banned it. But Pawar argues there is no scientific basis for actions recommended on endosulfan by the Stockholm Convention. “We fail to understand his logic,” an NHRC statement says. “Countries which banned it have access to advanced scientific research. The European Union, the US, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand did that on the basis of scientific data and studies.” The NHRC had earlier asked the government to join the international consensus at Geneva and allow the pesticide to be listed as an Annex A chemical. This will allow complete elimination of endosulfan from the environment.

Ahead of the COP
  • Awareness march by medical students in Kerala to culminate at Kasaragod on April 25
  • Kerala proposes to observe April 25 as Endosulfan Day
  • Kerala CM to send all-party delegation to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi
  • Environmental health groups urge Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) to ban endosulfan
The chemical, agriculture and health ministries have adopted a regressive stance on banning endosulfan under the influence of the Indian Chemical Council, an industry body,” says Gopal Krishna, convener of advocacy group Toxics Watch Alliance.

The demand to ban the pesticide gained strength in December last year. Since then, Pawar has claimed the government would go by the decision of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). The medical body is awaiting results of a study by Calicut Medical College in Kerala, after which it will start a nationwide study on endosulfan. It was expected to be ready before the Indian delegation left for Geneva. But the study has not been released yet.

“Now India will go to COP with the excuse that a study is on and, therefore, it cannot take a call on the ban,” says Jayakumar C, who works with Thanal, a non-profit in Kerala. He has been a regular observer at COP.

The Kerala government has come out with a study which shows endosulfan leads to high abortion rates, infertility, intra-uterine deaths, besides kidney, liver and neuro-behavioural disorders. Among children, cases of morbidity, congenital heart disease, cerebral palsy and skeletal abnormalities were found common. Schoolgirls were diagnosed with high levels of estrogen, which, in the long run, leads to cervical and breast cancers. Endosulfan residue was found in blood samples of victims in Kasaragod district of Kerala.

Pawar’s lies

The agriculture minister had told Parliament that many states did not want a ban on endosulfan. But no state ever wrote to him requesting not to ban the pesticide. Responding to a Right to Information (RTI) application, the ministry said it had received six letters. But, none were from state governments. Four of the letters were sourced from Gujarat, two from farmers. The third was by Saurashtra Chamber of Commerce and Industry while the fourth was from Shri Sudarshan Vishav Krishi Kendra Trust, a non-profit in Amreli, Gujarat.

Gujarat has vested interest in opposing the ban as two of the three big endosulfan manufacturers—Excel Crop Care Limited and Coromandel International Limited—are based in the state.

4,273 victims identified in Kasaragod

38 per cent of the victims suffer from neuro-behavioural, cognitive disorders

15 per cent suffer from endocrine, reproductive disorders

RTI application filed in Dakshin Kannada reveals aerial spray was done in 96 villages; a preliminary count suggests 6,000 victims in these villages

*Source: Sneha Santhwanam, Kerala’s rehabilitation programme for endosulfan victims
The fifth letter came from the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association. Its secretary general P Chengal Reddy has worked closely with Monsanto. The last letter was written by Jyotsana P Kapadia, who was portrayed by the pesticide lobby as “the scientist who revealed the fraud done by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH)”. Its study had indicted endosulfan. Kapadia is DGM, Excel Crop Care Limited.

In March, Gujarat released a study done by the state health and family welfare department which concluded that exposure to endosulfan has no impact on people’s health. “The report is absurd. It gave a clean chit to endosulfan by citing methodological errors in the NIOH study. It completely ignored scientific evidence and literature,” says Mohammed Asheel, a medical doctor, who is also assistant nodal officer of Sneha Santhwanam, a state rehabilitation programme for endosulfan victims in Kerala.

The Gujarat endosulfan report refers to a study done by Samvardhan Trust, a non-profit based in Bhavnagar. The trust had evaluated residues of the pesticide in blood samples of farmers in two villages of Rajkot. It had assigned the job to International Institute of Biotechnology and Toxicology (IIBAT) in Tamil Nadu.

In 2001, IIBAT—called FIPPAT—was commissioned by the Plantation Corporation of Kerala to study the impact of endosulfan in Kasaragod. It found no residue of the pesticide in any blood sample, cow’s milk or water.

But an investigation by Down To Earth in 2004  revealed the institute had detected endosulfan residue in human blood samples, but did not disclose it in the final report.

“I suspect the report is ghost written by officials of Pesticide Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India (PMFAI) or Indian Chemical Council. It makes all the standard arguments and uses language identical to the industry releases. Endosulfan is “soft” on pollinators; “vested interests” are behind the call to ban endosulfan; and banning endosulfan is EU plot to increase sale of patented insecticides, it says. Some parts are taken verbatim from the remarks of the PMFAI president,” writes Karl Tupper, senior scientist at the Pesticide Action Network-North America, in an e-mail circulated within the organisation.

New endosulfan ploy
Toxic tales from God's own country
Another Kasaragod
Endosulfan sufferers don't count
State of endosulfan
Pesticides lobby’s coup

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