Scientists get legal notice for highlighting health hazards of endosulfan

Excel Crop Care asks them to withdraw report, apologise publicly by July 28

 
By Savvy Soumya Misra
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

S Ganesan on behalf of Excel Crop Care, the biggest endosulfan manufacturer in the country, has sent a legal notice to the Government Medical college, Calicut for their report on endosulfan. The report indicted endosulfan for the health problems of those living in the cashew plantations in Kasaragod district of Kerala.

 

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The epidemiological study was conducted by the department of community medicine of the college and was funded by Kerala government's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The legal notices have been sent individually to three doctors- Jayakrishnan T, Prabhakumari C and Thomas Bina-who had carried out the study as well as the principal of the college C Ravindran.

The notices were sent on July 20 and the company has asked the college to withdraw its report and apologise publicly by July 28. "It is a government report. We just conducted the study and submitted it to them. Now it is the prerogative of the government to withdraw it or keep it," says Ravindran.

Ganesan has also send legal notice to S Muralidharan, a scientist at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), in Kerala. Muralidharan had analysed the data that was sent to SACON by the Calicut Medical College. He said it was unethical, unfair and unheard of and if anyone had a problem with a scientific study, they should challenge it with another study rather than sending legal notices and asking to withdraw the study.

 



"This is an old tactic of the endosulfan manufacturers. They always try to attack scientists who indict endosulfan. They know that this study will be cited by The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) in the the Supreme Court. As it will be against them so they want to apply all kinds of pressure,” says P Karunakaran, CPM leader and member of parliament from Kasaragod. It should be the state's responsibility to stand up for the doctors and take cognizance of the legal notice, he adds.

This is not the first time that endosulfan manufacturers have used the scare tactics. The Centre for Environment and Agrochemicals (CEA), a non-profit, started by the endosulfan manufacturers in 2006 has previously sent notices to NIOH (National Institute of Occupational Health) in 2006 asking for unconditional apology in writing and to withdraw its report with immediate effect. In the same year, another organisation the Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) sent legal notice to Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a non-profit based in Delhi, demanding immediate withdrawal of the study citing health hazards of endosulfan.

But the legal notice is ill timed. ICMR has been relying heavily on this study to prepare its interim report for the Supreme Court. The organisation is part of the Supreme Court appointed joint committee, along with the agriculture commissioner, that has to file an interim report before the Court when it meets on August 5. The Supreme Court had imposed an interim ban on the pesticide on May 13 and will take a decision on either imposing a permanent ban or lifting the ban based on the report filed by the joint committee. Based on the study, the ICMR team has visited Kasaragod once in May and is scheduled to visit again in July end.

Now, pressure is being created on the leader of opposition and former CM VS Achuthanandan to persuade the present CM Oomen Chandy to stand up for the doctors and scientists.

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