THE ENDOSULFAN CONTROVERSY
A lot of hype was there in the media about banning Endosulfan. A seed of suspicion got planted in my mind and started to sprout when more and more attention is given towards a single pesticide. The media which is creating such a great scene, I thought either were not aware of the ground realities or lobbied by some influential forces. My suspicion proved to be right when I went through internet and other media news. A deliberate plan is done to ban Endosulfan with vested interest by MNC pesticide companies.
PESTICIDE USE SCENARIO IN INDIA
PESTICIDE USE SCENARIO IN INDIA
When I was working in a fertilizer concern, field visits to remote villages and the dealer shops is a routine, as part of my job. During such visits I will be surprised by the range of pesticides and fungicides in the market, packed in colorful tins and bottles from 100 ml to even 10 litre packs. There were also combination products combining two or more chemical pesticides ( like Paracetamol being combined with Nimusulide/Caffiene) etc for therapeutic use). And every year new chemical pesticides (mostly a variant of the already existing one) and new combination pesticides will flood the market. The speed with which they come into market and the marketing strategy employed by MNCs used to astonish me. Whether the field trials of such pesticides were done with at most care, whether they are environmentally safe, human friendly and even their so called efficacy on pests is tested is a million dollar question. Scientists in agricultural universities have very little knowledge about the pesticides which is actually used in field, by the Indian Farmers as the syllabus is outdated and they get satisfied with the theoretical knowledge they have. Many of the research done also is mostly on the off-beaten track. Toxicology studies also hence were limited to few pesticides.
There were many companies, reputed Indian Companies, Multinational companies like Syngenta, Bayer etc and small manufacturers who were manufacturing and marketing pesticides in India. If you take the Pesticide Monocrotophos, it alone is manufactured by more than 300 companies in different brand names the popular among them being Nuvacron and Monocil. The cost and quality differs with companies, MNC usually charging higher for their product while the product by a local manufacturer costs cheap. The same is the case with Endosulfan. These two Monocrotophos and Endosulfan ( brand names –Endocel, Thiosulfan etc) is the most commonly used pesticides and will be there even in the rack of a very small dealer shop in a very remote village. While Monocrotophos belong to Organophosporus group of pesticides and is Systemic in nature (will be absorbed into the system of plants and insects) and Endosulfan is a Organochlorine Pesticide which is a Contact Pesticide (cause death of the insect which comes in contact with it). Endosulfan is widely used for spraying in vegetable crops like Brinjal, Chillies, Bhendi tomato, etc and also to control pests in horticultural tree crops especially Mango and Cashew. In Tamilnadu, it is widely used to control Tea Mosquito bug menace in Mango and Cashew, apart from its widespread usuage to vegetables (and this is the scenario with respect to other states in India). Typically it is sprayed once or twice to crops especially when mango and cashew starts blooming. Both Mango and Cashew plants belong to family Anacardaecia. Endosulfan is very effective in controlling the pest and increase yield by preventing flower and bud drop in Mango and Cashew. The vegetables which are consumed daily by Indian people gets alteast a spray of Endosulfan. If the pest damage is severe, the farmers go for still toxic pesticide and a for a mixture of pesticides and fungicides.
My suspicion was based only on this ground. Endosulfan is practically used by every farmer. Also there are many chemicals which are very toxic than Endosulfan. Why a single pesticide alone has become a target? If usage of pesticide and its toxicity is such a big concern, why there is no talk about other pesticides which are more toxic than Endosulfan and which have more bio-durable and bio-accumulating properties than
THE STOCKHOLM CONVENTION AND BAN ON ENDOSULFAN
In the Stockholm Convention held in Geneva, recently on 29th April,2011, Endosulfan is defined as Persistent organic Pollutant: it is persistant in the environment, bioaccumulative, demonstrates long range environmental transport and causes adverse health to human and environment. Thus Endosulfan is listed as a POP in the convention, as Long-range Transboundary Air pollutant (LRTAP) and is recognized as a Persistent Toxic substance by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
Endosulfan is also called as Yesterday’s pesticide. First registered for use in 1954, endosulfan is a broad spectrum organochlorine insecticide. Following international recognition of their long term negative impacts on the global environment, organochlorines, including DDT, chlordane and HCH, have been largely eliminated from use in global agriculture. Endosulfan remains the major exception and is still widely applied to crops – particularly in the developing world.
Reports and studies of European union says that Endosulfan is found extensively in global water resources and as a contaminant in human breast milk ( samples from women in Egypt, Madagascar, South Africa, India, Indonesia, Pakisthan and in Umbilical cord blood samples.
According to the US EPA, “Monitoring data and incident reports confirm that endosulfan is moving through aquatic and terrestrial food chains and that its use has resulted in adverse effects on the environment adjacent to and distant from its registered use sites”.
The European union which supports endosulfan ban states that acute endosulfan poisoning can cause convulsions, psychiatric disturbances, epilepsy, paralysis, brain oedema, impaired memory and death. Long term exposure is linked to immunosuppression, neurological disorders, congenital birth defects, chromosomal abnormalities, mental retardation, impaired learning and memory loss.
Based on above grounds and Stating various other reasons, the Conference of Parties in the Stockholm Convention (173 countires) approved the recommendation for elimination of use and production of Endosulfan and its isomers worldwide, subject to certain exemptions. However this decision will not be binding to India unless specifically approved by our Country
Exemptions will be available for application of endosulfan against 44 pests in 22 crops — cotton, jute, coffee, tea, tobacco, cowpeas, beans, tomato, okra, eggplant, onion, potato, chillies, apple, mango, gram, arhar, maize, paddy/rice, wheat, groundnuts and mustard. The pests include aphids in most of the exempted crops, bollworms, jassids, whiteflies, thrips and leafroller in cotton, Bihar hairy caterpillar and yellow mites in jute and berry borer and stem borer in coffee. For tea, application of endosulfan is allowed for a host of pests including caterpillars and tea mosquitoes. Endosulfan will be allowed to be used against hopper and fruit fillies in mango and several pests in tomato. In rice, use will be permitted against white jassids, stem borer, gall midge and rice hispa and in wheat against termites and pink borer, besides aphids.
In the Convention Developing Countries were asked to look for alternatives for Endosulfan and financial assistance in this regard is assured to them. This exemption will be available for five years and extendable to another five years.
ENDOSULFAN CONTROVERSY IN KERALA
ENDOSULFAN CONTROVERSY IN KERALA
This shows that the move to ban Endosulfan did not originate in India. However the issue was brought to highlight and caught the eyes of media by an article published by the Environmental Magazine Down to Earth (28.02.2011 issue) due to the efforts of the NGO called Center for Science and Environment. It reported that the aerial spraying of Endosulfan in the Cashew plantations owned by Planatation Corporation of Kerala (PCK) in the Kasorgode District of Kerala (spread over 3550 ha in three different plantations) has resulted in severe health hazards to people living in villages near the Plantations . The health hazards ranged from cerebral palsy, epilepsy, mental retardation, psychic problems, alterations in reproductive organs, disability due to disfigurement of arms and limbs, cancer, hormone problems and infertility problems. The CSE also reported that its research findings showed high level of Endosulfan in natural resources and in bodies of affected human beings.
The CSE investigators reported a level of Endosulfan varying between 109 and 196 ppm in the blood of all subjects with varying degree of illnesses. This level is very much higher than the Endosulfan level found in fatal Endosylfan Poisioning cases. Also the sophisticated Gas chromotorgraphy method used by CSE can give only the quantitative estimation and cannot identify an unknown substance which has to be confirmed by standard tests. Hence the levels found in CSE studies are whether that of Endosulfan remains as a fact to be proved.
A alternative study performed by Fredrick Institute of Plant Protection and Toxicology appointed by the government shows opposite results. The study reported Endosulfan residues in the range of 0.001 to 0.012 ppm in Soil samples and 0,04 to 2.863 ppm in Cashew leaves. This FIPPAT study also did not perform confirmatory test for the compound.
The National Human Rights commission intervened in this issue as it became a big problem and asked many institutes including the Indian Council of Medical Research, which assigned the task to its subsidiary wing National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH)
The NIOH study (conducted through samples drawn during the period Sept to Oct,2007) revealed that there was 0.0280 to 0.0677 ppb levels of total endosulfan ( alpha,beta isomers and endosulfan sulphate put together) which was much lesser than the maximum permissible level (74 ppb) stipulated by US Environmental Protection agency (EPA). In soil samples the total endosulfan level was 0.988 ppb higher than the reference sample. In drinking water the level was 0.0004 to 0.03 in different samples from Padre village. Thse levels too were not higher than maximum permissible level.
However the report indicated high levels of Endosulfan in the bodies of affected victims.
However the report indicated high levels of Endosulfan in the bodies of affected victims.
The study by NIOH also showed that the serum Endosulfan levels in the blood samples from study area was much higher than the reference areas and statistically proven to be highly significant. The reason for this can be attributed to bioaccumulation due to continuous exposure says the report.
NIOH study also revealed that Neuro behavioral problems, Congenital problems, learning disability problem and IQ problem in children, aggressive nature of children and other health problems do exists at higher level in the villages under study compared to standard.
Based on this study NIOH has arrived at some conclusion and recommendations which were given below
- There is significantly higher prevalence of neurobehavioural disorders, congenital malformations in female subjects and abnormalities related to male reproductive system in the study group (Padre village, Enmakaje Panchayat) as compared to the referencegroup (Miyapavadu village of Meenja Panchayat).
- Regarding the aetiological factors, responsible for these health problems, various factors were compared and it was found that the two groups differed mainly with respect to aerial spray of endosulfan. Therefore the most probable cause fond the health problems in the study area could be relatively high and continued exposures to endosulfan through various environmental media such as food, water, soil and air.
- The physiography of Padre village has been a major factor responsible for continued exposure of the population.
- There is a close similarity between the spectrum of health effects observed in the study population and those described in animal experiments. This supports the hypothesis of endosulfan as a causative factor fond the endpoints observed in the study. It need to be stressed that the animal experiments were carried out with much higher dosages and the exposure was mostly acute or subacute. Animal toxicity studies are carried out to identify the target organs of toxicity and possible spectrum of effects. The effects of any chemical are determined by the dose, duration and the time of exposure. It has been demonstrated that much lower doses of toxicants may result in adverse health effects manifesting as functional or organic disorders in later life if the exposure takes place during the early developmental phase.
- The cashew plantations of PCK Ltd. In Kasaragod District are all located in the undulating hilly areas .The plantations are spread in isolated patches and are intertwined with habitations. The topography of the area precludes the possibility of aerial spraying observing all the protocols.
- There are a large number of wells inside and just outside the plantations area. Several streams originate there. The water from the plantations (situated on the hills) can run off into the valleys inhabited by local people. The rivulets Panathur and Karicheri, which are fed by streams originating from or passing through the area, are tributaries of Chandragiri river, which supplies drinking water to Kasaragod town and several Panchayaths. The surangams, from which the local people draw water, are cut deep into the hills forming the plantations. They are prone to contamination by chemicals applied in the estates. Therefore, the hydrology and morphology of the area are unsuited for aerial spraying.
- The human settlement pattern of the area also makes the plantation area unsuitable for aerial spraying. The adjoining areas are thickly populated. There are large numbers of houses inside the plantations. There are pockets of human settlement surrounded on 3 sides by the plantations. There are large number of houses and wells inside and just outside the plantations. The local people allow their cattle to freely graze in the plantation area. There are several schools inside and just outside the plantation area.Even the Pesticide Manufacturers and Formulators Association has agreed to the view that the area is not ideal for aerial spraying of pesticides.
- The PCK has not been following the rules prescribed for aerial spraying. This has been reported by the District Collector, all the functionaries of the Panchayaths who deposed before the Committee, the experts and the great majority of generalpublic. There was no effective supervision of spraying and no monitoring of theprecautionary measures and the after-effects.
- The same pesticide endosulfan was used continuously from 1981 onwards; in spite of the recommendations of Research organizations rotate the chemicals. The reason given by the PCK is that endosulfan is the most economic pesticide available in the market. Even the possibility of the bugs acquiring immunity to endosulfan due to long exposure has not been considered by the PCK.
- As in the cases of most other pesticides, endosulfan can cause acute toxicity in animals and human beings due to over exposure. That is why strict protocol is prescribed for its use. Though chronic toxicity due to long term exposure has not been convincingly established, it cannot be ruled out.
- There are reports of health problems in the three Panchayath adjacent to the plantations. There is no direct evidence to attribute these health problems directly to endosulfan pollution, but there is no evidence to completely deny it. Other usual causes like pollution from automobiles and industries are absent here. The only activity that is not normal is the aerial spraying of endosulfan. The pesticide is applied without observing the safety rules. The same chemical is used for 2 decades. Hence at this point of time, there is no evidence to implicate or exonerate endosulfan as the causative factor of the health problems. But, the proof of absence cannot be taken as the absence of proof. In all environmental pollution problems, the onus of responsibility to prove or disprove the causeeffect relationship should be that of the polluter and not of the general public who are the victims of pollution. Since cashew is an important export item earning revenue to the State and a large number of workers are involved in it, publicity to the pollution from endosulfan spray can prove detrimental to the industry.
1. Ban aerial spraying of pesticides in all the cashew plantations of PCK Ltd. In Kasaragod District.
2. Use of endosulfan in the PCK plantations of Kasaragod District should be frozen for 5 years.
3. In the cashew plantations in the Peria Division (which includes Enmakaje Panchayath), a total pesticide holiday should be observed for 5 years. This plantations should be left to the nature during these 5 years. Detailed studie on tea-mosquito bug menace and its relation to the crop productivity should be made during this period.
4. In the other plantations of PCK in Kasaragod district, need based ground spraying, (manual or power-operated) of pesticides other than endosulfan may be resorted to, in consultation with research organizations.
5. The pesticide management and plant protection of PCK should be scientifically organized.
6. Research efforts to evolve integrated pest management (IPM) should be augmented.
7. Breeding programme to develop cashew strains resistant to tea-mosquito bug should be undertaken.
8. Since the cause of the human health problem could not be deduce conclusively, a detailed investigation involving scientists from all relate fields should be conducted to identify the risk factors for the high morbidity the Padre village and other affected areas. A detailed health survey should be conducted in the Padre village and other areas from which cases of abno health problems are reported. The health survey should cover the plantation workers also.
9. Since most of the people who complain about health problems are from poorer sections of the community, the Government should make arrangemen to provide special medical care to these persons.
10. The Government should take all steps to implement these recommendatio and dispel the fears regarding pesticide application.
11. The right to information of the use of pesticides should be respected. The Gram Panchayaths should be given all details, when requested. The apprehensions of the local people regarding the alleged pesticide problem should be cleared by awareness programmes conducted through PCK, Agricultural Department and Research Institutions.
12 In every division of the PCK, a committee consisting of the following members should be constituted for monitoring the proper application of pesticide.
1. President/presidents of the concerned Gram Panchayath/Panchayaths
2. Agricultural Assistant
3. A representative of the Health Department
4. The Regional Officer of PCK
5. A representative of the workers of the concerned division of the PCK.
MY PERSONAL INFERENCE
All the findings point to one basic fact. The aerial spraying of endosuplhan without taking precautionary measures is the root cause of the problem and not the chemical endosulfan as such. Even so the report accepts that the direct relation between the existing health problems and Endosulfan is not established and further research is needed in this aspect.
VIEWS BY PERSONS/INSTITUTES AGAINST ENDOSULFAN BAN
The study by CSE has exaggerated the results since there is much differance between CSE study results and study by FIPPAT and NIOH. Even NIOH study results is disputed on following grounds
- Limit of quantification is not determined.
- Values fall much below even the detection limit.
- Linearity and range there of i.e., calibration curve is not established.
- No data related to recovery of analyte.
- No direct confirmation of results of analysis.
- Replicate sample determination and precision not given.
- Very high standard deviation implies that data is highly skewed and most of the values fall below detection limit
The Pesticide Manufactures and Formulators association of India has come up strongly against these reports stating that this is the ploy of Europeon union Indian manufacturers who hold 70 % market share( 12 million liters to a value of Rs4500 crores) of the total Endosulfan market in the world, which incidentally the third highest pesticide used all over the world. India also has rejected listing of Endosulfan as a POP due to lapse in proceedings, gaps in scientific data and lack of transparency which have been observed, reported and protested by India and other member countries. European Union, where Endosulfan was invented, manufactured and used for over 55 years has proposed the listing of Endosulfan as a POP to serve European trade interest. If generics are banned through regulatory mechanisms it becomes easier for patented molecules to expand their market share.
The myths and facts about Endosulfan
Myth.1: Endosulfan is a highly hazardous pesticide
Truth: Endosulfan is listed under class II ( Moderatly hazardous pesticide) by the World Health Organization and their bottle comes with yellow label. There are other highly hazardous pesticides that comes with red label to the Indian market and they are in continuous use in the country. No word is raised against them.
Myth.2 Endosulfan is a typical Organo chlorine Pesticide
Truth: It is not a typical organo chlorine pesticide unlike DDT and BHC. Even the gamma isomer of BHC is available in the market. Endosulfan is the Sulfurous ester of a Chlorinated Cyclic diol
Myth.3 Exposure to Endosulfan caused birth defects
Truth: Various reports on its genotoxic activity, mutagenecity and Clastogenecity has so far not shown any conclusive evidence of it.
Myth.4 Endosulfan Bioaccumulates in human bodies.
Truth: Studies have shown that endosulfan had relatively lesser affinity towards lipids. Their bioaccumulation and biomagnifications is much lesser than other Organo chlorine pesticides and Class I pesticides (THE EFSA Journal 2005, 23,1-31
Myth.5 Endosulfan causes Cancer
Myth.5 Endosulfan causes Cancer
Truth: Endosulfan is not found to be carcinogenic through various research studies (IPCS,1998 a).
Myth.6 Endosulfan persists for long in environment
Truth: Studies have shown that degradation of endosulfan is rather faster in tropical and subtropical climates. Dissipation of endofulphan occurs in soil to a extent of 92 to 97 % within four weeks of application ( Pesticide science 1997, 5021-27)
Besides this endosulfan is found to be good to honey bees causing them very less or low damage.
So where lies the truth? Do not believe what you see and hear. Even researches today are done with results in mind.
If endosufan is usage is so widespread in India, why the problem occurs only in India. When you look at the raw data of fertilizer sales, the union territory of Pondicherry will show high consumption of fertilizers/acre of land. But the truth is, 70 % of this is used in agricultural lands of Tamilnadu, adjacent to Pondicherry. The tax difference between the states makes fertilizer purchase from Pondicherry cheaper.Statistics may fool you. Lies, dammed lies and statistics goes a proverb.
On 25th April, 2011, India floated a draft paper demanding that the recommendation of a POP review committee, to declare endosulfan a pollutant, be set aside. It said the move to ban the pesticide was not based on facts and scientific criteria. It also pointed out that chemicals suggested as alternatives to endosulfan showed POP characteristics, even exceeding that of the controversial pesticide. It argued that endosulfan's risk profile has not been prepared, while instead of arriving at a consensus, as is the norm, the review committee was attempting to take decision by majority votes. Japan,China, South Korea and Omen also stood by India with respect to their view on Endosulfan ban (BUSINESS LINE, APRIL 26). But China withdrew the support before attending the conference and went in support of the European union
But by 29th April, 2011, suddenly India agrees to compromise on global ban on endofulfan, the support however is with respect to working our suitable exemptions and alternatives. In order to gain Indias agreement exemtion was agreed for 14 more crops (totally 22 crops) for a period of five years, during which financial assistance is also assured during the Stockholm conference. The pressure is created on the Indian government both from outside and inside, so that the European Union can achieve what they intend to achieve. India would concede, otherwise it would be the only country opposing the ban according to Savvy Soumya Misra, Asst. Coordninator of food safety and toxins, Center for Science and Environment, New Delhi, which has lauched the campaign against Endosulfan in India. India was pressurized into this agreement.
What will happen if Endosulfan is banned? The farmers are not going to stop pesticide spraying to vegetables, mango or cashew. Endosulfan will be replaced conveniently and easily by pesticides manufactured by MNC companies not only in India, but also worldwide. The present alternatives to endosulfan where priced 5 to 10 times higher than endosulfan. While Endosulfan costs just around Rs300/litre, the alternatives costs Rs2000 to Rs13000/litre. The market share will be captured easily by them without much effort to convince farmers.This will go as a cycle. Some other pesticide will become a target in a span of few years, again such a hype will be created and the hidden agenda of MNC companies will be achieved.