PMFAI defends Indian government’s position on Endosulfan
At a media briefing held by the PMFAI, speakers questioned the flawed study conducted and published by National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad. The study titled “The Final Report of the investigation of unusual illness allegedly produced by Endosulfan exposure in Padre Village of Kasargod district (N. Kerala)”, has been the root cause for the demand for a ban on the pesticide Endosulfan. An expert panel examined the unscientific and implausible aspects of the NIOH’s study. The flaws have been exposed through the RTI query and the masked raw data evoked public outrage when ten thousand people drew a rally in Gujarat seeking withdrawal of the flawed report. Over thousand workers in Kochi held a rally recently to seek justice for the unfairly stigmatized staff at the government run HIL plant in Kerala.
As per the international norms prescribed by the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR), it is mandatory for residues to be reported as identified only after performing “confirmatory test” of each sample. “Different chemicals may appear in the same peak due to similar retention time leading to wrong reporting. However, in the NIOH study in Padre Village in Kerala no confirmatory data was generated, thus NIOH report on Endosulfan is incorrect and misleading. No decisions can be taken based on this report.” said Dr S K Handa. He further added “since there was no confirmation referring to presence of Endosulfan in the report made by scientists at NIOH, Endosulfan cannot be blamed for diseases in Kerala.” Dr. S K Handa pointed out that Endosulfan is a safe molecule and as per World Health Organisation (WHO) and does not possess properties to cause cancer or diseases as reported in Kasargod, Kerala. Dr Handa is a Fellow of National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, has over 35 years of research experience in pesticide residues and was former WHO consultant, Ministry of Health, Government of India. He was All India Coordinator for pesticide residues, has authored several books on pesticide residue analysis and has published 120 research papers.
Mr. Pradip Dave, President, Pesticide Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India (PMFAI) indicated that several expert committees were set up by the Government of India and all of them concluded that there is no link established between Endosulfan and the alleged reports of health problems in Kasargod, Kerala. He added, “Even Government of Karnataka constituted an expert committee of very senior scientists. A detailed report was submitted in October 2004 stating that the use of Endosulfan was not responsible for the reported health problems. The report was table in the Karnataka Assembly on April 14, 2005 and accepted.”
Based on a proposal by the European Union, Endosulfan is being considered at the Stockholm Convention, to be listed as a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP). India 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. Endosulfan was invented in Europe and was manufactured and used across the entire region for over 55 years.
Clarifying the status of Endosulfan in USA, Mr. Charles Hanson – Executive Director, International Stewardship Centre clarified that “Endosulfan is not banned in the USA. It was a voluntary withdrawal by the manufacturer and sole registrants and a fall out of a congressional mandate to conduct cost prohibitive product testing for over 64 chemicals, one of which is Endosulfan. Citing small user market in USA, huge investment in research, mounting pressure and uncertainty at the international conventions, the manufacturer chose to avoid any further studies and opted for a voluntary withdrawal of Endosulfan.” There is concern amongst the farmers as USA has not found alternatives for all uses of Endosulfan. While various alternatives have been suggested as a possible replacement, many of these are known carcinogens, toxic to pollinators such as honey bees and are banned in countries like Germany and France.