The Predicament of Agriculture without Endosulfan in India

Since India overtook the global production of Endosulfan, farmers here were able to amply reap the benefits of this beneficial-friendly, cost-effective pesticide. The pesticide that has been used for almost three decades in India in the states of West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, has become a staple farming pest-protection for crops such as cotton, tea and coffee, among many others.

 

Presently, the Indian farmer spends Rs 220/litre for Endosulfan. In case Endosulfan is banned, farmers will be forced to purchase patented European pesticides touted as their substitutes at much higher prices. If replaced with Imidachloprid, which is the offered replacement to Endosulfan, the price of pest control will escalade to Rs 2,000. Other alternative pesticides such as Thiamethoxam (Rs 3,200/litre) and Coregen (Rs 700/litre) are expensive as well. Besides this, most alternatives of Endosulfan develop resistance of use within 3–5 years of product introduction. Pests have not developed resistance to Endosulfan since the global commencement of its use more than 50 years ago.

In India, farmers depend on naturally occurring colonies of honeybees and beneficials like ladybird beetle, chrysoperla, trichograma for the pollination of their crops. As they are naturally occurring, they play their part at no cost. Imidachloprid is harsh on bees and is therefore banned in France. Today farmers in Europe, USA and countries in the developed world where Endosulfan is banned, depend on the use of bee boxes for pollination. Such bumblebees initiate pollination at a cost of US$1 per bee. At that rate, it would cost Rs 90,000 for the Indian farmer to pollinate a 1-hectare field of crops in the absence of honeybees. Therefore, if Endosulfan is replaced, the cost of Endosulfan substitution along with the cost of bee boxes for induced pollination is expected to result in a heavy burden on Indian farmers. By raising the cost of farming almost ten-fold, replacing Endosulfan can lead to increased food prices and inflation.

With limited financial resources to purchase pesticides, cultivators in India do not have many effective options to keep their produce from being ravaged by pests. Today, NGOs and local polity in southern India are heavily espousing the benefits of organic farming in Kerala where Endosulfan has been banned. However, news reports suggest that the situation has now compelled farmers there to resort to smuggling the pesticide into the state in cans and bottles. This instance indicates the demand for Endosulfan among farmers within Kerala itself. So, it may not be a stretch to assume that the pesticide will be similarly missed by farmers all over the country in case of a total ban.

 

It is incredibly curious that no cases of Endosulfan-linked health disorders have ever been reported elsewhere besides the select talukas in Kerala and Karnataka. With no substantial evidence to prove these claims, it is prudent to decide whether the whims of vested interests are significant enough to effect a change that is sure to impact the large portion of the Indian population engaged in agriculture.

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Know the real facts about Endosulfan.
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