Media Becomes Fuel for Endosulfan Fire

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it — Adolf Hitler

On February 21, 2001, CSE head Sunita Narain and Dr Padma S Vankar organised a press meet in Delhi to expose a ‘juicy titbit.’ Instead of first sharing the study findings with the scientific fraternity for peer review as is the custom in scientific circles, they chose to directly disseminate their ‘findings’ in the press.

 

  • In her report, Dr Vankar claimed to have found 9.19 parts per million (ppm) of Endosulfan in water samples. Endosulfan’s water solubility is 0.32 ppm. The figure claimed by her is nearly 30 times higher than the known solubility of Endosulfan and exceeds the water solubility of Endosulfan by over 2,800%.

 

  • A lethal concentration of Endosulfan in human blood is 0.86 ppm. But, 115.19 ppm of Endosulfan residue was found in the blood samples of one Dr Mohan Kumar (an activist associated with Pesticide Action Network-PAN).

 

What can only be described as a move to create a media stir did just that. Newspapers soon flashed claims that ‘alarmingly high levels’ of Endosulfan residues had been found in samples of filtered water, milk, fruits and blood samples collected from Padre village in Kasargod district, Kerala. Since then, several claims alleging that the pesticide has been ‘suspected’ of ‘killing’ 400 persons and harming countless more have been made. Most comments featured in the articles are purely hearsay and have simply no scientific support.

 

Similarly, the Congress polity in Kerala has created a furore against Mr CD Mayee and his report dismissing the Kasargod claims. No one has scientifically contested the findings of his committee. Yet, increasing pressure is being mounted on the state and central governments to accede to his resignation and a total ban on Endosulfan in India. Political parties are exploring opportunities to appease their vote banks through the debacle. The nexus of politicians, activists and media have pushed for hefty compensations to the alleged victims of Endosulfan. So much activity… and the media is lapping it all up, drop by drop. It is an instance of how the calculated dissemination of falsified information has helped create wide dissent for Endosulfan.

 

For more information on the safety of Endosulfan, read the blog ‘Public Ignorance of Scientific Facts.’

 

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Public Ignorance of Scientific Facts

The general misconceptions regarding Endosulfan include that it causes cancer, birth defects, reproductive disorders and endocrine disruption. However, all relevant scientific data pertaining to its safety has been blocked out by media.

 

Science Clears Endosulfan: However, the chemical properties of Endosulfan have been proved without a doubt. For instance, it has been certified by WHO and Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to not cause cancer, birth defects or any hormonal imbalance on contact. It is also the opinion of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a body of WHO); UN Environment Programme; International Labour Organisation and the US Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA) and California Department of Pesticide Registration, that Endosulfan has no carcinogenic potential. In 1998, evaluations of Endosulfan by WHO/FAO/Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) have revealed that no genotoxic activity was observed in tests for mutagenecity and clastogenecity. They also stressed that no evidence was found to prove estrogenic activity involving Endosulfan. Additionally, in 2007, US-EPA established that Endosulfan is not an anti-androgen and does not affect sperm production, sperm count, motility, etc.

 

Degradable and Bio-degradable: In 1988, Endosulfan was reclassified by the WHO as ‘sulfurous ester of a chlorinated cyclic diol.’ An important feature of this molecule is its sulphur ring that makes it degradable as well as bio-degradable by bacteria. Environmental persistence is measured in terms how long it takes half the pesticide in soil to disintegrate, after which it loses efficacy. A pesticide with a half-life of more than 180 days is considered persistent. Endosulfan degrades between 20 and 70 days under tropical conditions. The tests that determined persistence were conducted in regions with colder climates in order to show an excess of 180 days. Clearly, this is not representative of the climate that may be experienced in most parts of the world, and more so in the tropical developing nations where it is widely used… another imperialist ploy by Europe to manipulate global chemical trade.

 

There is no proof of Endosulfan ever harming human health by use or through food as has been confirmed by several government studies conducted in India.

 

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Is Endosulfan, a pesticide, harmful for human beings?

By DNA Correspondent | Place: Ahmedabad

Is the widely used pesticide Endosulfan, for almost all crops world over, harmful to humans as concluded by a study of National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) in 2002?

While a scientific study conducted by NIOH at the behest of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2001 has blamed this pesticide for severe deformities and a few deaths in Padre village in Kasargod district in north Kerala in 2001, farmers in Gujarat claim the pesticide being used by their grandparents since 35 years is not harmful.

Moreover, manufacturers of the pesticide in Gujarat and trade bodies, like the Indian Chemical Council (ICC) and Pesticide Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India (PMFAI) claim to have discovered glaring errors in the scientific report, which questions the reliability of the report.

These questions have gained tremendous importance in India, and particularly in Gujarat, over the past few months. For the uninitiated, the NIOH report of 2002 titled ‘Final Report of the investigation of unusual illnesses allegedly produced by exposure in Padre village of Kasargod district’, is now being cited at Stockholm Convention to list Endosulfan as a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP) and therefore ban it worldwide. The next meeting is scheduled in April 2011.

Addressing the media in the city on Friday, two farmers of Gujarat, representatives of PMFAI and ICC said if the pesticide is banned, farmers of India will be forced to resort to expensive patented imported products.

They implied that the movement for the ban of the pesticide is being fanned so aggressively by European countries to undermine India’s economic growth in the larger context, and also to benefit Europe-based patented pesticide manufacturers.

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_is-endosulfan-a-pesticide-harmful-for-human-beings_1506841

 

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Banning Endosulfan will harm production of pulses and fruits: Sharad Joshi

Shetkari Sanghatana founder and former Rajya Sabha member Sharad Joshi has charged multi-national companies with hatching a scheme against Endosulphan, the pesticide which is very popular among farmers due to its broad spectrum of application and affordability.

Joshi told the media on Wednesday that the multinational pesticide companies, which championed Endosulphan for many decades, have developed newer molecules which offer better margins for them. So they are making attempts to have Endosulphan banned everywhere so that they can push the more profitable products.

“Of the 60 nations which have banned Endosulphan, 27 are from the European Union and 21 belong to Africa who have substantial trade with Europe,” Joshi said. “The issue achieves significance considering that India is the largest producer of this pesticide with 70 per cent of world share and exports it to many countries,” he added.

Joshi criticised the Kerala government’s recent notification, which says that sale of pesticides is illegal in the state unless supported by a prescription from an appropriate agricultural officer. “The underlying purpose of this notification is to restrict use of Endosulfan which is being blamed for certain incidents of congenital abnormalities, cancers and certain other diseases. But various expert committees, including the Dubey committee and the Mahi committee appointed by the central government, have concluded that there is no established causal relationship between Endosufan and these health issues.”

Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar also has made a statement in the house, during the recent session of the Lok Sabha, that there is no evidence of Endosulfan having caused any health problems and India will support use of the pesticide, Joshi said.

The timing of the notification by the Kerala government is significant as the Indian government has said that it will take a stand against declaring Endosulfan a persistent organic pollutant at the Stockholm Convention in April 2011, which is going to debate the issue, Joshi said.

“Banning Endosulfan will harm production of pulses and fruits which are important for nutrition of India’s huge population,” Joshi warned. “Endosulphan is in use in India for 40 years and has been extremely helpful in containing pests in the area of horticulture and pulses. It is soft on pollinators such as honeybees and other beneficial insects.”

The cost of spreading Endosulfan in one acre of land is Rs 250-300 against Rs 900-3,000 for other pesticides introduced by the MNCs. Also, Endosulfan is a broad spectrum pesticide and is effective for many crops as compared to other products that are directed at individual crops, Joshi added.

Read more: Joshi bats for Endosulfan – The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/Joshi-bats-for-Endosulfan/articleshow/7614244.cms#ixzz1FdP42kwi

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Karnataka decision on Endosulfan not based on Science

Endosulfan is not carcinogenic. US EPA has classified Endosulfan under Group-E (Evidence of non-carcinogenicity). (see below the image of original document from US EPA) Dr Andrew McKenzie, Executive Director of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority said “The claim that endosulfan, among other pesticides, is a carcinogen is just plain wrong,” “While no-one can be 100% certain about anything, endosulfan has been specifically tested for carcinogenic potential and the World Health Organisation, United Nations Environment Programme and International Labour Organisation categorically state that endosulfan does not show any such potential. Equally any other chemical used in food production is extensively evaluated for safety to humans. Raising concerns of this sort for people, where no cause for them exists, is irresponsible,” said Dr McKenzie. “It is very difficult to counter the worries this will raise for people, and is particularly upsetting when we know the statement is patently untrue”. Source: http://www.nzfsa.govt.nz/publications/media-releases/2006-03-03.htm

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Endosulfan: Another generic pesticide targeted

Endosulfan is not the only generic pesticide targeted for a world wide ban. However, It may be difficult to believe the fact after having a look at the images of the so called “Endosulfan victims”.

Endosulfan was introduced 50 years ago by a European company after conducting extensive tests and trials, proving Endosulfan’s safety and merits. Endosulfan – invented, manufactured, used and marketed by Europe for more than 55 years is now made outside Europe.

Once Endosulfan was off-patent, Indian companies began manufacturing it which was not aligned to business goals set by the European companies. Europe subsequently stopped manufacturing Endosulfan. This decision was abrupt as there were no substantiated ‘effects’ that called for Endosulfan to be stricken off.

Developing countries such as India began mass supply of the ‘off-patent’ Endosulfan. Presently, India’s share in Endosulfan’s world market stands at 70%. This growth to India came at the expense of European companies. As a leader in chemicals EU (EU accounts for 60% of the world share in chemicals trade which includes pesticides) was concerned with the business interests of European chemical industry and its ambitions. Lobbyists and European Union decided to support it’s chemical manufacturers and began encouraging slow and sure propaganda through global forums such as Rotterdam & Stockholm Conventions. All this was designed to reclaim lost markets and pave path for new ‘patented’ pesticides!

Since, Hindustan Insecticides Limited – a Government of India undertaking – began production of Endosulfan it was the most reasonable option for Indian farmers. Europe was worried. Endosulfan being an indigenous product, it was not possible for Europe to offer new ‘patented’ product that could match the price of Endosulfan which was made indigenously and was at par with regards to quality.

Europe devised a perfect solution to ascertain the exit of Endosulfan on any possible grounds. The sudden halt of production by European companies was never reported but the media was now fed by the lobbyist by information that was moulding Endosulfan as to be the cause of negative impact on environment, on human health or other living beings. The lobbyists and the media were working on a plan – anything would do and at any cost!

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Endosulfan does not bio-accumulate

Endosulfan is not an organochlorine.

Endosulfan: Cemical structure

In 1988, Endosulfan was reclassified by the WHO as ‘sulfurous ester of a chlorinated cyclic diol’ An important feature of this molecule is its sulphur ring that makes it degradable as well as bio-degradable by bacteria. This property also makes Endosulfan safe for extensive use.

Moreover, endosulfan is a contact insecticide , it is not absorbed into crops or the food chain. It cannot bio-accumulate in the human body as it is continually degraded by metabolism to a lesser state of hazard.

However, most of the information published  on the web and in the media reports are misleading resulting in the negative image of Endosulfan.

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