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.’