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Endosulfan cannot be blamed for diseases in Kerala: Dr. S. K. Handa

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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 which has been under scanner for the last one year. The flaws have been exposed through the RTI and the masked raw data has evoked public outrage when ten thousand people drew a rally in Gujarat to seek withdrawal of the flawed report. Similar agitation was led by thousand workers in Kochi to demand justice for the unfairly stigmatized workers at the government run HIL plant.

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 his report.” said Dr S K Handa, Fellow of National Academy of Agricultural Sciences. 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) does not possess properties to cause cancer or diseases as reported in Kasargod, Kerala.

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 the Government of Karnataka constituted an expert committee consisting of the Director of Health, Director of Agriculture and scientists from Karnataka Agricultural University. They submitted a detailed report on October 29, 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. 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.

With the recent announcement by the USEPA to phase out Endosulfan there is growing pressure on other user countries to follow. 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.

There have been no instances of ill effects on health or environment rising out of Europe or any other user countries even after Endosulfan was used for decades. 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 some countries like Germany and France.

Under pressure to find alternatives, agronomists around the world have begun to examine the needs of farmers. There are concerns being expressed about the usage of such alternatives among the marginal farmers in developing countries. Farmers in India and other developing countries depend on generic products, low cost pest management solutions and hence products like Endosulfan which are bee friendly and protect the farm ecosystem are used extensively”, he said.

Dr S K Handa, 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.

About Pesticides Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India (PMFAI): It came into existence in the year 1967 as Pesticides Formulators of India with a view to provide a platform for small scale Pesticides Formulators. It was subsequently changed in 1997 as Pesticides Manufactures & Formulators Association of India. The members of PMFAI include large-medium and small scale basic manufacturers & manufacturers of intermediates required for Pesticides. PMFAI also organises various training programs and seminars for the Indian Pesticide Industry and also circulate to members the recent developments as regards to regulatory affairs which are time to time changed by State and Central Governments.


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First Published: Fri, February 04 2011. 17:40 IST