In a press conference held today an expert panel of lawyers and scientists shared details of how The Right to Information Act (RTI) helped expose and confirm the fundamental flaws in a scientific study on pesticide residue analysis by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmadabad. The NIOH study titled “Final Report of the Investigation of unusual illnesses allegedly produced by exposure in Padre village of Kasargod district (N.Kerala)” and related reports have been cited at Stockholm Convention while proposing a listing of Endosulfan as a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP). If European Union (EU) proposal for listing Endosulfan as POP is accepted by the Conference of Parties in April 2011, millions farmers in India will lose their right to choose an affordable, pollinator friendly crop protection solution. In view of its national importance, several scientific committees established by the Govt. of India had reviewed the NIOH report. These committees concluded that there is no link established in the use of Endosulfan and the health problems reported in Padre Village in Kerala. Raw data obtained through the RTI have now confirmed the findings of these committees.
Present at the conference was the RTI applicant, Dr. Jyotsna Kapadia who investigated the scientific errors. According to Dr. Kapadia, “the analysis of raw data relating to the endosulfan study obtained from the NIOH confirms that the NIOH final report is indeed erroneous, inconsistent, suffers from incorrect representation of facts and therefore invalid and scientifically untenable”. The NIOH study has caused irreparable harm to Indian farmers and according to chemical industry sources the loss to the Indian industry on account of the flawed NIOH study could be as high as Rs 1200 crores shared S Ganesan, Chairman – International Treaties Expert Committee of Indian Chemical Council. On the strength of the RTI expose and “In view of the procedural and technical flaws, falsified data, omissions, errors, misrepresentation of facts, the NIOH study report and allied publications must be withdrawn immediately” added Ganesan.
Dr. S K Handa, former WHO consultant to the Ministry of Health had recently rejected the NIOH study on the basis of its failure to conduct confirmatory tests.
The Government of India has strongly opposed the EU proposal for listing Endosulfan as a POP and has been under pressure from environmental groups to consider a national ban. As the flawed NIOH study was cited as the reason for a ban, it evoked public outrage when ten thousand people marched through the streets of Bhavnagar in November 2010 demanding withdrawal of the NIOH report. During December 2010 year another agitation was led by thousand of workers in Kochi to demand justice for the unfairly stigmatized workers at the government run Hindustan Insecticide Limited plant. Protesting workers are willing to offer their blood for analysis before the Government can consider any decision is taken against Endosulfan.
S. Ganesan, Chairman – International Treaties Expert Committee, Indian Chemical Council (ICC) concluded that “Indian Constitution has both fundamental rights and fundamental duties. Article 51 a (h) of Indian Constitution states that it shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen to develop scientific temper. Scientific temper requires application of scientific logic without bias and errors. By producing an erroneous report NIOH scientists have erred in their fundamental duty and betrayed public trust”.
Concerned about the impact of the flaws on the integrity of the country’s scientists and crop protection industry, Pradip Dave, President, Pesticide Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India congratulated Dr Jyostna Kapadia for exposing the first ever scientific flaw with help of RTI.