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Stop use of Endosulfan - a deadly pesticide encouraged in India

"In which crops are endosulfan sprayedby indian farmers? The list is long. It is used in vegetables, fruits, paddy, cotton, cashew, tea, coffee, and tobacco and also timber crops. Even, in Bolangir district of Orissa, this poison is sprayed twice on paddy. It is also being used by farmers in Rayagada of Orissa."

Debjeet Sarangi & Jagannath Chatterjee : October 07, 2009

Endosulfan is a pesticide belonging to the organochlorine group of pesticides, under the Cyclodiene subgroup. It has been introduced in the 1950’s and in India has become a leading chemical used against pests in agriculture. It is used as an insecticide and also to kill fishes in lakes and rivers. It is not recommended for household use as it is known as a potent poison that can cause harm upon contact, eating food contaminated by it, swallowing,  and even inhaling the odour.

The chemical came into spotlight in India when at Kasargad in Kerala it was sprayed aerially and the local population of many villages was exposed to it. What followed was very shocking. It led to physical and mental defects in poor farmers and their families. Studies have shown endosulfan to accumulate in a mother's breast milk and it has been linked to appalling birth deformities, the like of which are still being observed at Kasargad, “Kerala’s Bhopal”.

Such events have occurred across the Globe and 62 countries all over the world have either banned it or restricted its use. Unfortunately India has done nothing to stem the use of this endocrine disruptor which can cause changes at the genetic level. Only in the state of Kerala where the endosulfan tragedy occurred that activists, scientists and doctors have been able to enforce a ban.

The U S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies endosulfan as Category Ib – Highly Hazardous and so does the European Union. Though it is a very great health hazard the WHO calls it only moderately hazardous.

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In which crops are endosulfan sprayed? The list is long. It is used in vegetables, fruits, paddy, cotton, cashew, tea, coffee, and tobacco and also timber crops. In the Bolangir district of Orissa this poison is sprayed twice on paddy. It is also being used by farmers in Rayagada. Being a Persistent Organic Pollutant and also a Persistent Toxic Substance it is not easy to remove this poison from the body or from the food crop upon which it is sprayed. The spraying of this pesticide on food crops, particularly paddy, is unpardonable.

Unfortunately India refuses to ban this pesticide and continues to say that it is safe. "The Indian government, a major producer, vigorously opposes any international ban, stymieing efforts by other nations to safeguard human health", writes a report released by the Environmental Justice Foundation in September. India the largest producer of this chemical does not want to disturb the profit it earns by producing and exporting this deadly poison to 70 countries.

Living Farms in Orissa which is opposed against the use of chemical pesticides, calls for an immediate ban on this deadly pesticide. Very recently Pandit Ravishankar has urged, “have some value for life & stop this madness.”. Activists, scientists and doctors  round the world are urging the pesticide industry in India to take a decisive role and end the production and use of endosulfan in India, a move which will have global significance.

(Mr Sarangi is the Secretary and Mr Chatterjee is the Campaign Coordinator of 'Living Farms', Bhubaneswar, Orissa)

 

 

 

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