All is well with Endosulfan says centre

The demand to ban endosulfan across the country could receive a double blow as both the counter affidavit of the Union of India and the Joint Committee Report of the DG-ICMR and Agriculture Commissioner seem to be riding on the unscientific use of endosulfan rather than the harmful impacts of the pesticide on human and animal health and the environment.

A counter affidavit filed by the Ministry of Agriculture on behalf of the Union of India  states that Endosulfan is not responsible for the health problems in Kasaragod and it is unlikely to cause health hazard. The Union of India was responding to a petition filed by the Democratic Youth Federation of India seeking a ban on the pesticide.

The joint committee, on the other hand, has in its report stated that there has been serious health impacts due to the unscientific use of endosulfan. However since no other states have reported any adverse impact due to the pesticide it has been recommended that the use and sale of endosulfan in Kerala and Karnataka be continued to be put on hold. They also agree that there are no studies done by states to show the impact of endosulfan.

The centre in its affidavit states that the adverse effects of endosulfan in Kerala was because of its improper use ie aerial spraying of endosulfan in undulating terrain and that no causative links between the reported health problem of Kasaragod in Kerala and use of endosulfan have been established in spite of a number of expert committees having examined the issue. It also adds that no adverse effect of endosulfan has been seen in other states that have been much larger users of endosulfan over a long period of time.

The union has pleaded the court to lift the ban since it is not based on scientific evidence and that the non availability of cost effective, safer alternatives is going to hamper the food security. The joint committee too recommends allowing the exports of the pesticides so that keeping a stock and then disposing it off doesn't become a problem and harm the environment in any way. It also pointed out that the alternatives  available for endosulfan, unlike the pesticide is question, are toxic to pollinators.

On the issue of alternatives, the union is towing the lines of the pesticide manufacturers bringing in the aspect of generic vs patented pesticides and how its the ploy of the developed countries to flood the Indian markets with costly, patented alternatives. Instead of non chemical alternatives offered by the non pesticide management method of agriculture that is being successfully practiced in Andhra Pradesh, the government is only looking at the chemical alternatives. And this is input, perhaps, that the agriculture commissioner brought to the table of the joint committee.

The centre has cited the reports that were prepared by the OP Dubey committee and the CD Mayee committee and also the WHO reports that have given a clean chit to endosulfan. The counter affidavit states that the "overall weight of evidence from in-vitro and in-vivo screening tests that endosulfan is not an endocrine disruptor and that there is no evidence to suggest that endosulfan bioaccumulates."

According to the reply filed by the centre the countries that have banned this chemical have done so as a precautionary measure due to suspected long term effects on human health and also that the countries that have banned endosulfan have low level of agriculture activities and hence they wouldn't be affected even if they withdrew the pesticide.

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