Excel sends legal notice to scientists

Excel Crop Care is back to attacking scientists. S Ganesan on behalf of Excel Crop Care, the biggest endosulfan manufacturer in the country, has sent a legal notice to the Calicut Medical college for their report on endosulfan. The report indicted endosulfan for the health problems of those living in the cashew plantations in Kasaragod, Kerala.

The epidemiological study was conducted by the department of community medicine of the Calicut medical college and was funded by the state's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The legal notices have been sent individually to three doctors- Jayakrishnan T, Prabhakumari C and Thomas Bina- who had carried out the study as well as the principal of the college C Ravindran.

The notices were sent on July 20 and the company has demanded the college to withdraw its report and apologize publicly by July 28. "It is a government report and we conducted the study and submitted it to them. Now it is the prerogative of the government to withdraw it or keep it," said Ravindran.

Ganesan has also send legal notice to S Muralidharan, a scientist at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), in Kerala. Muralidharan had analysed the data that was sent to SACON by the Calicut Medical College. He said it was unethical, unfair and unheard of and if anyone had a problem with a scientific study, they should challenge it with another study rather than sending legal notices and asking to withdraw the study.

"This is an old tactics of the endosulfan manufacturers who have always tried to attack scientists who have indicted endosulfan. They know that this study that ICMR will take to the Supreme Court will be against them and so they want to apply all kinds of pressure on them. It should be the state's responsibility to stand up for the doctors and take cognizance of the legal notice," said P Karunakaran, CPM leader and member of parliament from Kasaragod.

This is not the first time that the endosulfan manufacturers have used the scare tactics.

The Centre for Environment & Agrochemicals (CEA), a not for profit started by the Endosulfan manufacturers in 2006, first sent notices to NIOH (National Institute of Occupational Health), the same year, asking for unconditional apology in writing and to withdraw the NIOH report with immediate effect. In the same year, another organisation the Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) sent legal notice to Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) demanding the immediate withdrawal of the study. The pesticide manufacturer associations have been harassing these scientists till date.

The legal notice is ill timed. The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has been relying heavily on this study to prepare its interim report for the Supreme Court. Based on the study, the ICMR team has visited Kasaragod once in May and is scheduled to visit again on July 30-31.

The ICMR is part of the Supreme Court appointed joint committee, along with the agriculture commissioner, that is supposed to file an interim report when the Supreme Court meets on August 5 for the hearing in the endosulfan case. The Supreme Court had imposed an interim ban on May 13 and was supposed to take a decision on either imposing a permanent ban or lifting the ban based on the report filed by the joint committee.

Now, pressure is being created on the leader of opposition and former CM VS Achuthanandan to persuade the present CM Oomen Chandy to stand up for the doctors and scientists.