Karnataka and MP take a step back

It was a shocker. Out of the 21 states that attended a meeting at the agriculture commissioner's office, 20 opposed the ban on endosulfan and this included Karnataka, that has already banned endosulfan in the state and Madhya Pradesh, whose agriculture minister had sent a letter to the centre supporting Kerala's ex chief minister VS Achuthanandan's call for a nationwide ban on endosulfan.

The agriculture commissioner on June 3 convened a meeting of the state agriculture department to get their feedback on endosulfan, its use and impact. This meeting was held as a follow up to the letter the ministry had sent to all the states on April 27 seeking the states views on their experience with the pesticides.

The meeting was chaired by the agriculture commissioner Gurbachan Singh and the states were represented by either researchers from state agriculture department or junior level officers from the agriculture ministries. The meeting was also attended by 'stakeholders' like Pradip Dave from the Endosulfan Manufacturers and Formulators Welfare Association. However, the agriculture commissioner's office conveniently kept out the other stakeholders like environmental groups, civil society groups and farmer organizations.

At the meeting the representatives of the pesticide manufacturers said that all opposition to endosulfan was politically motivated and so are the groups opposing endosulfan.

The stand taken by all the states barring Kerala was that endosulfan was the cheapest broad spectrum pesticide and was friendly to pollinators. It is however worth noting that endosulfan use in Kasaragod had caused the death of honey bee colonies and they started to come back after the pesticide was banned for use in the cashew plantation.

The representatives from the 20 states also added that they were not aware of any health problems caused due to endosulfan. Since the states had no problems with endosulfan, neither were any alternatives suggested nor were they discussed.

Kerala, represented by state agriculture department officials and a scientist from the state agriculture university, was the only state to suggest alternatives. They suggested Carbaryl (carbamate), Quinalphos (organothiophosphate), Malathion (organophosphate) and Dimethoate(organophosphate) as alternatives to endosulfan.

Kerala's additional director, ministry of agriculture VB Pushpangadan explained that though Kerala had taken a strong stand on organic farming and banning red and yellow label pesticides, the practical way was to phase it out and then ban it. "And that is what we are striving to do".

Endosulfan use was banned in Kerala, through a union government notification in 2005. However, there is nearly 1942 liters of endosulfan still stored with the Plantation Corporation of Kerala. It was decided that an official from Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) will visit Kerala on June 6 to discuss ways of disposing off the stock of pesticide.

The agriculture commissioner is going to hold a meeting with Director General ICMR next week to discuss the health impacts of endosulfan.