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Govt gears up to phase out endosulfanqrcode

May. 16, 2011

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May. 16, 2011
The government is gearing up to find a cost-effective and sustainable alternative for farmers, following the interim Supreme Court ban on the controversial pesticide endosulfan.

Officials said the Union agriculture commissioner was likely to study the impact of endosulfan on farming, its benefits and drawbacks and also the kind of alternatives available. The ministry is likely to issue appropriate advisory to farmers on use of endosulfan only after getting the report from the expert panel, as suggested by the apex court.

The sense of urgency is also due to the upcoming kharif season, which starts in June. The decision to impose a ban ahead of the kharif season would affect the interests of growers, particularly those with small holdings. Kharif harvesting begins in October.

India is the biggest producer and consumer of endosulfan and the pesticide has large usages in pulses, mustard, sunflower, fruits and vegetables crops. The country annually produces around 12 million litres of endosulfan, of which 5-6 million litres is used during the kharif season.

The alternative to endosulfan is priced 5-10 times more than the pesticide. One litre of endosulfan is priced at around Rs 286, while that of its alternative is priced in the range of Rs 2,000 to Rs 13,000 a litre.

Federation of Farmers Association Chairman P Chengal Reddy said small farmers would be the main sufferers from the ban. “Already the crop loss annually due to pests and diseases is Rs 30,000-40,000 crore and with the ban on endosulfan, this loss could mount to Rs 1 lakh crore a year,” he added.

The home-grown manufacturers of endosulfan will also be adversely affected if the ban continues.Pesticides Manufacturer and Formulators Association of India President Pradeep Dave said, “The manufacturers and exporters of pesticide will suffer because of the eight weeks ban.”

Indian companies manufacture and sell almost 70 per cent of the global production of endosulfan. The remaining 30 per cent is shared between Brazilian and Israel-based companies.

In India, endosulfan is manufactured by state-owned Hindustan Insecticides Ltd, Excel Crop Care Ltd and Coromandel Agrico Ltd of the Murugappa Group. The product is also sold by European companies like Bayer Crop Sciences, Sygenta and others.

The Kerala government had already shut down the HIL factory in Cochin manufacturing endosulfan citing violations. Kerala was also the first state to have banned endosulfan in India after reports of the health hazards of the pesticide on people of Kasargod district of Kerala. The Kerala government had also demanded a nationwide ban of the pesticide.

Earlier, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had said that the controversial pesticide will be banned centrally if its adverse effect on health is proved. "… if there is evidence to show that it has all India health effects, we will ban it at the national level."

The Supreme Court has imposed an immediate country-wide ban on the production, sale and use of controversial pesticide endosulfan, awaiting the report of an expert committee to study side effects of the chemical for two months.

The court has also recommended a fresh study by a joint team. This panel will consist of the director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Agricultural Commissioner. This committee will submit its interim report to the court in July. The expert committee will examine whether the pesticide should be banned or its existing stock should be eliminated in phases and if there is any harmless alternative to it.

At the Stokloholm Conference where representatives of 127 nations participated, India had pledged to phase out endosulfan from the country within 11 years. The Stockholm Convention, a global treaty to protect human health and environment from such chemical compounds, has declared endosulfan a persistent organic pollutant.

The global crop protection market is worth around $40 billion, of which top 10 companies, which are largely European and US-based control almost 85% of the market share. Of this $40 billion, the share of endosulfan which is a truly generic non-multinational pesticide is just around $300 million.

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