Since India overtook the global production of Endosulfan, Indian farmers were able to amply reap the benefits of this beneficial-friendly, cost-effective pesticide. Assumed to be in use for almost three decades in India prominently in the states of West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, it has become a staple pest-protection for crops such as cotton, tea and coffee. The Indian farmer spends a reasonable sum of about Rs 250 a liter on Endosulfan. Endosulfan is safe on beneficials and pollinators like honeybees, and has been proved to be reasonably safe on users given that necessary precautions for handling are taken, as with any pesticide.
Unlike its substitutes that develop resistance of use within 3–5 years of product introduction, Endosulfan is as effective as it was half a century ago. It has been observed that in comparison to Chloropyrifos and other organic methods of pest control in coffee plantations, Endosulfan has been most successful in preventing incidences of berry borer. Not only is the pesticide affordable, but fast-acting. This attribute ensures quick crop damage control and prevents huge losses from infestations. Endosulfan protects a variety of 29 crops from 60 types of infestations.
Imidachloprid (Rs 2,000/litre), Thiamethoxam (Rs 3,200/litre) and Coregen (Rs 700/litre) are the pesticides promoted as replacements for Endosulfan. Wherever Endosulfan has been substituted by more expensive alternatives like Neonicotinoids, it has resulted in the elimination of pollinators. In their absence, farmers will have to depend on expensive bee boxes that cost as much as Rs 90,000 to pollinate a one hectare farm. Thus, a shift from using Endosulfan will undoubtedly amount to manifold increase in farm input cost and further worsen the dismal condition of Indian farmers.
Endosulfan is the third largest-selling generic insecticide globally with a market value of more than $300 million. 40 million litres of the pesticide is used globally, while 12 million litres are consumed in India per annum. In an effort to convert this massive Endosulfan market into one for its patented substitutes, the EU has been unlawfully pushing for its inclusion in the list of Persistent Organic Pollutants at theStockholmandRotterdamconventions. For this, it has attempted to stir up a melee through dubious reports spun by NGOs like Kerala-based Thanal and Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). These studies are also based on the flawed NIOH report. On the basis of such evaluations and by downplaying the findings of the government committees, the nexus of polity, activists and media are mounting pressure on the central government for a nation-wide ban on Endosulfan. Political parties are viewing the episode as an opportunity to appease their vote banks.
In Kerala, where Endosulfan has been banned, there is much emphasis on the virtues of organic farming. However, it is doubtful whether the same would be equally effective for employment on a large scale acrossIndiawhile ensuring minimal crop loss. Recent news reports suggest that the ban has compelled farmers there to resort to smuggling Endosulfan into the state in cans and bottles. With no substantial evidence to prove the Kasargod claims, it is prudent to decide whether the whims of vested interests are significant enough to effect a change that is sure to impact the enormous section of the Indian population engaged in agriculture.
A Srinivas “Planters find ally in endosulfan to combat berry borer in coffee” in The Hindu Business line, July 28, 2010