Since EU lost its share of the Endosulfan pie when it went generic decades ago, their recent promotion of patented pesticides is only part of its attempt to re-enter global pesticide trade. Since their attempts to compete with Indian Endosulfan producers and regain their lost markets did not meet with success, some of them are understood to have resorted to unfair trade practices. By churning out unfavourable stories surrounding Endosulfan through patronage to certain NGOs, the EU appears to be out to recapture their markets by any means possible. Now, in order to counter the affordability, utility and beneficial softness of Endosulfan, EU is engaging in illegal attempts to introduce Endosulfan as a Persistent Organic Pollutant in the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. They hope that a total ban will initiate a shift in global pesticide demand patterns.
Endosulfan is a broad-spectrum pesticide active ingredient that is sprayed on a range of 29 crops to protect them from about 60 types of pests. The most prominent benefit of Endosulfan over other pesticides, including those touted as its replacements, is that it is safe for beneficials and pollinators, such as honeybees. Endosulfan is the last pesticide in use that is recommended as a first-spray during pollination by agriculture scientists and entomologists worldwide. The replacement of Endosulfan would not only result in incalculable and irreplaceable harm to biodiversity and the agriculture ecosystem, but also present an additional cost of pollination to farmers. Since India became a prominent Endosulfan producer, India’s farmers have trusted its use in a variety of crops, especially coffee, tea and cotton. The states of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are the top consumers of Endosulfan in India. More than 12 million litres of Endosulfan is used here per annum. In order to be popularly accepted, any substitute for Endosulfan will have to possess similar attributes.
Imidachloprid (Rs 2,000/litre), Thiamethoxam (Rs 3,200/litre) and Coregen (Rs 700/litre) are the pesticides promoted as replacements for Endosulfan. Presently, the Indian farmer spends Rs 250/litre for Endosulfan. Therefore, the obvious repercussion of a shift from using Endosulfan is the manifold increase in the cost of pest-protection. The next cost to emerge with the replacement of Endosulfan is that of the potential purchase of bee boxes. Bee boxes cost as much as Rs 90,000 for pollinating a 1-hectare field of crops in the absence of honeybees. Wherever Endosulfan has been substituted by more expensive alternatives like Neonicotinoids, it has resulted in the elimination of pollinators. Imidachloprid, the most popular Neonicotinoid is blamed for killing bees and is banned in France, Germany and Slovenia, among other European nations.
Affordability as a factor will be an impossible offering for patented pesticides from the EU. If the European agenda to free up a brand new market by banning Endosulfan meets success, farmers in developing nations and India in particular, will be left in financial ruin. If they consider options touted by local governments, they will have to rely on methods like organic farming. This means risking their produce for a method that if successful, may not possess the effectiveness for a required scale. News reports suggest that the present situation has now compelled farmers in Kerala, where Endosulfan is banned, to resort to smuggling the pesticide into the state in cans and bottles. The clash of ‘patented versus generics’ threatens to leave many such innocents in a lurch.