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KIller Endosufan & Pesticides Management Bill

Written By Gopal Krishna on Saturday, March 28, 2009 | 12:21 AM

Manmohan Singh puts profit of chemical industry before public health

Indian government is using the consensus procedures of the UN chemicals information treaty to hold the world to ransom becasue it is the world’s largest producer of endosulfan unmindful of the disastrous health consequences known to citizens especially through the irriversible environmental health crisis in Kerela.

Working at the behest of the Indian Chemical Council, a indutsry body, Indian government chose to remain consistent in its disregard for the adeverse health of hazardous chemicals by impeding the process of regulation and control of poisnous chemicals at the fifth meeting of Chemical Review Committee that happened in Rome during 23–27 March, 2009. Indian government's delegation was represented by G. K. Pandey, Adviser, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. This Ministry is directly under the Prime Minister.

Government's pro-chemical industry approach is quite manifest in its positions taken at least two relevant UN chemicals management treaty. One, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade and the other being Stockholm Convention on Peristent Organic Pollutants.

Endosulfan is a known endocrine disruptor, and low dose exposure while in the womb is linked to male reproductive harm, autism, and birth defects. High dose exposures are acutely toxic, resulting in headaches, nausea and vomiting, seizures, and in extreme cases, unconsciousness and death. Endosulfan and its main breakdown product are also persistent environmental contaminants. Waterways near application sites are particularly threatened—for example, the EPA has estimated that after a typical endosulfan application to tomatoes, concentrations of endosulfan downstream can be up to 28 times higher than the level that is fatal to the average freshwater fish. Once released into the environment these residues take years to degrade, traveling many miles in the meanwhile. The European Union and over 20 other countries have already banned endosulfan and the US EPA is reconsidering whether its use should be permitted here.

The Chemical Review Committee of the Rotterdam Convention has been considering information on the banning of endosulfan by 9 West African countries - Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Mali, Mauritius, Niger and Senegal. These countries banned endosulfan because of the terrible health effects - many cotton farmers have died after using the highly toxic chemical – and environmental contamination.

All members of the committee, except one from India agreed that endosulfan should be listed under Annex 3 of the Rotterdam Convention, the UN treaty that helps countries to protect their borders and health of their people, through an internationally legally binding requirement for information exchange about import or export of hazardous chemicals.

Not surprisingly, the Indian government's delegation that has resorted to erecting procedural roadblocks and mounting unfounded legal objections comprised of representatives from the Indian Chemical Council. Indian government indulged did the same at the October 2008 meeting of the Rotterdam Convention to oppose listing of endosulfan in the PIC list of hazardous chemicals.

India has also opposed adding endosulfan to the Stockholm Convention where listing would trigger a global ban. Endosulfan is a dangerous and antiquated insecticide that communities around the world are working to eliminate.

USEPA data shows that all of us are routinely exposed to small amounts of endosulfan in the food we eat, with young children receiving the largest doses. Air monitoring studies has shown that people living, working, and going to school near fields where the chemical is used are also exposed by breathing contaminated air as it drifts from application sites.

The review committee of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants has agreed that endosulfan should be considered for addition to the list of chemicals banned globally under the treaty. Consideration of the chemical is expected to be a two-year scientific review process, with a final decision by government representatives in 2011. This UN treaty requires government-to-government notification when dangerous pesticides and other chemicals cross international borders.

Revealing its regressive and condemnable anti-public interest and pro-industry bias, in the case of silent killer, Chrysotile asbestos too Indian government did not let it be listed in annex III of the Rotterdam Convention "taking into account that the conference of the parties is not yet able to reach consensus on the whether to list chrysotile asbestos." The decision on chrysotile asbestos is being deferred to COP 5 of the Rotterdam Convention. As in the case of Endosulfan, even in asbestos case Indian government is acting on behalf of the Chrysotile asbestos industry of India, Russia, Canada and Kazakhastan. Clearly, the position of Sonia Gandhi led UPA government is anti-people and is not based on science, but on blind commerce and immoral politics.

NOtably, a 35 page Pesticides Management Bill, 2008 is pending in the Parliament. This Bill would replace the existing Insecticides Act, 1968. The Bill was introduced by Sharad Pawar on 21st October, 2008 and it was referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture on 30th October, 2008 which sumitted its report to both the houses of the parliament on February 18, 2009.

The salient features of the proposed Bill include improving the quality of pesticides available to Indian farmers and introduce new, safe and efficacious pesticides, more effective regulation of import, manufacture, export, sale, transport, distribution and use of pesticides, to prevent risk to human beings, animals, or environment, detailed categorization of offences and punishments for greater deterrence to violators, de-licensing of retail sale of household insecticides and timely disposal of time-barred pesticides in an environmentally safe manner. The proposed Bill should have taken the opportunity to outlaw the use of pesticides in the country.
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