Our farmers of India, especially
the small and marginal farmer
The farm ecosystem - honeybees
and beneficial insects who do not
have a voice
We, the farmers of India
It all started on the 26th of January 2011, our 62nd Republic Day. I had come to my
village to meet my father and grandfather. Usually, at this time of the morning, they
are in the fields, but on that day, they were glued to the television, watching the
Republic Day parade. I too could not take my eyes off the magnificent sight that was
happening along the long, never-ending road of Rajpath: the marching of our different
military regiments, each with its own band; the colourful floats from the different
states that make up our Sovereign Democratic Republic.
The pride on my grandfather’s face – he had been a freedom fighter -- was a sight to
behold. At one point, he burst out, “This is who we are as a nation, so diverse,
so unique and yet united under one flag, the saffron, white and green, Tiranga”.
I too was moved. I am not an emotional type, but when our National Anthem plays
and builds up to the last lines… Jaya He! Jaya He!…, my eyes get a little misty.
Of course, I make sure nobody sees this side of me. You have to be tough in life, that’s
My grandfather has played a big role in this. All my life and that is a long period of 25
years, I have admired him. I am a little scared of him as well, but that’s another thing,
I do not readily disclose. Even now, at the age of 82, grandfather is so much respected
in the community. When I was young, I accompanied him every time he made a
Copyright © 2011 speech in our village or in neighbouring villages. Always, he would begin with a call
KRISHI HITRAKSHAK SAMITI that rang out loud and clear ... Bharat Mata ki Jai! Bhagwan Balram ki Jai! Gau Mata
Mandvi - Kachchh ki Jai!
May our motherland be victorious! May Lord Balram, the guardian angel of farmers watch And that’s what I told my elders. Their faces turned to thunder. Grandfather in
over us! May all our animals and all our beloved cows prosper! particular got extremely wild...“So you think there is nothing wrong in some people
in some European country telling us farmers in India, what we can and cannot use?
Father is more my friend than my elder. Some days ago, he had sent word that I should How dare they!” shouted Grandfather. Father also got a scolding...“ I told you not to
go see him. Yes, we have a phone in our village house, but he will not use it unless send him to the city, now see what has become of him! He does not give a damn what
absolutely necessary. You must respect money, he is fond of saying. Money does not hardships will befall us with such a ban!”
grow on trees. But when it came to my education and the education of all my sisters,
somehow or the other, father made sure that the money that we needed was there. I wanted to tell grandfather that I did not live in a city. I stay in a wonderful place, but it
So, I got a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. In his heart of hearts, my is a small town at best. Of course, now was not the time to open my mouth. That much
farmer-father must have wanted his only son to follow in his footsteps, but he let me sense I had.
go. To my destiny which I thought was in the world of corporate finance. But now I am
digressing... Father intervened. He is the calm one among us; so composed, so supportive.
Like an ancient tree still in all its glory, there to shelter me from the storm.
After the Republic Day parade was over, the elders took me aside. Something was
troubling them. They asked me if I knew anything about an impending ban on a He showed me a newspaper article which mentioned that a study conducted in Padre
pesticide. I knew they were talking about Endosulfan because I spend every free village in Kasargod district of Kerala held Endosulfan responsible for birth defects,
moment on the internet and I had come across several reports about the Stockholm impotency and even cancer.
Convention which has started a process to ban this pesticide. But I had not paid any
attention to these reports. One pesticide is banned; another will take its place, that’s Grandfather erupted once again. “That can’t be! These reports are false! I have used
what I had thought. Endosulfan for 30 years and more! Nothing has happened to me or to the hundreds
of farmers in this district whom I know as closely as I know my family. Nothing has
happened to our children and grandchildren either. Do they think we are so heartless
we would use something that puts our children at risk?! We would rather give up
farming, starve if need be, than do something so unthinkable! These reports are The next evening when I met Parvati, my fiancée, at our favourite ice cream parlour,
false!” I thought at least she would feel sorry for me, but no, she took the order from high
command very seriously. She too is a farmer’s daughter, although now she is studying
Just then, two-year old Guddi made an appearance. She settled on grandfather’s economics and commerce. She is always full of questions. Why this, why that;
lap and demanded a story from him. Thankful for the diversion, I quickly turned to sometimes it irritates me, but on the whole, I have no complaints. I am truly blessed.
father. “Why is grandfather so upset? What is so special about Endosulfan? Let the
newspapers say what they want. Maybe they are right, maybe they are wrong; I knew it! I knew it! I could see it in her eyes, yes, here it was, the first question. And
why do we want to get involved with all that! If the Stockholm Convention bans this surely not the last! She wanted to know what the Stockholm Convention was and why
pesticide because it is a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP), I am sure those people I was saying POP, POP. Before I could tell her what little I knew, she had opened her
will suggest an alternative.” laptop, connected to the internet and within a few minutes had found the answer for
herself from the official website of the Stockholm Convention.
Before father could say anything, grandfather was with us again. He had calmed
down a bit; now he was in an ordering mood. “Something is wrong, very wrong. • The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) is a global
This pesticide has been available in India for 40 years, now all of a sudden, why treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain
is there this hue and cry? My sense tells me Endosulfan is being targeted. I want intact in the environment for long periods and have adverse effects to human
to know why. Find out, investigate what is going on; put your education to good health or the environment.
use and get us the truth!”
• It was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004.
Good Lord! How did I get caught in this Endosulfan controversy! As if I had nothing
better to do! Anyway, who did grandfather think I was? Being his grandson was • 172 countries including India are parties to the Convention.
tough enough, now he wanted me to become a detective as well and carry out an
• It requires parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the I was impressed. This girl was smart. And she was quick. The laptop was put away in
release of POPs into the environment. the bag and out came a diary. She passed it to me and told me to write Satyameva
Jayate, Truth shall prevail, on top of a blank page. I kept looking at her, this wonderful
• Some countries including the United States of America, Israel and Russia have girl who had agreed to be my life partner. But right now she wanted to be my
not ratified the Convention. This means that they have neither accepted nor investigation partner. And who was I to argue with that!
approved the Convention.
Where to begin the investigation? Time was short. The Conference of Parties of the
• The procedure for declaring a chemical as a POP takes place in stages. Stockholm Convention was due to meet in April 2011 to decide the fate of Endosulfan.
The main stages are: We had to work fast. I told Parvati that I would go to the agricultural university;
find out what made Endosulfan so valuable to farmers. In the meantime, Parvati
A party makes a submission to the Stockholm Convention that a specific chemical should explore the business angle: Who the global market leaders were; when the
(pesticide) be considered as a POP. product was invented, by whom and so on...I told her that it was imperative that she
cross check and verify each and every fact. There could not be a single error...Parvati let
The POP Review Committee (POPRC) reviews the submission and decides on the basis me finish my lecture and then told me that she expected the same attention to detail
of scientific data whether or not to recommend the chemical for listing as a POP. from me as well. So much for my being the boss!
The decision to accept or reject the recommendation is taken by the Conference of The visit to the agricultural university was an eye-opener. An eminent scientist-
Parties. This Conference comprises the 172 parties to the Convention. professor had graciously agreed to spend time with me. This is how he started:
• A typical Indian farmer is a small, marginal farmer. His land holding is 1 to 5
hectares; there are also thousands of farmers with even smaller holdings, as small
as 0.4 acres. For the vast majority of Indian farmers, agriculture is not a business;
it is sustenance farming – a way to feed their families and earn a livelihood
through hard, physical labour.
• Money is required for tillage, irrigation, fertilizers, farm labour and so on. And • Another important point: Small acre farming is very physical and manual. For
money is always short. That is why farmer debt is so widespread. What further example, a farmer walks his field, carrying a 15 litre backpack sprayer. With his
complicates a farmer’s life is that even after spending money, the results are never own hands and eyes, he checks whether insects have come into the field and
certain, because of factors that are out of his control, such as the weather. Just a what those insects are. If they are harmful insects, then and only then, he will use
few rain showers at an inopportune time can destroy his entire crop. a pesticide. On the other hand, if he sees beneficial insects or a beehive in the
vicinity, he will not spray.
• Another factor that can bring an end to all his hard work is pests.
We often hear irresponsible and unfair remarks made about uncontrolled use of
If a farmer does not manage pests, the money that he has spent on all pesticides in India. So before anything else, let me tell you that the Indian farmer
other inputs will go to waste as the pests will destroy his crop. uses pesticides frugally and responsibly. To underline my point, take a look at
these global consumption figures which I found in a report by Phillips McDougall
And mind you, most of India has a hot and humid climate – pests simply thrive for the year 2008:
and multiply in such a climate! So they have to be managed. The farmer has
no choice! In 2008, the global pesticides market was US $ 40 billion. In Indian rupees this
amounts to Rs. 180,000 crores.
So for a farmer, pesticides are a necessity. They are crop protection products that
he needs to safeguard his farm-investments and in turn secure his livelihood. Farmers in USA used pesticides worth US $ 6.5 billion (Rs. 29,200 crores).
But this does not mean that a farmer uses pesticides irresponsibly. In India, sheer Farmers in Germany used pesticides worth US $ 2 billion (Rs. 9,000 crores).
economics prevents this. Pesticides are not handed out free; a farmer has to pay
for each and every litre of pesticide that he uses. So, his pesticide use is frugal, he Farmers in India used pesticides worth Rs US $ 1 billion (Rs. 4,500 crores).
sprays only when absolutely necessary.
This comes to only 2.5% of world consumption. wondering whether our farmers were even aware of this mighty achievement. And
what have we, the rest of us done to recognize and acknowledge it? Our food security
And yet, with comparatively so little pesticide consumption, India ranks lies in their hands, but we just take them for granted. And they go about their work,
Number 2 in food production in the world. bent over their crops, day in and day out, just to make ends meet. Their struggle does
Here is some more data that shows that crop protection usage is very low in India
as compared to other parts of the world. One track in my mind was stuck on the unfairness of the equation between farmers
and food production. On another track were questions pertaining to beehives and
Worldwide, over 16,000 pesticide formulations based on 1055 active ingredients honeybees. I asked the professor, what was so special about honeybees?
are used. This is as per the Crop Protection Handbook, 2010. Why would a farmer not spray near a beehive?
In India, a little over 400 formulations based on 228 active ingredients are used. • The honeybee is precious to farmers because its function is to pollinate the
This information can be found on the Central Insecticide Board website. flowers, that is, to move pollen from the male flower to the female flower and in
this way to unite the male and female so that fertilization can take place. Once
The scientist-professor had got my attention. This point of frugal use of pesticides by this union takes place, the flower goes on to bear fruit. If the union does not take
the Indian farmer was an important one. Many times developing countries are blamed place, there is no fertilization, no fruit and a farmer has no crop.
for being the major culprits in degrading the environment.
As far as pesticides are concerned, this certainly is not the case. • So pollination is as important to crop cultivation as sunlight and rain. And it is
the honeybees that help pollination to take place. In India, out of 160 million
I was also surprised to learn that it is our Indian farmers who feed most of the world; hectares of land under crop cultivation, 55 million hectares grow crops that
we rank second in food production; which is a great achievement. But still our farmers depend upon bees and other insects for pollination, said the professor referring to
remain poor; they do not enjoy the fruits of their own achievement. I couldn’t help a report obtained from CSK HP Krishi Vishvavidyalaya in Himachal Pradesh.
So now you see how vitally important honeybees are to the Indian farmer. He honeybees. This is the unique chemistry of Endosulfan. This is the reason
loves this gift of nature, because without honeybees, he might as well stop why Endosulfan and no other insecticide is recommended for use as the first
farming. spray during the flowering stage by agricultural scientists and entomologists
Suddenly, from God knows where, a childhood memory surfaced: some relatives who
were visiting had seen the droves of honeybees and said... “Wah, wah, gor maharaj are • Wherever alternatives have been used there have been reports of worker bees
gracing your fields!” Now I knew why they had said that. Just as the maharaj, the priest, from the beehives disappearing and even whole bee colonies vanishing abruptly.
joins the bride and the bridegroom in matrimony, in the same way, the honeybee This does not happen with Endosulfan. This insecticide allows the farmer to
is the maharaj of the flowers, joining the male and female flower, to create the fruit! protect the honeybees and at the same time targets harmful pests.
What a wonderful way to refer to these helpful insects, or what the professor called
pollinators. • Another species that the farmers depend upon are the beneficial insects such as
ladybird beetle, chrysoperla, trichograma. We call them beneficials because they
My knowledge was growing by the minute. The relationship between honeybees, eat harmful insects that destroy crops.
pollination and food production had become very clear. But I wanted to know
about Endosulfan. The professor must have read my mind for at that very instant he • Endosulfan is friendly to beneficials as well. This is also very important.
launched fully and squarely into the heart of the matter: Because as long as there are sufficient numbers of beneficials in the field which
destroy the harmful pests, the farmer does not have to use any pesticide, or use
• Pollinators and pests appear at the same time. So, the challenge for the farmer is only the minimum amount of pesticide. This too is a great saving for the Indian
to manage pests and yet at the same time ensure that honeybees are not affected farmer.
and that they continue to do their job of pollination.
• What is more, Endosulfan is inexpensive because it is a generic pesticide, that
• Endosulfan is the only known insecticide that is honeybee friendly. Being is, any producer anywhere in the world can produce it. A patented pesticide is
generic, it is also affordable. It targets harmful pests, but it does not destroy always much more expensive because the company that has invented it holds a
monopoly on it and hence can sell it at whatever price it wants.
I made a note of all this. As I left the university, it was my father who filled my thoughts. What must he have
felt like when I did not show any interest in farming, a tradition that had been in our
Generic = less expensive family for generations? Did he have dreams that one day I would attend an agricultural
Patented = more expensive university and learn the science and technology of agriculture?
Generic = more suppliers When I met Parvati, I was ready with all the points pertaining to the relevance of
Patented = monopoly, only one supplier Endosulfan. I had even made a little chart in my notebook:
So much of farming is linked to economics, I thought to myself. I had learnt a lot.
Endosulfan is generic. It is affordable. It is safe to honeybees and beneficials. But on
how many crops can Endosulfan be used? I put this question to the professor… Relevance of Endosulfan
• Endosulfan is a broad spectrum insecticide: it is effective against no less than • Effective on a range of pests and in a variety of crops
60 pests and over a large number of crops including fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee,
spices, flowers, and also for non food crops such as cotton and jute. This means • Affordable: Less than Rs. 286 per litre
that the farmer does not have to spend additional money to buy a variety of (Alternatives cost atleast ten times more)
pesticides to take care of the different pests that different crops are vulnerable to.
• Safe to pollinators, that is, honeybees
• Another important point: There are many pesticides to which pests develop
resistance over a period of time. This decreases the efficacy of pesticides and • Safe to beneficial insects
farmers have to use progressively more and more amounts in order to destroy the
pests. This means that the farmer has to spend more and more money. However, • Avoids resistance
this is not the case with Endosulfan. Pests do not develop resistance to it. So
farmers do not have to spend extra money.
I had saved one interesting and important fact for last. I read out the professor’s • Chemicals are the second largest traded merchandise in the world,
exact words: next only to oil.
• In addition to its agricultural use, Endosulfan has since 2006 been allowed in the • Agro-chemicals, that is, pesticides are a very big global business.
USA as a veterinary insecticide for use as ear tags for lactating cows and cattle for
control of ecto parasites. This shows that it is safe for use even on animals. • In 2008, the global pesticides market was US $ 40 billion or Rs. 180,000 crores.
Parvati had listened intently but when I finished, there was not one word of praise • Out of this, the top three companies, all of them European, accounted
from her. I wanted to protest, but didn’t get half a chance; she immediately launched for US $ 20 billion (Rs. 90,000 crores). This works out to 50% of the global
into her own presentation. I had never seen her like this, all solemn and business-like, market.
speaking with such clarity and confidence, as if she were delivering a scholarly paper
at a conference... • Endosulfan is the third largest, generic pesticide in use worldwide, with a
global sale of US $ 300 million. (Rs. 1350 crores). Over 40 million litres are used
globally every year.
• For more than 50 years, a European multinational was the leader in the
manufacture and sale of this pesticide.
Now, why was Parvati telling me all this? Of course, I knew that Europe has a big stake
in pesticide business. She saw that I was getting restless. That girl can read me like a
book! She gave me a long hard stare as she continued with the journey of Endosulfan
In 2001, the European multinational decided to phase out Endosulfan. And again, in 2010, European manufacturer stopped selling Endosulfan and in the
same year, the POPRC recommended Endosulfan for listing as a POP.
In 2005, the European Commission stopped its 27 member countries from using
Endosulfan. The sequence of events did strike me as being significant. Were these just coincidences
or was there more to it? Parvati told me to hold on, there were even more significant
In 2007, the European multinational stopped manufacturing Endosulfan, revelations that she wanted to share...
but continued to sell it.
• Yes, it is true that the European multinational was the world’s leader and the
In the same year – 2007 – the European Commission made a submission to the largest producer and exporter of Endosulfan.
Stockholm Convention recommending the consideration of Endosulfan as a Persistent
Organic Pollutant (POP). • But in the past ten years or so, another country has taken away an extremely large
share of the European multinational’s Endosulfan market.
The European multinational also announced that it would stop selling Endosulfan
by the end of 2010. • Which is this country that has given such a takkar to the European multinational?
In October 2010, at the Stockholm Convention, the POPRC recommended that • It is our country. India has emerged as the world’s largest producer and
Endosulfan be listed as a POP. exporter of Endosulfan with a 70% share of the global market.
“Wait a minute!” I told Parvati. I wanted to examine these coincidences: The European • The European multinational has lost its No 1 position and with it a significant
multinational stopped manufacturing Endosulfan in 2007 and in that very same year, portion of its profits.
the European Commission started the process of getting Endosulfan banned.
I could not help feeling a sense of pride at India’s industrial might. Imagine competing The European multinational has already produced replacements for Endosulfan.
with a world leader and emerging the winner!
But unlike Endosulfan which is an affordable pesticide, the alternatives are five to ten
And what a huge setback this must have been not only for the European multinational times costlier than Endosulfan as this table shows...
but also for the European agro-chemical industry as a whole which has dominated the
world market for over 50 years!
Then it struck me:
Could the real reason for wanting to ban Endosulfan be that it was no longer
profitable for the European multinational to produce this generic chemical?
If Endosulfan got banned, then in one shot, the competition would get
wiped out. More importantly, a large, a very large space would open up for a
If this were true, then grandfather was right. Something devious was going on. But
I wanted to keep an open mind, I did not want to jump to conclusions; this was a
serious investigation, so I kept these thoughts to myself and told Parvati to continue...
None of the above alternatives to Endosulfan are safe to
I took my time to study the table. Calmly, dispassionately as I have been trained to do. But this was different. This trade war went beyond business empires; it was going to
ruin a whole section of people – the small and marginal farmers – who had nothing
Parvati was right. The alternatives were indeed very costly as compared to whatsoever to do with manufacturing and selling. This is what made this trade war
Endosulfan. And, none of them were bee-safe products. even more unjust.
Now, it all made sense. The facts and figures that Parvati had gathered left no doubt in What is more, Europe was calling for a ban but its most devastating impact was not
my mind. I was convinced that: going to be felt by European farmers. The ones that would lose out the most would be
the farmers in poor, developing countries. Why? Because, first of all, insect-pests are
The Europeans were fighting a trade war. Their plan was simple: not as much of a problem in cold countries as they are in hot, humid countries. We, in
India need affordable pesticides to control pests, otherwise entire crops get destroyed
• Stop manufacturing the low cost Endosulfan. and farmers get ruined. Secondly, farmers in rich countries of Europe can afford the
five-to-ten-times-more-expensive-than-Endosulfan replacements. But millions of
• Ensure that no one else produces Endosulfan by campaigning for a ban against it. our small and marginal farmers simply cannot. They are already under grave financial
strain; any additional burden will simply wipe them out.
At the same time,
We sat quietly for sometime. It was as if we were mourning for millions of our farmers.
• Produce and promote alternatives that are much more expensive.
“Exactly how many millions are we talking about?” I asked Parvati. Out came her laptop
computer and within a minute she had the answer: As per the Census of 2001, there
Of course, I knew that trade wars were not an uncommon occurrence. One business
are 250 million agricultural workers in India. I wondered how many were even
empire fighting against another occurred often enough, within a country and across
aware of the sword hanging over their heads.
I made a silent promise to my father and grandfather that come what may, We were back at our icecream parlour. I was dying to tell Parvati what I had discovered,
I would complete my investigation; I would bring home the truth. but first I reminded her that in 2005 the European Union had stopped its 27 member
countries which included Italy from using Endosulfan. However, in 2008, despite the
Parvati’s excited voice broke the silence: ban, the Italian Ministry of Health and other departments had jointly issued an order
allowing Endosulfan to be used for 120 days to save Italy’s hazelnut crop which was
• If the European Commission had ordered its member countries to stop using being attacked by weevils (Curculio Nucum).
Endosulfan as early as 2005, why did the European multinational continue to sell
it to the rest of world the till 2010? Parvati asked me again and again whether what I had just stated was really true. I told
her it was true indeed; if she wanted to see a copy of the Italian order issued in Rome
• If they really thought it was harmful, wouldn’t the right and moral thing have on 7th April 2008, I would show it to her right away on my laptop computer.
been to stop selling it altogether? How can there be one policy for Europe and
another policy for non-European countries? Parvati was thinking aloud, fast and furious:
I was amazed at the clarity of this girl sitting in front of me. I wanted to tell her that she • Surely the Italian government would not have issued such an order if it really
should have been a lawyer. She was certainly arguing like one. believed that Endosulfan was harmful to health. The Italian government would
not risk the lives of its citizens to save a hazelnut crop.
That night, I attacked the internet once again. I was hoping the answer to Parvati’s
question was somewhere out there in cyber space. I did not realize when the darkness • This clearly shows that Endosulfan is not hazardous to health. It also
outside my window gave way to dawn, till the chirping of the birds announced the indicates that the alternatives must not have been effective, otherwise why
new day. I had found some information that I thought was vital to our investigation would the Italian government bring back Endosulfan which it had stopped using
and I could not wait for evening to come... as per the European Commission’s directive?
28 Italian order permitting re-use of endosulfan after its ban in Europe on Page No. 62 29
English translation on Page No. 63
We were certainly drawing a lot of attention, what with Parvati thumping the table That none of us workers have faced any adverse effects whatsoever
from time to time; her icecream had melted a long time ago... I looked around for our completely destroys the credibility of the studies that claim that Endosulfan
server, when I noticed a gentleman, he could not have been more than 30-35 and he is harmful. One such study was conducted by the National Institute of
was coming straight to our table. Without any unnecessary chit-chat, he told us that Occupational Health (NIOH). Its findings are totally false. And yet, this flawed
he had heard us using the word Endosulfan over and over again and since he was a study has been used as evidence to push for the listing of Endosulfan as a
worker at an Endosulfan plant, he was eager to find out what we were talking about. Persistent Organic Pollutant at the Stockholm Convention.
We told him about our investigation. Then he started. The way he spoke, it felt as if he We, the workers of the Endosulfan plant wanted to stand up against such
was not speaking for himself but on behalf of the entire workforce... falsehood. That is why we took out a silent rally. About 10,000 men, women and
children walked in a dignified manner along a two and a half kilometer route that
• You may have read reports in the media that make mention of studies that claim started at the municipal school ground and ended at the District Collector’s office
that Endosulfan is harmful to health. Let me tell you this – our Endosulfan plant where we submitted a memorandum to the Collector demanding the withdrawal
was started in 1980. For more than 30 years, over 3,000 people in this plant alone of the NIOH report.
have handled this chemical.
You don’t have to take my word about the NIOH report. Our Union has a
We workers are the first point of exposure, because we handle Endosulfan in document that disproves the case made against Endosulfan by NIOH. I will ask
a very concentrated form. If Endosulfan was harmful, we would be the first our Union leader to send it to you. Read the document carefully, study it and then
ones whose health would be endangered. But no ill effects have befallen any draw your own conclusions.
of us, our children or grandchildren. I have been here for 14 years, but there
are many workers much more senior to me, who have handled Endosulfan for 25 But this I will say -- the experience of us Endosulfan workers must be taken
years and more. into account at the Stockholm Convention. We are the ones who are in closest
proximity to Endosulfan. Our health records have shown that there are no
residues of Endosulfan in our blood. Our blood has been tested to check for We paid our bill, gathered our things and were stepping out of the icecream parlour
Endosulfan residues by reputed internationally recognised GLP laboratories. when we saw our newly-made friend running towards us, holding out a piece of paper.
This has been done not just once, but every two years for the last six years. When he got his breath back, he told us, we should definitely talk to the person whose
All these tests have not detected any Endosulfan residues in our blood. My name was written on it. He was the Director of International Stewardship Centre Inc.
question is: why are these health reports not taken into account?
Now what was I going to do with this Director? Or the International Stewardship
There was pin drop silence when our friend finished. Centre? I needed help about the Stockholm Convention.
Before we could ask him anything more his toddler son came up to our table. His That night as I sat surfing the internet, I checked out on International Stewardship
wife signaled that they should leave. We thanked our friend but he would not hear Centre. Our worker friend had taken so much trouble, this is the least I could do. I
of it. It was his duty, he said, to let as many people know what the truth really is. found out that it is a non-profit organization created to educate and promote safety
in all aspects related to chemical substances. This did not appear to be of much help.
It was so very inspiring to hear our worker friend speak. His testimony was a major One minute! What is this… oh my God! They are also observers at the Stockholm
milestone in our journey to the truth. But, there was so much more that needed to Convention! Their Director has attended many of their meetings and has closely
be investigated. We had to find out more about the Stockholm Convention, who followed the developments. I could not believe this!
those people were, and what they had found about Endosulfan that made them call
for a ban. Another issue that worried me was the report about the Kasargod incident It is at times like this when help comes out of the blue, that I think of God. I know it
that blamed Endosulfan for causing birth defects and so on. How could such a report should not be this way. As grandfather says: “He should be in our every breath and our
have come about? What was going on in Kerala? every step.” But grandfather is grandfather...
I did not know where to turn or whom to ask for help and guidance. Time was I requested a meeting with the Director of the International Stewardship Centre to
running out. The Stockholm Convention was scheduled to take a decision regarding learn more about the Stockholm Convention.
banning or not banning Endosulfan in April 2011. What if, we could not find the
answers before then? How would I face my father and grandfather?
From the moment I presented myself at his office, the Director gave me his full Let’s talk about persistence. The term persistence refers to the length of time a
attention. I did not want to waste his time so I got straight to my first concern, pesticide takes to degrade in the soil. It is measured by way of half life, that is, the
which was: number of days it takes for half of the pesticide in the soil to degrade after which it
loses its efficacy. Any pesticide with half life of more than 180 days is considered to be
• The live testimony of the Endosulfan workers and the farmers in India is persistent.
that Endosulfan is not harmful to health.
How fast a pesticide degrades in the soil is dependent on factors such as soil type and
On the other hand, the Stockholm Convention considers Endosulfan to environmental conditions; temperature and moisture play a crucial role.
be so harmful that it has recommended that the pesticide be banned.
Coming to Endosulfan: there are several scientific reports that indicate that under
Could the Director share with me, scientific data on the basis of which the tropical conditions, Endosulfan degrades rather fast and the half life is typically
Stockholm Convention had taken such a serious step. between 20 to 70 days. This is far below the 180 day half life criteria to determine
whether a chemical is persistent.
The Director was swift with his answer:
However, the POPRC chose to take into account a study done in a colder climatic
A committee called the POPRC meets to decide whether a chemical can be region which showed half life in excess of 180 days.
recommended for listing as a POP. There are four criteria by which a chemical
is judged in order to recommend it as a POP. They are: Clearly, this was not representative of what the data on soil persistence was in most
parts of the world and it was apparent that this study was chosen so that Endosulfan
could be shown as persistent.
“But didn’t anyone protest?” I asked the Director.
• Long range transport
• Adverse effect on human health
“Of course there were protests, from a small number of countries including India,” One of the rules governing the Stockholm Convention states that all substantive
the Director informed me. As an observer in many of the meetings of the POPRC, the decisions have to be taken by consensus. This means that all members have to
Director had himself witnessed how the meetings were conducted. In his own words: unanimously agree before a major decision is taken.
It has been my observation that any information that is not in favour of POP listing Consensus is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that the decision taken is fair to
is tactfully ignored. While reviewing Endosulfan, studies that support POP listing all countries including minority countries, that is, those countries who view an issue
were considered and decisions were taken despite significant data gaps. How can an differently from other countries. The minority countries have to be convinced about
informed decision as regards listing a chemical as a POP be taken when such gaps the issue before a decision is taken and this can only happen through the practice of
exist? This is the first of my concerns. consensus.
It took me some time to absorb what the Director was saying. All this was a little Unfortunately, all decisions pertaining to Endosulfan have not been taken by
technical, so I asked a lot of questions to make sure I had understood everything consensus.
properly. What I concluded was that the POPRC wanted Endosulfan banned, that was
all that they were concerned about, the data that supported the ban was accepted Instead, decisions have been taken by voting. This is against the rule. And it is very
and data that did not support the ban was ignored; thus creating the scientific gaps unfair. Voting does not allow the voice of the minority countries to be factored into the
that the Director was talking about. decision-making process. Instead, the majority countries, simply by virtue of being the
majority are able to push through their agenda. It is a case of might is right. The side
The Director had mentioned that the scientific data gaps were the first of his concerns. which has more numbers wins the day.
Meaning, he had other concerns as well. Of course, a sharp investigative mind like
mine had picked up that point and of course I had to ask him about it. “Yes, I do have This is exactly what has happened in the case of Endosulfan.
another concern.” began the Director...
The Director did not have to spell it out. I already knew who the mighty were and what
their real agenda was. The meeting with the Director had made me realize how the
mighty were driving the decisions, that is, how they were subtly getting their way at Fact
the Stockholm Convention. Plantation Corporation of Kerala had been seasonally spraying Endosulfan (once or
twice a year) in their cashew plantation in the districts of Kasargod and Palghat in
I remembered another fact that Parvati had told me earlier which was that almost Kerala from 1980 to 2000 for control of a major pest called tea mosquito bug.
all the chemicals that have been listed as POP have been on the basis of
submissions made by the European Union. She had also told me that all of them In February 2001, CSE released to the media a report based on a study that it had
were generic chemicals. Not a single chemical was recommended for POP listing conducted in Kasargod district of Kerala. The study claimed to have found “alarming
while it was under ‘patent protection’. This fact struck me as being very significant. levels of Endosulfan residues” in water and human blood samples taken from Padre
village in Kasargod district. It also claimed that the “alarming levels” of Endosulfan were
I did not want to waste any more of the Director’s time, so I thanked him, shook his causing several health problems including cancer and birth defects.
hand and was almost at the door, when suddenly, something made me ask, “About
the articles that have appeared in the newspapers. What are your thoughts on that?” Coincidentally, 2001, the year in which this study was conducted was also the same
I described the one that my father had shown me on Republic Day and how my year in which the European multinational decided to phase out Endosulfan, a pesticide
grandfather had been shaken to the core upon reading it. it had produced and exported worldwide without any adverse effects for 50 years.
The Director asked if I had read the Kasargod study conducted by the Centre for Fact
Science and Environment (CSE) upon which the newspaper article was based. “No, The claim of the CSE study regarding “alarming levels of Endosulfan” is scientifically
I had not read the study. People like me, ordinary people that is, don’t read scientific incorrect.
studies. We go by what we read in the newspapers.”
Here are just two examples that prove the falseness of the CSE report:
The Director beckoned that I sit down once again. I told him I was taking up too much
of his time. He told me not to worry about that. And then he began. Fact for fact, this is
what he said:
CSE Claim Fact
Endosulfan residues of 9.19 ppm (parts per million) were found in filtered water Several expert committees have been appointed by the Government of India to
samples taken from Padre village. determine whether Endosulfan was the cause of health problems in Padre village
of Kasargod district. All these committees have concluded that there is no link
Scientific truth whatsoever between the use of Endosulfan and the reported health problems.
Endosulfan’s water solubility is 0.33 ppm. This means that this is the maximum amount
of Endosulfan that can be dissolved in water. CSE’s claim of 9.19 ppm is scientifically Fact
implausible. It completely violates the basic and fundamental principles of chemistry. According to information obtained from international organizations, Endosulfan
This is therefore a false claim. is non-carcinogenic, that is, it does not cause cancer. These organizations include
the WHO (World Health Organization), FAO (Food & Agriculture Organization),
CSE Claim IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer), and the US EPA (United States
115.19 ppm of Endosulfan residues were detected in the blood sample of Dr. Mohan Environmental Protection Agency).
Kumar, an activist associated with Pesticides Action Network.
Scientific truth Ignoring the observations of the expert scientific committees as well as the
0.86 ppm is the lethal concentration of Endosulfan in human blood. observations of scientific bodies such as the WHO, the CSE and a small group of
environmental NGOs got together to create a pressure group to ban Endosulfan.
This concentration and anything more than this would mean that the person would The scientifically incorrect CSE study became part of a systematic and aggressive
not survive. No human being can carry 115.19 ppm of Endosulfan residues and still be campaign to create negative public opinion regarding Endosulfan.
As a consequence of this campaign, the National Research Centre for Cashew
When challenged, neither Dr. Mohan Kumar nor CSE could explain these unscientific recommended that Endosulfan should not be used for cashew cultivation in Kerala.
laboratory findings. Thereafter, because of public pressure, the Kerala government suspended the use of
Endosulfan all over the state.
40 Scientifically incorrect CSE study funded by EU on Page No.. 66 41
I left the Director’s office feeling very shameful. How could our own people, use a incidents reported from certain villages in Kasargod district, no conclusive evidence
scientifically incorrect report in this manner to malign Endosulfan? What was really has been produced to show that the diseases were linked to Endosulfan and nothing
going on in Kerala? Some of the pictures that we have seen in the anti-Endosulfan else. An independent study demonstrates that the symptoms in reported cases
reports did indicate that there were health problems. If Endosulfan was not causing correspond to those of handi godu (a disease) attributed to chronic inbreeding in
them, then what was? the region.”
While I was waiting for Parvati, I opened my laptop. Surely someone must have asked The second article, a full page one, had appeared in the Indian Express, New Delhi and
the same question: What was going on in Kerala? Just then, Parvati arrived, all huffing Mumbai editions, dated January 30, 2011. The article was titled Kerala’s Pesticide Puzzle
and puffing. She was late but there was good reason for that, she said, as she handed and the subtitle read ... “Shaju Philips travels to Kasargod and finds that there is little
over two newspaper articles and a map to me. She would not sit down. She said she evidence to link these diseases (congenital and infertility problems) with Endosulfan”.
would be back in a little while. In the meantime, she wanted me to read the articles
carefully, especially the portions that were highlighted in yellow. The following is a direct quote from the article:
My God! My Parvati was turning out to be quite an investigator! Here were two articles “....Jagadeesh, 40, from a village under the Enmakaje panchayat, is an Endosulfan
in two different newspapers written by two different journalists; both the articles victim in government records – diagnosed with mental retardation and epilepsy.
pointed to the fact that there was a history of congenital problems in Kasargod and in He was born in 1970, at least 10 years before the first spraying of Endosulfan
the adjoining areas of South Canara district of Karnataka. Long before Endosulfan or and even before the trial run began in 1977-78. That he wasn’t enrolled in primary
any other pesticide was ever sprayed, these areas had children with birth defects. school at the age of six indicates his congenital problems preceded the spraying.
His four younger siblings are all married with children who are in good health.
In an article entitled Proxy Battle Over Endosulfan published in The Hindu, Business Line Jagadeesh was first taken for treatment only 15 years ago, when the Endosulfan issue
newspaper dated 9 February 2011, Shri Sharad Joshi, who is the Founder of Shetkari erupted.”
Sanghatana and a former Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, has written ... “In the
Goodness gracious! So there were health problems in Kasargod, but they did not
have anything to do with Endosulfan; they existed long before Endosulfan was
ever sprayed! Could this be the reason why the CSE study was conducted in
Kasargod? If so, the spraying of Endosulfan over the cashew plantation was exactly
what these people needed to make a scapegoat out of Endosulfan and link it to the
already existing health problems. What devious minds! Shame on them!
As soon as I said this to myself, I felt a bit bad. I did not want to jump to conclusions.
The evidence was staring me in the face, but still, I wanted to exercise caution. My eye
fell on the map. It was the map of India. I put it aside; this Parvati was too much, was
she now going to give me a geography lesson as well?!
And so I waited. It did not feel nice to have the icecream without her. But she was
taking so long! I looked at the map once again; this time I looked properly; it was a
map showing the state-wise consumption of Endosulfan.
The states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh ranked highest in
the use of Endosulfan. What about Kerala? Why is it that the usage in other states was the preexistence of health problems in Kasargod, was too much for me. I wanted to
significantly higher? Was it used only in cashew? Could I very quickly find out this talk to someone about all this. I packed my computer, paid the bill and I was on the
detail? I opened my laptop, and started the search with the Plantation Corporation phone with the Director of the International Stewardship Centre. I requested, actually
of Kerala which had used Endosulfan on its cashew crop. That was how the whole I should say, I begged for a little more of his time. Something in my voice must have
controversy had erupted. Thank God, I know my way around the internet; some would communicated how agitated I was – the Director told me to come over right away.
even say I am quite a whiz at it....Ah! Here was something...
The tea that the Director provided was much needed. And what is more, he was
Goodness gracious, once again! Do you know how much Endosulfan was sprayed by attending to some phone call, so I could have my tea in peace.
the Plantation Corporation over the cashew crop in Kasargod? 300 millilitres per acre!
Could this be correct? I checked the figure once again. Yes, it was only 300 millilitres Then, when he was back and I was somewhat restored, I told him how much respect
per acre. This is just a little bit more than what a standard size glass can hold! And the I had for NGOs. They do such incredible work. Our country owes so much to them.
spraying was done only twice during the year. I told him that it was a good and noble thing for CSE to be concerned about health and
the environment but all the evidence that we had gathered indicated that something
In all only 550 litres were sprayed during the year in Kasargod, Kerala. Maharashtra, was terribly wrong.
Andhra Pradhesh and Madhya Pradesh were annually using 10 lakh litres (or 1000
kiloliltres) and above and nothing adverse has ever been reported from those states! I was full of questions:
Now, I am not a scientist and I am not a researcher, but even my common sense tells
me that if I wanted to study the effects of Endosulfan, I would pick a state where there Why had the CSE conducted the study in Kerala, where there was so little Endosulfan
was significant use of Endosulfan; I would certainly not pick an area that has such consumption?
insignificant use of Endosulfan!
Why did they ignore the fact that birth defects and other health problems already
This discovery, coming on top of the evidence given in the newspaper reports about existed in the area that was studied?
If it had been pointed out to them that their data was scientifically incorrect, if so From the financial year 1999-2000 to 2007-2008, CSE received funding close to
many government committees had said that the health problems in Kasargod were Rs. 56 crores.
not linked to Endosulfan – then why were they conducting such an aggressive
anti-Endosulfan campaign? In the period of 2000 to 2006 alone, CSE received Rs. 35.36 crores out of which more
than Rs. 33 crores were from foreign sources.
What was their motivation? Was it money?
• In a letter dated 10 May 2010, the Head of the Delegation of the European
My phone had to ring just then! It was Parvati; she wanted me to talk to her friend’s Union has stated and I quote... “The European Union did provide funding to
brother who ran a for farmers. I told Parvati that I was going to be delayed but she CSE to implement a project on Policy Research and Awareness Creation in the
insisted that I had to meet the person that very evening, it did not matter how late Field of Environment health Interface and Development of an Alternative Pollution
it got. Monitoring System from 2000 to 2006. The objective of this project was to:
I apologized to the Director for the interruption. Then I repeated my question, “Could 1) To sensitize the public to linkages between environmental degradation
money be the reason why CSE was mixed up in all this?” and health;
The Director looked me straight in the eye and said, “This is a question to which I don’t 2) Develop policy strategies in the field of environmental health;
know the answer. I would not even want to speculate. However what I do have are
some facts: 3) Catalyze the formation of a pressure group by providing scientific information on
the health impacts of environmental degradation.
• According to information obtained through the Right to Information Act from the
Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India… To achieve this objective, CSE conducted various research studies, provided capacity
building, established a laboratory for monitoring air, water and pesticides pollution in
the environment and created awareness among various target groups on these issues.
48 European Union’s letter confirming funding to CSE on Page No. 64 49
Foreign funding: RTI information on Rs. 56 Crores received by CSE on Page No. 65
Please be informed that...the EU cannot be held responsible for the views expressed saaman (things) he also gets sammaan (respect). We care for our farmers; we look
by CSE, the results of the study, their correctness or the usage of those results by CSE.” for ways and means to be of real help to them. For example, we have removed the
middleman. The farmers therefore get their products at much lower prices.”
What more evidence did I need! I wanted to hang my head in shame. Do the people
at CSE and other anti-Endosulfan NGOs ever think about the scope and scale of the This sounded too good to be true but I believed the manager. He was bright, he was
devastation that their actions are going to wreak on millions of our farmers? My father sincere, only one thing -- he talked a lot and that too at full speed! And here he was
and grandfather filled my mind and heart as I made my way out of the Director’s office. telling us some more...
All in all, it had not been a good day. And now this meeting at the farmers mall. “Yes, I am the manager, but first I am a farmer. Most of the time, I am in the villages,
God knows what that was going to be like. If I could not find the farmers mall in the meeting farmers, trying to understand their problems. Whatever knowledge I have,
next five minutes, Parvati was going to....Ah! Here she was, waiting for me at the I share with them, and when I don’t know how to solve the problem, I take help from
entrance of a shop. my professor friends at the agricultural universities. Yes, you can say, it is a kind of
social service, no problem if profits are small; to be of help to farmers, that is the best
I asked her where the mall was and she pointed to the shop. This 20 ft x 20 ft shop is a reward. “
mall! Had Parvati lost her mind?!
What an afternoon and evening this had turned out to be! From hearing about
A young man, not much older than me, was the manager of this shop. He immediately Rs 56 crores in funding to listening to this man say that money is not everything!
set the record straight.
I asked him if he knew anything about the Endosulfan controversy. Of course he had!
“Yes, we do call this shop a mall, but it really is a one-stop shop for the farmers. In fact, he was full of it...
We supply all that a farmer needs -- seeds, fertilizers pesticides... even ordinary things
like ropes and strings. But what makes us unique is that here, the farmer not only gets
“Let me tell you this is not the first time they have orchestrated a ban. These That is just not who we are and how we conduct farming. Let me tell you, without
Europeans have done the same thing earlier with other pesticides. And they always do honeybees, the farmers’ eco-system is going to be destroyed and we are going to be
this with generic pesticides. I have never heard of a pesticide that was banned while ruined. We might as well commit suicide!”
it was patented. That would not suit their interests. It is the low cost generic that gets
banned and is then replaced with an expensive patented product. These were strong words. They affected me deeply.
But not anymore! Many farmer leaders have taken up the cause of the small and Parvati signalled that she wanted a word in private. She had this bright idea that
marginal farmer. Some academics and professors of agricultural universities are also I should meet this professor-turned-farmer-leader. I said I would. But that did not
joining in. I am meeting one such professor-turned-farmer-leader tomorrow. Actually, satisfy her.
I am catching the night train, but don’t worry, I still have some time to talk to you...
So there I was in the night train. After we managed to get our berths, I thought I
Let me tell you what this professor told me. The alternative products are destroying would get some peace and quiet. But no, the manager wanted to tell me more about
honeybees and other beneficials. In France and Germany where Endosulfan has the farmer-leader who came from a family that has been involved in agriculture for
been substituted by neo-nicotinoids, it has resulted in entire colonies of honeybees generations. He and many others like him were starting a grassroots movement to
getting wiped out. In countries where honeybees have been destroyed, farmers are make Indian farmers aware of what was going on. The manager was lending his full
now buying boxes of bees, and they are letting these bees loose in their farms so that support, taking on the responsibility of mobilizing farmers that he was in contact with.
pollination can take place. It felt good to hear this. As I closed my eyes, I thanked Parvati for insisting that I forget
everything and get into the night train. That girl was invariably right!
But what about us Indian farmers? In addition to dealing with power cuts, rising fuel
prices, non-availability of water, shortage of labour, how will we cope with the tragedy The professor-turned-farmer-leader was very busy man; a very focused and
of paying for very expensive replacement products and on top of that seeing our determined man. He spoke his mind and on his mind was only one thing – our Indian
honeybees destroyed? Our farmers will never buy bees. farmers!
His words really charged me up. This is what he said... Reason 3: The decision to recommend Endosulfan as a POP was made despite
significant data gaps.
“So far, we have heard NGO voices and other voices. But the farmers have not spoken.
Reason 4: All POPRC decisions relating to Endosulfan have not been taken by
This is going to change. consensus. This is not in the true spirit of the Stockholm Convention.
We need to organise rallies in different states – Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, The final decision of the Stockholm Convention is due in April 2011.
Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar...
One, two, even ten farmers speaking out against the injustice may not be enough. We have to act fast. Now is our last chance!
Thousands of farmers need to congregate, stand as one and tell the world to listen to
the voice of 250 million farmers of India! If we don’t, farmers will be the first casualties.
The voice of the farmers of India is loud and clear. It says: We cannot accept any We will lose our right to choose affordable crop protection solutions. We will be forced
move to ban Endosulfan. Here are four reasons why... to pay five to ten times more for alternatives which may not even be as effective
as Endosulfan. Our farm eco-system will be endangered as many of the suggested
Reason 1: There is no evidence linking Endosulfan to health problems in alternatives are not safe to honeybees and beneficial insects. We depend on these
Kasargod, Kerala. precious insects. If they are destroyed, we will be ruined.
Reason 2: The Indian farmers’ experience of handling Endosulfan for 40 years has not There will also be other major consequences.
been accounted for. Our testimony has not been heard.
Food security will be threatened. Vegetable and fruit production will decrease.
Food prices will escalate.
The sovereignty of our nation will be undermined. If we allow a vested foreign • These studies which posed as being scientific were in fact scientifically inaccurate
interest to decide how we should conduct our trade and commerce, or what we can and contained untenable data.
and cannot produce in our own country, then we run the serious risk of jeopardizing
our freedom and independence. So far, it was only our pharmaceutical industry • Environmental groups linked to European interests had skillfully orchestrated a
which was fighting the patented versus generic war; now, our agro-chemical global fear campaign to malign Endosulfan.
industry is under fire; tomorrow, it could be another industry... We must realize that
the Endosulfan episode is just one example of how European countries want to • This had misled the general public into believing that Endosulfan caused a host
undermine India’s economic growth so that they can continue to dominate the world of health problems. Adverse public opinion had also forced some countries to
stage in the area of business and commerce. ban the product.
We cannot and must not let our independence, our right to choose be taken away • The studies, the fear campaign and the negative public perception of Endosulfan
from us. – all this was the ammunition that Europe had used to push for a ban in many
countries and also to push for a recommendation for listing Endosulfan as a POP
That is why we have to stand up as one and let our voices be heard. at the Stockholm Convention.
Now is indeed our last chance.
The ban would kill two birds with the same stone:
I had learnt enough. I understood what was going on vis-à-vis Endosulfan within India
and at the international level. I had facts and figures to back up my findings which The ban would wipe out the generic Endosulfan and with it, the Indian competition.
The ban would open up a huge market for expensive alternatives from Europe-based
• Endosulfan, the low-cost, generic pesticide was being targeted as harmful on the pesticide manufacturers.
basis of studies initiated by some NGOs which were funded by foreign sources
In conclusion: Grandfather was still on the phone. His voice reached us on the verandah...
European business interests and not health concerns were at the root of the ban.
Health concerns were a clever smokescreen to hide European business interests. “If the health or life of even one child in India or anywhere else in the world was being
endangered, I would be the first one to give up Endosulfan.
I should have been elated that I had conducted a successful investigation. But I was
returning home to grandfather and father with a heavy heart. But you know and I know that Endosulfan is not harmful. And yet this pesticide is
made out to be the culprit. We are the ones who will have to pay the price of this
I told them everything. Grandfather asked a lot of questions. So much of what I shared falsehood...”
was outside his realm of experience but he was so eager to learn and grasp the facts;
suddenly I had become the teacher and he, my ardent student. Grandfather was in full form. Knowing him, he was going to work day and night on this
cause. And father would have the tough job of ensuring that he did not overdo things.
Then he paced the long verandah. Up and down. It was the end of the day, but he did
not look at all fatigued. In fact, it felt as if new energy, new zest had suddenly entered I asked my father if I should stay over for a couple of days. It was only four days to full
his being. moon. The look of utter relief on his face was all the answer I needed.
He started making phone calls left, right and centre. Father dialled the numbers, Grandfather’s voice was getting louder... “Do the honourable decision-makers realize
he did the talking. What was the talk about? A farmers’ meeting. Soon, the date and the importance of low cost solutions for small and marginal farmers? Do they realize
the venue also got settled. The first meeting would be held in the neighbouring that these solutions not only have to be low-cost but also safe for our honeybees?
village in the primary school compound on purnima, full moon night. Do such alternatives exist right now? No, they do not! Then why ban a pesticide that
has been such a trusted friend of the farmer for over 40 years? Despite the hallu-ballu
Father handed over the dialling to my uncle, took me aside, asked me to write down at Kasargod, Endosulfan has not been linked to any health problems. So how can they
all the main points that I had shared with them. Grandfather was capable of waking justify the ban?”
him up in the middle of the night to seek clarification on some point or the other.
Parvati also thought that it was a good idea that I stay back in the village. I wanted to The moon was full; the primary school compound was overflowing. Three hundred
tell her that we made a good team, that without her, this investigation would not have farmers were already seated and still more were arriving. A makeshift dias had been
been so rock solid. But this kind of talk does not come easy to me. So many times I made, two microphones were in place, it was all very orderly and impressive.
have argued with her... “Does everything always have to be spelt out in words?” There was even a master of ceremonies who at that very moment was introducing my
And her answer, “Yes it does! At least till we develop supernatural powers and are able grandfather. And when this grand old man rose, there was a thunderous applause.
to read each other’s minds!”
Grandfather began with a call that rang out loud and clear ... Bharat Mata ki Jai!
I heard grandfather shout out for me. With a hurried goodbye to Parvati, I went Bhagwan Balram ki Jai! Gau Mata ki Jai! Three hundred voices repeated the call.
inside. Grandfather was still on the phone... “We have to speak up! We have to let It was a moment out of time. I found myself participating with a fervour that was new
our government know that in the interest of the small and marginal farmers, they to me. All the fear and worry, all the admiration and respect that I felt for these men
must continue to oppose the ban. Let every panchayat of every village write to and women who silently go about their work of feeding the world – all these emotions
our Honourable Prime Minister about this injustice. Prime Ministerji can urge other rose to the fore as I called out ... Bharat Mata ki Jai!! Bhagwan Balram ki Jai!! Gau Mata
countries to defend the rights of small and marginal farmers. ki Jai!!
Grandfather was out of breath when he finally got off the phone. But it rang again Then, the hush as grandfather began...We, the farmers of India...
almost immediately. I told grandfather that I would answer. That’s when it struck me:
however much I had rebelled, however hard I had fought against it, I was and always
would be a farmer’s son and grandson.
Yes, I would be there with grandfather on purnima night. And if he wanted,
I would also speak at the meeting.
Italian order permitting re-use of endosulfan after its ban in Europe English translation of the Italian order
European Union’s letter confirming to funding the CSE study Foreign funding: RTI information on Rs. 56 Crores received by CSE
Scientifically incorrect CSE study funded by EU
The maximum residue limits for the pesticide endosulfan in soil, water and vegetables from Padre
have been breached several times over. But human blood! We couldn’t find any maximum residue
limit for that. The tests conducted at the CSE laboratory show that each resident of Padre whose
blood sample was tested has endosulfan residues several hundred times the residue limit for water
Sample Detected Maximum Number of Site/source of sample
value of residue limit times value
endosulfan1 (MRL)1 exceeds MRL
Water 1.18 0.18* 7 Small stream in Kumbdaje village near Padre
Water 6.87 0.18* 38 Tank near the cashew plantation, Kajampady, Padre
Water 9.19 0.18* 51 The Kodenkiri stream near Vaninagar, Padre
Butter 14.00 NA1 NA From the milk of a cow of Saletadka, Padre
Cow’s skin/fat tissue 49.99 0.1 500 From the abdominal region of a cow from Padre
Cow’s Milk 31.80 0.5 64 From a cow that grasses around Kajampady, Padre
Cow’s Milk 57.20 0.5 114 From a stall-fed cow in Kumbdaje village
Coconut Oil 17.00 NA NA Extracted from produce of trees in Vaninagar, Padre
Cashew 54.11 NA NA From a tree in the plantation near Kumbdaje village
Vegetables 31.24 0.4-2.0 78-16 Basale, leafy, spinach-like vegetable from Kajampady
Human Milk 22.40 NA NA Lalitha, 35, resident of Kumbdaje village
Human Blood 108.90 NA NA Vishnu Kulkarni, 16 has epilepsy & mental retardation
Human Blood 114.13 NA NA Prabhawati Shastri, 35 has asthma & skin allergies
Human Blood 115.19 NA NA Mohana Kumar, 40 has chronic throat infection
Human Blood 109.50 NA NA Kittanna Shetty, 21 has cerebral palsy
Human Blood 196.47 NA NA Muthakka Shetty, 50, Kittanna Shetty’s Mother
Human Blood 176.90 NA NA Lalitha 35, resident of Kumbdaje village
Live Frog 10.35 NA NA From a small stream in Kumbdaje village
Cashew 3.74 NA NA From the plantation near Kajampady, Padre
Spices 212.28 NA NA Pepper bunch from Kajampady, Padre
Fish 28.24 NA NA From a tank in Kajampady, Padre
Soil 35.16 0.09* 391 From Lalitha’s house in Kumbdaje village
Soil 3.17 0.09* 35 From a few meters inside the plantation at Kajampady
Soil 6.40 0.09* 71 From plantation area on a hilltop Periyal, Padre
Cashew leaves 6.52 NA NA From the heart of the plantation at Periyal, Padre
SCIENCE FOR ECOLOGICAL SECURITY
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi, has recently set up a
laboratory to monitor pollution. Its aim is to conduct scienific studies and generate
public awareness about pesticides and heavy metal contamination of food, water and
soil. It provides scientific services at affordable prices to communities that do not have
access to obtain scientific evidence of pollution. This is crucial in, say, a court case that
a rural community might be fighting against a polluter. Given the state of scientific
research in India – most of it is restricted to national defence and food security – this
is an effort to use science to achieve ecological security. The laboratory provides paid
services for financially self-sufficiency. The Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische
Zusammenaabeit (GTZ) Gmbh, based in Bonn, and the Europian Union have provided
34 the funds for setting up the laboratory.
February 28, 2001 Down To Earth
“A Book every Indian must read”
KRISHI HITRAKSHAK SAMITI
Mandvi - Kachchh