THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Asia-Pacific regional meeting of the International Union of Food workers (IUF) demanded a global ban on Endosulfan — an insecticide used in plantations — on Thursday.
Representatives of agricultural trade unions and plantation workers attending the two-day meeting here urged India to support the inclusion of Endosulfan in the Stockholm convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The unions called for a global ban also on Paraquat — a toxic chemical with no antidote — the use of which has been associated with Parkinson's disease.
Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Regional Secretary of the IUF-Asia/Pacific Ma Wei Pin said India was the only country to adopt an anti-worker position by opposing the inclusion of Endosulfan at international conventions. India should recognise its role as global steward, being the country with one of the largest populations of agriculture and plantation workers.
The regional secretary said employers had a responsibility to clean up the pollution they had caused, while governments regulate the process. C. Jayakumar of Thanal said this meant that the Plantation Corporation of Kerala Ltd. (PCK) had a responsibility to institute an environmental clean up in Kasaragod district.
Jasper Gross, research officer, IUF, Asia/Pacific, told the media that pesticides and chemicals fundamentally had a negative and harmful effect on workers. So, the issue was of the right of workers for a safe working environment. It had been clearly shown that Endosulfan had negative effects, he said. Dr. Gross said now a quarter of their incomes went towards health care. If pesticides were eliminated, it would, in effect, improve their earnings.
Sarojeni Rengam, executive director of Pesticide Action Network, Asia/Pacific, said governments and plantation employers were being unduly influenced by pesticide manufacturers to persist with the totally unnecessary practice of using hazardous chemicals.
Christina Olsson from Sweden said her union of Swedish Municipal Workers, Kommunal, played an active role in the banning of Endosulfan in Sweden in 1995. The core theme of the meeting was Health and Safety of Agriculture and Plantation Workers, with special focus on Endosulfan, Paraquat and other hazardous pesticides.