Friday, May 6, 2011

Killer Pesticide Endosulfan to be Phased Out Globally

29 April, 2011


GENEVA: Gathered in Geneva for the Fifth Conference of the Parties this week, the nations of the world agreed to add endosulfan, an antiquated persistent insecticide, to the Stockholm Convention’s list of banned substances. Environmental health and justice organizations from around the world who have been working towards a ban welcomed the decision.

The use of endosulfan has severely impacted the people of Kerala, India, where its use on cashew plantations has left thousands suffering from birth defects, mental retardation, and cancer. "This is the moment we have been dreaming of,” says Jayan Chelaton from Thanal, a public interest research group based in Kerala. “The tears of the mothers of the endosulfan victims cannot be remedied, but it will be a relief to them that there will not be any more people exposed to this toxic insecticide. It is good feeling for them. We are happy to note that this is also victory for poor farmers, as this proves people united from all over the world can get what they demand."

Because of its persistence, bioaccumulation, and mobility, endosulfan—like DDT—travels on wind and ocean currents to the Arctic where it contaminates the environment and traditional foods of the people who live there. “We are pleased with the decision of the global community today to phase out this dangerous chemical that has contaminated our traditional foods in the Arctic. Our people are some of the most contaminated on the planet." said Vi Waghiyi, a Yupik woman from St. Lawrence Island (Alaska) and the Environmental Health and Justice Program Director with Alaska Community Action on Toxics. "But until all manufacturing and uses of endosulfan are eliminated, this pesticide will continue to harm our peoples, so we urge all countries to rapidly implement safer alternatives and eliminate their last few uses of endosulfan."

For most uses the ban will take effect in a year, but use on a short list of crop-pest combinations will be phased out over a six-year period. “With a plethora of alternatives already available, we’d have preferred to see no exemptions included in the decision. But we were successful in restricting exemptions to specific combinations of crops and pests. This means that during the phase-out it can only be used in very specific situations,” said Karl Tupper, a staff scientist from Pesticide Action Network North America who attended the deliberations.

Endosulfan, a DDT-era pesticide, is one of the most toxic pesticides still in use today. Each year, it took the lives of dozens of African cotton farmers until recently being banned by most countries on the continent. Hundreds of farmers in the developing world still use it to commit suicide each year.

“The health of Indigenous Peoples around the world, including our Yaqui communities in Mexico, are directly and adversely impacted when these kinds of toxic chemicals are applied, usually without their knowledge or informed consent. This phase out is an important step forward for Indigenous Peoples adversely affected both at the source of application and in the Arctic where these toxics ultimately end up,” said Andrea Carmen, Executive Director of International Indian Treaty Council and coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples Global Caucus at the meeting.

According to Javier Souza, Coordinator of Pesticide Action Network Latin America, “This phase out of endosulfan provides an excellent opportunity for countries to implement non-chemical alternatives to pesticides and to strengthen and expand agroecological practices. National phase out efforts should be open to the participation of experts from academia, farmer organizations, and environmental groups with experience.”

Momentum for a global ban has been building for many years. “Endosulfan was first proposed for addition in the Convention in 2007. At that time about 50 countries had already banned it; today, more than 80 countries have banned it or announced phase-outs. NGOs have worked very hard to make this happen,” says Meriel Watts, senior science advisor, from Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific. “But today’s decision is really a tribute to all those farmers, communities, and activists across the planet who have suffered from endosulfan and fought for this day. It is especially a tribute to the thousands in the state of Kerala, India, whose health has suffered so terribly from endosulfan, to the inspirational leadership of Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, and to the many other people there who have all fought for their rights and for a global ban on endosulfan.”

"We are delighted with this decision as it means agricultural workers, Indigenous Peoples and communities across the globe will finally be protected from this poisonous pollutant,” says Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith, CoChair of IPEN - International POPs Elimination Network. “The UN’s own scientific body had clearly shown that endosulfan is a POP, despite the recent vocal claims by some. Endosulfan contaminates the Arctic food chain and Antarctic krill, poisons our farmers, and pollutes our breastmilk. It was clearly time for endosulfan to go and it now joins the same fate as old POPs pesticides like dieldrin and heptachlor, banned once and for all. It is essential that all POPs should be eliminated and this global ban will provide the much needed legal protection."

Available for Interviews:

·        Karl Tupper, Pesticide Action NetworkNorth America,, +1 415-981-1771 (USA)
·        Dr. Mariann Lloyd-Smith, International POPS Elimination Network,; +61 41-362-1557 (Australia)
·        Dr. Meriel Watts, Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific,; +64 21-1807830. (NewZealand)
·        Vi Waghiyi, Alaska Community Action on Toxics,, +1 907-222-7714 (USA)
·        Jayakumar Chelaton, Thanal,
·        Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaties Council,
·        Javier Souza, Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y sus Alternativas para América Latina,

Endosulfan-free Café for Stockholm Convention Delegates

NGOs Host Endosulfan-free Café for Stockholm Convention Delegates

Health and community groups around the world call for an end to endosulfan
April 26, Geneva, Switzerland – Health and community leaders from across the globe are serving organic coffee, cashews and chocolate — free of the pesticide endosulfan — to Stockholm Convention delegates in Geneva. At the gathering this week the governments will decide whether to include the persistent insecticide in the Convention, which would ban it in the 173 countries that are Parties to the treaty.

“Among the largest remaining users of endosulfan are the cotton, soy, coffee, chocolate, and tea industries in certain countries,” explains Karl Tupper, Staff Scientist with Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America. “By featuring organic examples of these products from around the world in our Café, we’re demonstrating that endosulfan-free production is not only possible but also profitable — proving false the claims from the pesticide industry that endosulfan is necessary for growing these crops.”

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (also known as the “POPs Treaty”) aims to protect human health and the environment by eliminating chemicals that are the ‘worst of the worst’: those that are simultaneously toxic, bioaccumulative, persistent, and mobile in the global environment. Endosulfan has been recommended by the treaty’s POPs Review Committee for addition to the list of 21 chemicals already slated for global phaseout.

The NGO ‘café’ will feature endosulfan-free organic coffee from Brazil, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, México, India and other countries, organic cashews from India, chocolate made from organic cocoa from various Latin American nations and organic tea from China, India, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka. The free café, which is open periodically throughout the week, is called “The Annex A Café,” after the section of the Convention where endosulfan would be listed for phaseout.

“Many less toxic and safer alternatives to endosulfan are being used successfully around the globe — from cotton farms in West Africa to coffee growers in Latin America to tea plantations in Asia. There is no excuse for keeping a toxic insecticide like endosulfan on the market,” says Dr. Mariann Lloyd-Smith of the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN). Many of these alternatives to endosulfan have been well documented, and the NGOs are making information about them available to meeting delegates.

NGOs serving the delegates will be wearing t-shirts made from organic cotton grown in India, provided by the company Pants2Poverty, which sources organic cotton from both India and West Africa. Many other food items grown without endosulfan, such as soy and sugarcane, are also on display at the Café. 

Endosulfan is a toxic insecticide that persists in the environment and accumulates in humans and animals. It causes reproductive harm and birth defects in humans, as has been seen in the tragic cases from Kerala, India. “The human health harms of endosulfan are horrific — as victims from the state of Kerala testify,” says Jayakumar Chelaton of the Indian NGO Thanal. “Governments cannot continue putting the profit motive above the health of people — they must ban endosulfan.”

“In addition to the tragic developmental effects and birth defects highlighted in Kerala, endosulfan has also been linked to cancer, hormone disruption and long term neurological effects such as epilepsy and autism”, says Dr. Meriel Watts of PAN Asia and the Pacific. “There have also been many deaths from acute poisoning, especially amongst farmers using endosulfan in the cotton fields of Africa. Endosulfan’s human health harms are well understood and 80 countries around the world have already banned it or are phasing it out.”

Endosulfan travels long distances on air and water currents, and, through a process known as global distillation, accumulates in colder Northern latitudes such as the Arctic regions — thousands of miles from where it was originally used. “Endosulfan affects Indigenous Peoples where it is used, at the original source of contamination, and accumulates from around the globe in the circumpolar Arctic where it contaminates the bodies of our peoples, especially unborn and young children, and traditional food sources such as marine mammals.   This is a violation of our internationally-recognized human rights as Indigenous Peoples,” says Andrea Carmen of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC).

“Endosulfan is contaminating the traditional foods of Arctic Indigenous Peoples,” agrees Vi Waghiyi, a Yupik woman from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, and Environmental Health and Justice Program Director with Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “This is an affront to our human rights, our health, the health of our children and to our cultures. We are among the most highly contaminated people on earth because of the accumulation of persistent organic pollutants in the Arctic. We urge the COP5 delegates to take immediate action by including endosulfan in Annex A and continue work toward eliminating all POPs.”

Innovative farmers are using cutting edge practices, to achieve good outputs in key crops in Africa, Asia and Latin America without using endosulfan. “Organic practices are the safest, most effective and highly productive approaches to growing crops without endosulfan,” says Dr. Abou Thiam of PAN Africa.

Endosulfan is unnecessary,” adds Javier Souza of Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y sus Alternativas para América Latina (RAPAL). “In Latin America, coffee, fruit, vegetables, sugar and soy are all produced without endosulfan. We call upon the nations around the world to support a global ban on endosulfan. It is high time that public health is valued above corporate profits.”

Available for interviews:

Andrea Carmen, IITC. Contact:
Jayakumar Chelaton, Thanal, India. Contact:
Dr. Mariann Lloyd- Smith, IPEN. Contact: +6-141-362-1557
Javier Souza, RAPAL, Contact:
Dr. Abou Thiam, PAN Africa, Contact:
Karl Tupper, PAN North America, Contact:
Vi Waghiyi, Alaska Community Action on Toxics. Contact:
Dr. Meriel Watts, PAN Asia and the Pacific, Contact: +64-21-1807830

India agrees to Endosulfan ban

India agrees to Endosulfan ban

Stockholm:  In a major change of position, India on Friday accepted at a world convention in Geneva that the pesticide Endosulfan is a health hazard. India is currently the largest exporter of Endosulfan in the world and it is used extensively in many states.

It has now agreed to a phased out ban with an exemption for some crops.

Activists too say this is a major victory but too late for those whose live have been destroyed at ground zero in Kerala's Kasargod, especially the poor farmers who widely use this pesticide because it's about 15 times cheaper than organic options.

"We are joining the consensus, but of course, we will look forward to adequate and timely work on safe and cost-effective alternatives being worked out in the phase-out period," said Gauri Kumar, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests and head of the Indian Delegation in Geneva.

Eighty four countries had banned Endosulfan but India resisted it for the longest time, claiming there was no solid proof that it impacted human health.

But at the convention India was completely isolated, especially when China - also a user - supported a conditional ban.

It received a further setback when the Food and Agriculture Association of the UN stated it is hazardous.

In the run up to the Geneva meet, Kerala government had upped its protests where the Kasargod region had seen the maximum deaths among farmers who used the pesticide.

"It is happy news for us. But we are not only sticking to our demand for the ban. We are concerned about the victims," said Mohan Pulikodan, co-coordinator, Endosulfan Victims Support Aid Group.

Now India has bought itself more time to phase out the use and production of Endosulphan over the next 10 years. The biggest worries of the Indian government are a domestic pesticide industry worth Rs. 1,000 crore and the threat of a further rise in food prices - something the average Indian will not be able to stomach.