Facts Buried In the Endosulfan Struggle

V.B. Cherian

‘Make a sheep a dog, then the dog a mad dog and kill the mad dog’. This time-tested strategy was used by the European Union and the non- government organisations paid by it in the issue of Endosulfan. Their objective was to get Endosulfan banned instantly in the 5th Stockholm convention held in Geneva. They could not achieve this due to the tactful stand taken by India, China, Cuba, Brazil and Indonesia. The decision now is to include Endosulfan in nine other pesticides in the list of chemical combinations to be avoided. An exemption also is given to use it against 44 pests, affecting 23 plants. India’s contention that banning the pesticide without a proper alternative will affect agricultural production was accepted. The review committee, a part of the convention, was authorised to find an alternative by consensus through discussions. Five years were given for this; if not possible another five year extension will be given. It will take one year for the Stockholm decisions to come into existence. Hence practically, another 11-year extension is given. The convention also accepted the demand of financial assistance to developing countries to find and use alternative pesticides.

The POP review committee of the Stockholm convention had recommended last year to ban Endosulfan. The decision was taken on a majority vote neglecting opposition from India, China, Brazil etc. It was criticised since then that the decision was against the usual procedure of Stockholm convention to take decisions on consensus. It was an achievement of the Geneva conference that the imperialist tactics of imposing decisions detrimental to the developing countries on a forged majority was given a jolt. The practice of taking decisions on consensus was restored. India and other countries had to compromise a little to achieve this consensus. In spite of the compromise, tt is important that they can scuttle the strategy of USA and European Union, because this is not an issue of Endosulfan alone. Imperialism will try to get domination of any product or commodity. They will try any cheap tactics to destroy their competitors. They will try any means to regain the domination they lost during the financial crisis. They may use issues like human rights, environment for that purpose. The imperialist agenda behind their rhetoric should be clearly understood. The developing countries, anti-imperialists and the progressive forces should forge a united front rally against it. In the Geneva conference, the support of China, Cuba, Brazil Indonesia, helped India to make such a congenial atmosphere.

At a historical juncture when capitalism has grown as imperialism, it is the bounden duty of the communist parties to realise the prime importance of anti-imperialist struggle. But neither the CPM nor the CPI, who are interested only in temporary gain of votes, could or would recognise the necessity of anti-imperialist struggle or the various forms it would develop into. So, on the Endosulfan issue, they slipped into a position favourable to imperialism just as had occurred on the issue of Indo-ASEAN Agreement.

It was the imperialist countries like USA and European Union who argued vociferously for the ban of Endosulfan in the Stockholm convention. Even this was not a hindrance for the so-called left to campaign against Endosulfan in India, especially in Kerala. Several persons from the left including Prakash Karat have made studies and published reports on the role of Non Government Organisations functioning as tools of imperialism. But the same leftists had no hesitation to join hands with the NGOs to oppose Endosulfan.

In Kerala the LDF, UDF and BJP were united on the issue of banning Endosulfan. All counter arguments were suppressed by the print and visual media, all of them joining hands with the forces against Endosulfan. The pathetic scenes shown or published by the media made even those who knew the truth to keep silent. The progressive, scientifically thinking patriotic forces have the moral responsibility to fight against this cooked-up public opinion to present the truth before the people so that they can arrive at a correct conclusion.

Endosulfan is a generic pesticide. It does not come under patent as per the intellectual property rights. It is not a bred product of any company any more. So it can be manufactured by anyone. Hence it has become a very economical pesticide. Since 1954 it was manufactured by the USA and European Union. Since the profitability of this product is low, the multinationals switched over to costly, patented and bred pesticides. But agrarian countries like India and China gave more importance to the production of Endosulfan as a cheap pesticide. Today India produces 70% of the world output of Endosulfan. India started exporting Endosulfan to many other countries. When the multinational pesticide companies of the USA and European Union found this as a threat to their patented and bred pesticides, the campaign against Endosulfan was started at their initiation. Bayer Crop Science, which was a large scale manufacturer of Endosulfan, stopped its production in the year 2005. It is not an accidental coincidence that European Union raised the issue of banning Endosulfan in the Stockholm convention in the very same year. Bayer stopped sales of Endosulfan in the year 2010. In October of 2010, the POP review committee recommended ban of Endosulfan.

A study of the Delhi based CSE (Centre for Science and Environment) is always used to establish that Endosulfan is toxic to health. It is officially revealed as per the Right To Information Act that the European Union, which spearheaded the campaign against Endosulfan has paid this organisation a stunning amount of 53.21 crores of rupees.

The following observations in the report will expose its hollow purpose. The report says that in Kasargode, Endosulfan is found in water at the rate of 9.19 PPM and in human blood at the rate of 196 PPM. The solvency of Endosulfan in water is only 0.32 PPM. It cannot reach the level of 9.19PPM. If Endosulfan level reaches 0.86 PPM in human blood, it will cause death. It is impossible that some one can have 196 PPM Endosulfan in his blood and still live with it. CSE was manipulating data to confuse the people to appease their European masters. As per Sharad Joshi, leader of Shetkari Sanghatana, Kerala uses only 0.86% of the Endosulfan used in the country. Whereas Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat use more than 20 % each. But, the maximum campaign against Endosulfan is conducted in Kerala. Even in Kerala, Endosulfan is used in various districts for tea, cashew etc. But calamities due to Endosulfan were reported only in Kasargode (and that too, in certain villages only). More than half of the Endosulfan produced in India is exported to other countries. There are no reports of adverse effects from those countries. Endosulfan is used in farm plantations only a few times in a year. The workers of the factory where Endosulfan is manufactured are associating with the pesticide round the year. They testified that there were no adverse effects either for themselves or for their children. Many agencies have made several studies on the health problems seen in Kasargode. None of these studies could establish any relationship between Endosulfan and these health problems. It is necessary that a separate, complete investigation is instituted to find the real cause behind the health problems in Padrae village and nearby places of Kasargode. If we simply put the blame on Endosulfan without any study proceeds, the real cause of the health problem may go unattended.

Naturally, some doubts arise here. Why did the European Union take the initiative to study the health problems in Kasargode alone? If the catastrophe is real, will not its occurrence be more in Europe and America, where Endosulfan was in use at least two decades earlier on? Why did the European Union not make a study there? Any logical person will doubt whether the fact which motivated European Union for a study in India is that, India produces 70% of the Endosulfan and at least half of it is exported. If fact-finding was the real mission, why was the study not conducted in states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, where Endosulfan was more widely used than in Kerala? Even in Kerala why was the study not extended to the other districts where Endosulfan is widely used either more or less? Why did the study exclude the workers and the family members of the factories where Endosulfan is manufactured? They interact with Endosulfan more frequently and for for a more prolonged period than the people of Kasargode. Epilepsy, mental retardation, asthma, genetic disorders, cerebral palsy etc are manifested in various degrees all over Kerala. For some reasons these disorders are manifested more in some areas of Kasargode. It is evident that, by utilising the paid study and establishing that Endosulfan is responsible for the health problems seen in Kasargode, the European Union is trying to protect the business interest of the European pesticide companies. In order to gain credibility they used an Indian environment organisation.

The following answer given by the European Union to the letter, questioning the study, sent by The Endosulfan Manufacturers and formulators Welfare Association of India is noteworthy. ‘As per the Belgian Law under which CSE and EU signed the contract for the study, the views expressed in the report are strictly of the benefactor. It does not in any way reflect the views of EU. So EU should not be held responsible for the views, reliability or the results of the study’. That means, without taking responsibility of the study EU can utilise this study for their imperialist aim. India started exporting Endosulfan in the year 2000. It was in February 2001 that CSE prepared the EU financed study report – a clear proof of slavery to imperialism.

 Flies and bees are essential for pollination and enhanced agricultural output. Experience proves that Endosulfan is not harmful to bees and flies. The alternative pesticides provided by the European multinationals chase away flies and bees. Hence many European countries gave exemptions to the ban on Endosulfan and brought it back temporarily. It is recognised in the Geneva meeting that an effective alternative cannot be suggested for Endosulfan. They emphasised the fact that an immediate ban on Endosulfan at Stockholm would have been highly detrimental to our agricultural development and food self sufficiency. The alliance of India, China, Brazil, Indonesia and Cuba has averted a disaster. This must be viewed in the background of the Doha round discussion where the imperialist countries were pressurising the developing countries to liberalise agricultural imports to facilitate sales of their own surplus agricultural product. The agricultural sector of countries like India is already in crisis with the decision of WTO Uruguay round discussion to reduce subsidy to agriculture sector. The crisis will further deepen if Endosulfan is banned and costly European pesticides are imposed. If the import of agricultural produce is also liberalized the situation may arise that even for food we may have to depend on the imperialist forces.

The CPI (M) is not ready to see these dangers. Moreover the CPI (M) and many of its mass organisations are organising various struggles demanding the instant ban of Endosulfan without waiting for 11 years. The fact that China and Cuba, where Communist parties head the government, stood firm with India in resisting the imperialist pressure, did not deter the CPI (M) from this suicidal path.

On May 3rd , Deshabhimani, the Malayalam daily and mouthpiece of the CPI (M), reported that the convener of the LDF had demanded the following as per the decision of the LDF. ‘Usage of Endosulfan should be stopped immediately. Centre should abstain from the move to delay ban on Endosulfan on the pretext of exemptions. HIL Eloor should stop production of Endosulfan. The state government must interfere to stop the production. People will be rallied to put pressure on the central government to do this’. The DYFI filed a case in the Supreme Court for the immediate ban of Endosulfan. This shows that if the European Union was not able to achieve their goal in the international forum at Stockholm, here in India CPI (M), CPI, LDF and DYFI are ready to facilitate it.

The capitalist land lord combine, ruling India, was trying to resist the pressure of the imperialist forces at Stockholm to ban Endosulfan along with China, Cuba, Brazil and Indonesia. It is the bounden duty of the working class and its organisations to skilfully utilise any such conflicts arising between the ruling class and the imperialist forces however temporary it is. The guidance given in Para 108 of the party programme of CPI (M) adopted in 1964 is highly pertinent in this respect.

‘The working class and the Communist Party, while not for a moment losing sight of its basic aim of building the people’s democratic front to achieve the people’s democratic revolution and the fact that this has to inevitably come into clash with the present Indian state led by the big bourgeoisie, does take cognizance of the contradictions and the conflicts that do exist between the Indian bourgeoisie, including the big bourgeoisie, and foreign imperialists. They express themselves on the issues of war and peace, on the economic and political relations with socialist countries, on the terms of aid from foreign monopolists, on the question of finding adequate market for our exports and on the question of foreign policy and defence of our national independence. In the background of the daily intensifying general crisis of world capitalism, the deferent contradictions obtaining in the national and international spheres are bound to get intensified. The Communist Party, while carefully studying this phenomenon, shall strive to utilize every such difference, fissure, conflict and contradiction with the foreign imperialists to isolate the imperialists and strengthen the peoples struggle for democratic advance. Entertaining no illusion of any strategic unity or united front with the ruling Congress Party, the working class will not hesitate to lend its unstinted support to the Government on all issues of world peace and anti-colonialism which are the genuine interests of the nation, on all economic and political issues of conflict with imperialism, and on all issues which involve questions of strengthening our sovereignty and independent foreign policy’

(Para 108)

Really Endosulfan is not a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP). To consider a chemical as POP, the half life of the chemical should be above 180 days. It should form sediment in some parts of the body of animal or plant it enters and should spread through the air to distant places. But Endosulfan disintegrates within 4 weeks both in tropical and semi-tropical areas. Disintegration occurs due to reaction with soil, micro-organisms, water and sunlight. A study conducted in 2006 by WHO says that Endosulfan does not form sediment and is excreted from the body by integrating with certain enzymes and blood.

The International Agency for Cancer Research, an organ of WHO found that Endosulfan is not carcinogenic. A study conducted jointly by WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organisation find that Endosulfan does not cause mutations in cells, destroy DNA or derange chromosomes. The same study also concludes that Endosulfan does not cause infertility.

All pesticides are toxic. They become useful through controlled usage. Even life-saving drugs become hazardous when used uncontrolled. Pesticides are categorised into four types.

  1. Highly hazardous
  2. Dangerous.
  3. Moderately dangerous and
  4. Less dangerous.

Endosulfan is considered in the third category. That means, Endosulfan is a safer pesticide in comparison with several other pesticides. People and farmers should be scientifically trained to use pesticides with care and caution. Instead of that, on the one side the multinationals spread half truth and lies to stall the economic, industrial and agrarian growth of developing countries. On the other side, some environmentalists try to scare the people by spreading the misunderstanding that all chemical combinations are dangerous and try to establish that the chemical industry is unnecessary. Earlier, they campaigned against hydro electric projects. After Fukushima, instead of urging the necessary precautions, they are demanding that atomic energy be banned. Turning a blind eye to the progress in science and technology they raise the slogan ‘return to nature’. The imperialists and these environmentalists are together in the effort to stall the progress, development and self reliance of developing countries like India.

 The crisis ridden imperialist countries want to get out of the crisis at the cost of developing countries by capturing their markets. 60% of the world pesticide market is controlled by the European multinationals. Their target is not HIL alone. They want all our pesticide units to be closed. Further they will target our chemical companies like FACT. Resisting such moves is not only to save certain industries and jobs of some workers but also to strengthen self reliance, ensure agricultural and industrial development of countries like India.

All workers, farmers, unemployed and other patriots should unite above Party.

The author is a Politburo Member of the Marxist Communist Party of India (United)

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