The Green Revolution is Over

By B. McPherson

An Indian court has ruled that the banned pesticide endosulfan can be exported in spite of the government’s ban on its manufacture, sales and usage. With a cavalier disregard to other people’s safety, one of the chief justices was quoted in the Environmental Justice Foundation web page:

Chief Justice S H Kapadia said, “Our main concern is that we don’t want our people to suffer…Why should this material lie on Indian soil? If some countries are willing to import it, we should go for it.”

Endosulfan was introduced to the world in the early 50s as part of the Green Revolution. It was widely used on food crops, potatoes and vegetables. India has been a major producer and user of this chemical but the government has recently instituted a complete ban on its use, manufacture or sale. The manufactures have unsold stocks of the pesticide and lobbied the courts to be able to send the poison to countries that are not respecting the ban. Canada and the US have agreed to an international protocol for phasing out the pesticide. The US will continue some use until 2016.

Endosulfan is a long lasting pesticide that takes many years to break down. Consequently it spreads to many areas not targeted by aerial spraying. Sampling of polar bears’ blood has turned up traces of it in the Arctic. There is also concern that the manufacture of endosulfan also results in the inadvertent production of furans and dioxins, known deadly chemicals.

While many governments maintain that the food crops sprayed with the chemical are safe to eat, they are less sanguine about the farm workers and the environmental damage done. It has been alleged in Kerala that five men who undertook to secretly bury excess pesticide have all died from endosulfan poisoning.
In India the pesticide has been widely used on a variety of crops, including cashew trees.

 Statement from the US Environmental Protection Agency 2010

“Endosulfan is one of the most abundant organochlorine pesticides found in the Arctic, and has also been detected in the Great Lakes and various mountainous areas including the National Parks in the western United States, distant from use sites.  Because of its presence in remote locations, endosulfan may be considered a persistent organic pollutant that may result in human exposure via the food web.”
This pesticide has been labelled a carcinogen(promotes cancers), a teratogen(causes birth defects) and a mutagen(changes genes) but harmful effects have been denied by large pesticide manufacturers in India. Some have gone so far as to claim that it is a plot by the EU to get the farmers to buy newer, more expensive chemicals.

What is not in doubt is there are many health issues in the state of Kerala. While the manufacturers have denied responsibility, some have offered pensions to the worst affected. For more information on the children believed affected by this poison, go to The Ecologist.

USA Use of Endosulfan
While the use of this pesticide is being phased out, some will still be legal to use until 2016. For a more complete list of exemptions and mitigation measures go to the Memorandum of Agreement between the US government and a group of chemical producers.
1.       Phased out March 2012 – cabbage, celery, cotton, cucumbers, lettuce, stone fruits, summer melons, summer squash, tobacco
2.       Phased out March 2013 – pears
3.       Phased out September 2014 --  all Florida use for apples, blueberry, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, sweet corn, tomato, winter squash
4.       Phased out March 2015 – rest of US, apple, blueberry, pepper, potato, pumpkin, sweet corn, tomato, winter squash
5.       Phased out March 2016 – livestock ear tags, pineapple, strawberry, vegetable crops grown for seed

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