It appears that Endosulfan was good for the world only as long as the EU was manufacturing and exporting it. Endosulfan was a widely-used pest-protection in agricultural economies for decades. There have been no alleged ‘victims’ of Endosulfan anywhere in the world except the select provinces in Kerala and Dakshina Kannada where trial by media has shaped public perception over eight years to promote questionable claims.
In response to claims connecting Endosulfan with human disorders in these regions, six committees and expert groups including representatives from health, environment and agriculture departments were set up by the governments of Kerala, Karnataka andIndia. Each committee has concluded that none of the alleged victims were conclusively affected by Endosulfan. The committee findings have been methodically dismissed at the will of vested interests in the form of NGOs and certain media. Many erroneous reports emerged from the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) report titled, ‘Report of the investigations of unusual illnesses allegedly produced by Endosulfan exposure in Padre village, of Kasargode district (N. Kerala),’ which was proved to be fundamentally flawed. Among these was the noted NIOH report, ‘Effect of Endosulfan on Male Reproductive Development.’
The NIOH report published in 2002 had fundamental inconsistencies as observed by scientists and experts. For instance, the residue levels reported by the NIOH were far below the minimum detection limit of the instruments used for the study. Since the raw data recorded by NIOH for determining Endosulfan residues in water, soil and blood samples were fundamentally flawed, the subsequent analyses were further divergent. Letters were sent to NIOH under the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) seeking copies of raw data and chromatograms relevant to the study. It took three hearings and two orders by the Chief Information Commissioner for the 1,700 pages of raw data to enter public domain. The inconsistent excuses given by NIOH authorities while refusing the request made under the RTI Act were telling signs of a cover-up. Most of the released data has been ‘masked.’ On examining the remaining data, experts learned that the analysis conducted by NIOH had sure laboratory failings. The conclusions drawn did not corroborate with the data and the complete analysis is now believed to have been drawn up. International conventions and regulatory authorities worldwide, including theRotterdam andStockholm conventions have referenced the NIOH report while reviewing Endosulfan.
A Dodgy Game: NGOs like Kerala-based Thanal and Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) have all produced reports linking Endosulfan to adverse health problems including cancer, infertility, birth defects and neurotic disorder. However, not only are these based on the tainted NIOH reports, but also deliberate. A $3,250 donation was made to Thanal in 2001 by EU-funded Pesticides Action Network (PAN). A similar contribution was made by the EU to CSE to implement a project on ‘Polley Research and Awareness Creation in the Field of Environmental Health Interface and Development of an Alternative Pollution Monitoring System’ from 2000 to 2006. One of the objectives of the CSE programme was to ‘catalyse the formation of pressure groups.’ The intent of these pressure groups is quite obvious. (Copies of these documents are with the authors.) CSE had also targeted Pepsi and Coca Cola alleging that their soft drinks had high residues of pesticides. Their finds were later quashed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Is it coincidence that EU made donations to the NGOs at the same time that it was seeking to discontinue Endosulfan production?
Supported internationally by PAN, EJF (Environment Justice Foundation) and I-PEN (International POP’s Elimination Network), such NGOs with vested interests have effectively used media to generate a negative public perception of Endosulfan. Studies with results that were not in keeping with their agenda have been publicly mocked and rejected. Such was the case of aKeralaAgriculturalUniversitystudy that found insignificant residues of Endosulfan in collected samples in February 2001.