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India in no hurry

Last updated: 30 April, 2011
Ajith Athrady and Kalyan Ray 23:13 IST

Even though India has agreed to phasing out of endosulfan under the Stockholm Convention over the next 11 years, the Central government is not in a hurry to impose a nation-wide ban on the pesticide, until it is fully convinced about the harmfulness of the popular and low-cost pesticide.

India changed its position against the ban on the final day of the conference of parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants that ended in Geneva on April 29. India agreed to the inclusion of endosulfan in Annexe A – a listing of globally banned pesticide under UN’s Stockholm Convention.

India demanded several exemptions like access to finance and technology to have an alternative to endosulfan, which other countries readily agreed to bring India on board.
The government has its own reasons for opposing the ban. Endosulfan is widely used by Indian farmers. Its production began in 1996 and within eight years India became a leading producer, with three companies—Coromandel Fertilisers, Excel Crop Care, and Hindustan Insecticides – manufacturing it.

According to the government's estimate India produces 9,500 tonne of endosulfan out of which 3,500 tonne are manufactured by three public sector companies. More than 70 per cent of endosulfan sold worldwide is now supplied by India, including export to China.

Patent hurdle

India adopted endosulfan in a big way because it is an effective pesticide outside the patent cover. “All reportedly safe alternatives are patented products. Who will provide cost effective alternatives to Indian farmers?” S Ganeshan, a member of Indian Chemical Council, asked.

Most states do not want a ban unlike Kerala and Karnataka. Gujarat and Maharashtra have opposed it, saying that it was not harmful. West Bengal, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are among the highest users of endosulfan.

While suspecting a systematic campaign against endosulfan by rival pesticide companies, Agriculture ministry officials are worried about the consequences of nation-wide ban. They apprehend spurious pesticides would flood the market while bigger companies would introduce expensive pesticides, which would remain outside the reach of ordinary Indian farmers.

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