A government study to find out if endosulfan, a widely used farm insecticide, has crippled humans in Kerala could take three years to conclude and India is unlikely to take a call on banning it until then.
“Since this will be a permanent study, it could take up to two-three years,” said VM Katoch, the leader of the study and director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar told HT on Tuesday that his ministry would not take the final call. “Our position is that since this as become an emotional and human-health issue, the health ministry should conduct the study and take a call. We are out if it, though my ministry will be represented on the expert group.”Citing widespread toxicity in Kerala, a large number of NGOs, the Kerala government and environmental groups want a national ban on the cheap insect killer, which helps farmers produce more food, even as the campaign reached the doorstep of PM Manmohan Singh.
The agriculture ministry, however, sees the overuse of the substance as the culprit and argues that the looming possibility of a ban could push up food costs and imperil food production, as the next cheapest alternative pesticide costs up to 10 times more. “In Kerala, it seems air spray of the insecticide was conducted, which is against the prescribed norms of use. But we will go into all aspects, including a cost-benefit analysis,” the head of top medical research body said.
In a peer-reviewed paper published last week, Professor Ivan Kennedy of University of Sydney said the “basis for a ban hinges on the fact that in large doses, endosulfan is toxic”. However, he says, millions of farmers are at risk if discussions at Geneva, beginning April 25, bring about a worldwide ban on the commonly used pesticide.