A UN-backed regime of 173 countries on Friday agreed to globally “phase out” the farm insecticide endosulfan — a decision with significant implications for India, the world’s largest manufacturer and user of the chemical. The phase-out commitment, often loosely referred to as a “ban”, will put endosulfan in Annex A of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, thereby clearing it for elimination. The country’s pesticide industry deplored the move, saying it would benefit European manufacturers of costlier alternatives.
India, which had stiffly resisted a ban, agreed to wind down endosulfan in five years, after it was “nearly isolated”, paving the way for the landmark consensus , Mohammed Asheel, an independent Indian delegate at the meet told HT from Geneva.
However, India, apart from China, made use of the provision for “exception” which will allow it to manufacture and use the substance until a safer, cost-effective alternative is found.Yet, India will have five years to phase out the insecticide, which is extendable by another five years. The country will have 11 years to wean away from endosulfan altogether.
A domestic campaign against the insecticide for its widespread toxic effects in Kerala has turned into a hot-button political issue. The farm ministry, however, has blamed overuse of the substance and argues that a ban could push up food costs, as the next cheapest alternative costs up to 10 times more.
“It is time that the government recognises the need to make efforts towards moving to non-chemical alternatives of endosulfan,” the Centre for Science and Environment said.
The ban could hurt India’s pesticide industry, with its market for endosulfan valued at over Rs 1,000 crore. “This is a conspiracy by MNCs to push their costly products... by the raising the bogey of health concerns,” said an official of a firm making endosulfan.