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Indian tea industry is facing the impact of the EU decision to reduce the residue limit of endosulfan

A panel of agronomists and farmers expressed concern over the mounting pressure exerted on India – not to oppose the European Union (EU) proposal to list endosulfan as a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP). A decision on the EU proposal will be taken in April 2011 by the Conference of Parties (COP) at the Stockholm Convention.
The off patent pesticide, endosulfan has been at the centre of environmental activism arising out of Kasargod, Kerala, where it has been wrongly alleged to have caused health problems. Dismissing the allegations, Dr. D Konar former Director of Agriculture, Government of West Bengal stated, “There are over 75 million farmers in India who have safely used endosulfan and the Government would not allow its use if it was harmful to farmers or end consumers”. Supporting the Indian Government’s position at the Stockholm Convention, where it has opposed the European proposal, he added, “It is important that the real life experience of farmers from West Bengal who have used endosulfan is taken into account while considering any decision on endosulfan as isolated views of non-users in one small part of the country are not representative.”
Supporting Dr Konar’s views, Mr R Hariharan, Chairman, International Stewardship Centre, an observer to the Stockholm Convention stated “It is unfortunate that there is inadequate representation of farmer’s views and that there are no observers representing farmer groups at the Stockholm Convention.” He added that any decision to list endosulfan as a POP at the April 2011 meeting of the convention will be against the interest of small and marginal farmers and would impact agriculture in West Bengal. Mr Hariharan added that “Indian tea industry is already reeling under the impact of the European Union decision to unilaterally reduce the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) of endosulfan in tea by moving away from the internationally recognized norms prescribed by the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR)”. While the CODEX stipulation for MRL on tea as a commodity is 30 ppm, the European Union has unilaterally reduced this limit to 0.01 ppm thereby forcing tea planters to stop using endosulfan if they have to export their tea to European markets. “By enforcing a ban on off patent endosulfan is the EU attempting to restrict Indian chemical trade or is it at attempt to curb Indian commodity trade?” remarked Hariharan.
As an agronomist, Mr Anil Kakkar, Director – Corp Care Federation of India (CCFI) stated that endosulfan has been in use in tea cultivation for over 40 years. “The tea industry and plantations are labor intensive and it has been mandatory under the government regulations to maintain the health records of farm workers, many of whom are women. These records are a testimonial to the fact that there are no health problems among workers exposed to endosulfan in tea gardens”. He added that “claims that exposure to endosulfan can cause cancer, infertility and birth defects are completely false and lack scientific evidence”.

by S. C.
18 february 2011, World News > Asia