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Endosulfan, Hazardous Effects & Ban, Regulatory Regime

TH | Prelims + Mains | GS3 > Environmental Pollution & Degradation > Persistent Organic Pollutants

  • Context: Spraying of Endosulfan on cashew plantations in Kasaragod, Kerala has caused disorders in many.

What is Endosulfan?

  • Endosulfan is an organochlorine insecticide — a Persistent Organic Pollutant.
  • It is primarily used as an insecticide in agriculture & it is also used as a wood preservative.

Ban on Endosulfan

  • India was one of the biggest producers & consumers of endosulfan.
  • After the toxicity of the pesticide came into limelight in 2001 in Kasargod District, Kerala banned it.
  • In 2011, SC banned the production, distribution & use of endosulfan in India.
  • SC also directed the Kerala government to pay Rs 500 crores as compensation to over 5,000 victims.
  • Globally, the use of endosulfan is banned under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
  • Under pressure from pesticide firms, India sought remission on the ban for 10 years.
  • India has agreed to phase out the use of endosulfan by 2017. 

Hazardous Effects of Endosulfan

  • It is highly toxic & has a large potential for bioaccumulation (substance does not leave the body).
  • It has hazardous effects on human genetic & endocrine systems.
  • Endocrine disruptor: enhances the effect of estrogens causing reproductive & developmental damage in both animals & humans.
    • Delayed reproductive development
    • Late sexual maturity
    • Autism
  • Neurotoxic: endosulfan destroys the integrity of the nerve cells.

Pesticide Regulatory Regime in India

  • India currently has a registered list of 295 pesticides & 746 approved formulations.
  • These pesticides are registered by the Registration Committee (RC).
  • The Central Insecticides Board (CIB) acts as an advisory body.
  • The two regulatory bodies are governed by the Insecticides Act, 1968 & the Insecticides Rules, 1971.
  • The Act & Rules intend to “regulate the import, manufacture, sale, transport, distribution & use of insecticides with a view to prevent risk to human beings or animals”.
  • Since its inception, the CIBRC (as they are together called) registers pesticides upon receiving applications along with efficacy, toxicity, & safety data from the company.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture has the authority to cancel registrations & allow continued use or in some cases even ban the pesticides upon the recommendation of the RC.

There is a near-total collapse of pesticide regulation mechanism in India

2020 Notification on Draft ban order

  • In May 2020, a notification consisting of a draft ban order was released by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, proposing a ban on the manufacture, sales, & imports of 27 pesticides in India.
  • Several are WHO Class I pesticides (‘extremely hazardous’ & ‘highly hazardous’), some are classified as probable human carcinogens, some documented for their toxicity on bees, fish, earthworms, etc.
  • Several are implicated in fatal pesticide poisonings whether it is occupational, or accidental.
  • 24 of the 27 pesticides are banned in other countries.
  • Many of these have been part of 2015 Anupam Verma Committee reviewed 66 “bannable” pesticides.
  • At the behest of the industry, the Department of Chemicals & Petrochemicals cited Covid-19 pandemic situation as an excuse in proceeding with the draft ban order.
Notable pesticides in the list of 27 proposed-to-be-banned pesticides
  • Carcinogenic: Oxyflourfen, Pendimethalin (causes Thyroid follicular cell adenoma)
  • Endocrine disruptor: Dicofol, Carbofuran, Oxyflourfen
  • Eco-toxic: Carbofuran, Monocrotophos, Carbofuran, Oxyflourfen

Deemed to be Registered Pesticides or DRPs

  • DRPs are pesticides that were in use before the Insecticides Act of 1968 & could be used on the assumption that they would be registered once the mandatory data on efficacy & toxicity is generated.
  • There are at least 51 such DRPs.
  • Six of these have been withdrawn, eight have been banned & five are to be phased out by the end of 2020.
  • The list of DRPs is not readily available on any government website (lack of transparency).
  • Importantly, 17 of the 27 proposed-to-be-banned pesticides are DRPs.
  • These biosafety (safety to human health & environment) of these DRPs was never assessed.
  • Bio-safety data submitted & review committee reports are shrouded in secrecy.
  • They have been turned down even under RTI.
  • They all are being considered registered, irrespective of the data submitted.
  • No other nation is known to be following such an arbitrary, risky, & unscientific regulatory practice.
  • Many of the DRPs have been banned in various countries, even decades ago.
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