ICT Students Run to "Support the Cause of the Indian Farmers"

Mumbai, India (PressExposure) March 08, 2011 -- Students of chemical engineering belonging to the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Matunga will organize an event on Sunday, March 13, 2011 to support farmers' right to use endosulfan - an insecticide which they are using for more than 40 years to prevent their crop of pulses, fruits and vegetables from insect attack. Through this sports event called "ICT-Green Marathon 2011", the students are initiating an awareness campaign 'Support the cause of the Indian farmer' and proposes to lend a strong voice against the push for banning endosulfan. If endosulfan is banned it will soon be replaced by alternatives which are not "honeybee-safe" and will destroy the small farmers ecosystem.

For over four decades, farmers have used endosulfan as the product and found that while killing insect pests, it is safe for pollinator honeybees and benefical insects like lady bird beetle, all of which are present in large numbers in the farm ecosystem. Pulses, fruits and vegetables are all pollinated by honeybees.

Students of ICT have responded to the global initiative of UNESCO which has declared 2011 as the "International Year of Chemistry". During this year UNESCO is focused on activities to educate, create awareness, develop public appreciation and build scientific temper in bridging global knowledge gap with a clear objective to change the negative perception of chemicals. Students were inspired to select endosulfan as an example as they had read many negative media reports and observed internet campaigns putting pressure on governments to ban endosulfan. "This demand (for ban) is not supported by science or by the logic of experience of over 40 years of its use by farmers", says Aditi a student of ICT. "We understand the chemistry of endosulfan and after various discussions with experts in chemistry, feel shocked - how have decisions been taken at the Stockholm Convention to review endosulfan in spite of significant data gaps."

The Persistent Organic Pollutant Review Committee (POPRC) of the Stockholm Convention has recommended endosulfan for listing as a persistent organic pollutant. A decision on this recommendation will be taken in April 2011 by the Conference of Parties (COP) of the convention. Health problems in Padre Village of Kasargod, Kerala have been wrongly linked by environmental groups to seek a ban on endosulfan. Over 75 million farmers in India, most of whom are small and marginal, are using endosulfan, their experience and right to choose needs to be taken into account. There are no observers representing farmer groups at the Stockholm Convention.

A progressive farmer from Gujarat, who is also attending the marathon questioned, "Our small, poor and marginal farmers have no idea why there are demands from non farming communities to stop use of endosulfan and why there is no opportunity given to Indian farmers to be heard at these conventions? Why the Europe is refusing the Indian farmer to keep his right to choose endosulfan while European authorities themselves allowed the Italian farmers to use endosulfan in hazel nut crop in year 2008". The authorities in Italy allowed use of endosulfan in 2008, although the European Union had banned its use in 2005. Was endosulfan safe for Italian farmers? Were reported health concerns ignored so that the Italian hazel nut farmer could be saved from financial ruin? Should Indian farmers not have the same rights as the Italian farmer?

In April 2011, the Conference of Parties will meet to decide on the POPRC recommendation. If they accept the proposal to ban endosulfan it will seal the fate of farmers in Indian and rest of the developing world. They will be deprived of the right to choose an affordable, broad spectrum insecticide that is safe to honeybees and beneficial insects, which are part of a small farmer's ecosystem. Endosulfan is the last remaining "bee-safe" crop protection which is also soft on beneficial insects.

Endosulfan is an off-patent pesticide. Originally invented in Europe, endosulfan has been safely used by farmers across the world for 55 years. There has been increasing pressure from international as well as local environmental groups to seek ban for Endosulfan on terms that have been proven to be unscientific and fundamentally flawed. Through media reports NGOs have allegedly linked endosulfan to the deformities and illnesses found amongst some villages of in the Dakshin Kanada region bordering Karnataka and Kerala.

Farmers and students have demanded for justice and seek support from more quarters of society before any axe falls on the farmers' fundamental right - their "right to dignity", to sustain their livelihood and "their right to choose".

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Press Release Submitted On: March 08, 2011 at 8:22 am
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