Researchers Follow Pesticides’ Migration To The Arctic

December 1, 2011 | Latest News

Researchers Follow Pesticides’ Migration To The Arctic

Persistent Pollutants: Four-month cruise finds traces of endosulfan and five other widely used pesticides


Arctic Pollutants
Researchers spent four months aboard the ice-breaker R/V Xuelong measuring pesticide levels in water and air.
Credit: Polar Research Institute of China, courtesy of Zhiyong Xie


Pollutant Trek
Seawater concentrations of six pesticides varied along a path from East Asia to the Arctic.
Credit: Environ. Sci. Technol.

Six pesticides used in high volumes for agriculture travel from farm fields to the Arctic, researchers report in Environmental Science & Technology (DOI:10.1021/es202655k).

Every year, farmers in countries including India, China, Russia, the U.S., and some developing countries protect their crops using tens of thousands of tons of pesticides such as endosulfan. Researchers know that these compounds can travel long distances by air and water and reach the Arctic.

On a four-month research cruise from the East China Sea northward to the Chukchi Sea in the High Arctic, researchers led by Zhiyong Xie of theHelmholtz Center in Geesthacht, Germany, measured levels in air and water of the pesticides chlorothalonil, chlorpyrifos, dacthal, dicofol, endosulfan, and trifluralin. The team developed new air sampling methods to detect some of these pesticides.

The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, a transnational scientific working group that monitors pollutants, previously had tracked the insecticide endosulfan and the herbicide trifluralin. While some Arctic data previously existed on chlorothalonil, chlorpyrifos, dacthal, and dicofol, the team collected the first measurements of the compounds in air and water levels along an ocean path from East Asia to the Arctic. This information should help researchers understand if the pollutants travel more readily by air or by sea, as well as how they degrade along the way.

The study suggests that these pesticides could cause environmental problems far from farms, says Xie. While the compounds degrade as they travel to the Arctic, he points out that once they are in the Arctic’s cold temperatures, the pesticides could become more stable and last longer. He thinks researchers next need to focus on the pollutants’ effects in Arctic ecosystems.

Panel seeks ban on plastic, pesticides

The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) has recommended a blanket ban on plastic in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats on the lines of the ban that is currently in place in hill stations such as Ooty and Mahabaleshwar. The panel has also suggested phasing out of pesticides

and using the organic farming model that is being used in Kerala as an alternative.
Confirming the recommendations, VS Vijayan, WGEEP panel member and ex-chairman of Biodiversity Board, Kerala, said, “Plastic is detrimental to the natural flow of water, growth of indigenous and rare plants in the Western Ghats, one of the most unique biodiversity hotspots. There’s a complete ban on polythene bags in hill towns such as Ooty and Mahabaleshwar.”

Lauding the move to phase out pesticides, Vijayan said the recommendation will go a long way in helping the region conserve its flora and fauna and save its fertile land. “The idea is to shift towards organic farming completely. We have suggested the organic farming model used in Kerala as an alternative and the use of pesticides should be stopped in a phased manner within five years of adopting this model,” Vijayan told HT.

Andhra Pradesh is one of the states to have adopted organic farming methods and non-pesticidal management. The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) based in Hyderabad is one of the driving forces, helping the farming community to cultivate crops using traditional methods.

Commenting on the recommendations of the WGEEP report, founder of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology PM Bhargava said, “It’s a wise recommendation. Pesticides have been subsidised many times over leading to its excessive use, which has in turn spoiled the quality of soil and ground water. It is time we understand the importance of organic farming.”

“It has been proven more than adequately that pesticides can be eliminated without affecting the yield. The rural development ministry of Andhra Pradesh along with CSA has helped cultivate 35 lakh acres of land solely by adopting NPM and organic farming,” Kavitha Kuruganti, Bengaluru based anti-GM activist told HT.

Supreme Court reserves order on exporting raw endosulfan

Author(s): Savvy Soumya Misra

Issue: Nov 18, 2011
Decision on exporters’ plea on November 21

Pesticide manufacturers pleaded for permission to export raw endosulfan on November 14 when the Supreme Court took up the case for hearing. The court, on September 30, had allowed the export of only endosulfan formulations  (chemicals combined with raw endosulfan) to countries from which they had received export orders prior to the ban on May 13 this year when the apex court had imposed a complete ban on production, use, sale and export of endosulfan.

The three judge bench, comprising chief justice S H Kapadia, Swatantar Kumar and K S P Radhakrishnan have reserved their decision on whether to allow the export for November 21. The pesticide manufacturers have been asked to file an interim application in this regard.

The petitioners in the case, the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), requested for an adjournment on November 14 as they wanted some more time to be able to respond to the counter affidavit that was filed by the Pesticides Manufacturers Association of India after the last hearing on October 10.

In it, the manufacturers have reiterated their stand that, though, it is alleged that there are health impacts of endosulfan in Kasaragod in Kerala and Dakshin Kanada in Karnataka, there is no causative link established between the pesticide and the reported health problems. The petitioners in their initial reaction had dismissed the claims as false statements and a deliberate effort to mislead the court.  They are now working on drafting an extensive reply to the affidavit.

On the same day, the Central government, filed an affidavit regarding a change in the terms of reference for the  Supreme Court appointed joint committee, comprising the agriculture commissioner and the director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research. “These terms of reference are for a long term study that the committee is supposed to do,” said Deepak Prakash, advocate for the petitioners.

The government wants the joint committee to explain the following in its long term final report: the extent of endosulfan’s impact on human health and the environment; whether its impact has anything to do with the way it is used; the extent of the hazard; the alternatives to endosulfan; if endosulfan is to be allowed then the precautions that should be taken; and if the pesticide has to be phased out and the manner and mode in which it has to be done.

The next hearing is scheduled for November 21.

Stockholm Convention

While pesticide manufacturers in India are trying to get the Supreme Court ban on the pesticide lifted, the international community is phasing out endosulfan. The secretary-general of the United Nations, acting in his capacity as a depository, issued a notification on October 27, stating that the international phase-out of endosulfan, with certain exemptions under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), will come into effect by the end of October next year.

The secretary-general has said that the parties to the Convention should notify the depository if they are unable to accept the decision of the Conference of Parties (CoP) taken in April that listed endosulfan for elimination with specific exemptions.

The CoP decision will enter into force for all parties, except those who have notified non-acceptance, on expiry of one year from the date of communication by the depository. India has already expressed willingness to join the phase-out over five years (extendable to 10 years).
The POP Review Committee of the Convention has already set up an ad hoc working group to review and identify information gaps on alternatives to endosulfan and to assess endosulfan alternatives.

Back home

The National Human Rights Commission has, meanwhile, issued a notice to the Kerala government for not paying adequate compensation to the victims of endosulfan in Kasaragod. The Commission is also planning to approach the Supreme Court for execution of its orders for paying Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of the victims who lost their lives or were rendered unfit due to the harmful effects of the pesticide.

The state government had announced an increase in the compensation from Rs. 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh to the victims and budgeted funds are being released. The state has sought the Centre’s assistance for payment of compensation as the state government alone could not pay the entire amount.
But it’s not  just the funds, the Oomen Chandy government has also issued a government order to reshuffle the district level relief and rehabilitation cell, keeping the civil society out of it. The cell is yet to be dissolved.

Govt bars Dow unit from selling 4 pesticides
Aloke Tikku, Hindustan Times

The Centre has cancelled registration certificates of four pesticides granted to Dow AgroSciences, an Indian subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company, on allegations that it had paid bribes to get the certificates.

In 2007, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused Dow AgroSciences India Pvt Ltd — a fifth tier Dow Chemical Company — of making “improper payments” to Indian government officials for the registration under the Insecticides Act.

The “improper payments” were estimated at $200,000 (Rs 87.8 lakh) between 1996-2001.

Without admitting or denying the allegations before the SEC, Dow Chemical Company in 2007 consented to pay a $325,000 (R142 lakh) civil penalty.

In India, a criminal case — probed by the CBI — is still in court. Also, no action was taken against the company.

A public outcry over a two-year jail term for officials of the erstwhile Union Carbide and a meagre compensation for the  1984 Bhopal tragedy victims, however, nudged the government to reopen the bribery case.

Last year, the government barred public procurement of products of the Dow unit — earlier known as DE-Nocil Crop Protection — for five years and initiated the process for cancelling registration of four pesticides.This process ended last month with the cancellation order, but gave the company two years to dispose of existing stock.

International phase out of endosulfan to begin next October

The international phase-out of endosulfan with certain exemptions under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants will come into effect by the end of October next year.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, acting in his capacity as depositary, has issued notification on October 27 asking parties to the Convention to notify the depository if they are unable to accept the decision of the Conference of Parties (CoP) in April listing endosulfan and its related isomers for elimination with specific exemptions. The notification has been published in the United Nations Treaty Collection on the Internet.

The CoP decision will enter into force for all parties, except those who have notified non-acceptance, on expiry of one year from the date of communication by the depository. India has already expressed willingness to join the phase-out over five years (extendable to 10 years). However, it can seek exemptions on use of endosulfan for specific crop-pest complexes. But, any such move would be infructuous if the Supreme Court confirms ban on endosulfan granted in the case filed by DYFI.

The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee of the Convention has already set up an adhoc working group to review and identify information gaps on alternatives to endosulfan and to assess endosulfan alternatives.

Meanwhile, a few more studies have come out about effects of endosulfan on health. A joint study by M.S. Ramaiah Medical College, Bangalore; Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore; Fr. Muller Medical College, Mangalore; and Manipal University, Manipal, has found association between high levels of endosulfan in bone marrows of children and blood cancer. A Nigerian study African Journal of Biotechnology last month indicated harm to fish and potential risk to human health.

Corporate Crimes In the Cereal Aisle: How Companies Are Fooling You Into Thinking Their Products Are Healthy

Here’s the tricks that big breakfast barons use to fool you into believing their products are pesticide and GMO-free.

October 26, 2011  |

A trip to the supermarket is an adventure into a tempting and treacherous jungle. The insatiable hunger for a ready-made breakfast that nourishes our bodies and our social conscience has made our morning bowls of cereal a hiding place for corporate charlatans. A new report, Cereal Crimes, by the Cornucopia Institute discloses the toxic truth about “natural” products and unmasks corporate faces like Kellogg’s hiding behind supposedly “family-run” businesses such as Kashi.

When these breakfast barons forage for profit, we eaters are the prey. But what are the laws of this jungle? And how do we avoid being ripped off by products that are hazardous for our health and our environment? Let’s have a look at some of these corporations’ sneaky strategies.

First, there is intentional confusion. With so many different kinds of cereal lining the shelves, figuring out which is the best requires detective work. Many make claims about health, boasting “no trans fats,” “gluten-free,” and “a boost of omega three.” Others play to environmental concerns declaring “earthy harmony,” “nature in balance,” and “sustainable soils.” With the legion of labels, separating wheat from chaff seems impossible, but the report offers one rule of thumb: Don’t confuse organic with “natural.”

Organics, certified and recognizable by the green USDA label, are required by federal law to be produced without toxic inputs and genetically engineered ingredients. “Natural,” on the other hand, is defined by the producers themselves to mislead shoppers and protect shareholders. Cornucopia’s report found that, “When determining their ‘natural’ standards, companies will consider their profitability. Environmental concerns are unlikely to weigh heavily, if at all, in this profitability equation.”


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Pesticide (Endosulfan) Levels in the Bone Marrow of Children with Hematological Malignancies

Indian Pediatr. 2011 Jul 30. pii: S09747559INPE1000071-1. [Epub ahead of print]
Pesticide (Endosulfan) Levels in the Bone Marrow of Children with Hematological Malignancies.

Rau A, Coutinho A, Avabratha KS, Rau AR, Warrier RP.

Department of Pediatrics, MS Ramaiah Medical College, Bangalore; * Department of Pediatrics, Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore; ** Department of Pediatrics, Fr Muller Medical College, Mangalore; Department of Pathology,M S Ramaiah Medical College, Bangalore; +Vice Chancellor, Manipal University, Manipal; Karnataka, India. Correspondence to: Dr (Lt. Col) ATK Rau, Pediatric Hematologist-oncologist, Professor and Head, Department of Pediatrics, M.S. Ramaiah Medical College Bangalore 560 054, Karnataka, India.
(1) To confirm the presence and estimate the levels of Pesticide (Endosulfan) residues in the bone marrow (BM) of children with acute hematological malignancies and compare them with controls. (2) To ascertain if children with high levels of Endosulfan in their marrow reside in areas sprayed with Endosulfan.

Case control study

Pediatric oncology unit of a medical college teaching hospital in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka.

26 patients with proven hematological malignancy and 26 age matched controls suffering from benign hematological disease.

Endosulfan residues in the BM were estimated by gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC MS). Minimum detection limit was 10ng/mL. The subjects geographical area of location (residence) was determined to see whether they belong to sprayed area or not. The Chi-square test was applied to see an association between exposure status and hematological malignancy.

A total of 52 children were enrolled of which 26 were study cases and 26 were controls. Of the study and control groups, 84.7% and 73.1% respectively were from exposed areas. The major (88.4%) illness in the study group was ALL, while ITP (50%) occurred most frequently in the control group. Six out of 26 study cases tested positive (high levels) for Endosulfan in the BM, against 1 out of 26 controls (P = 0.042). The Odds ratio was 7.5. All children who had raised Endosulfan levels in the BM originated from areas, which are still being sprayed with Endosulfan.

Children with hematological malignancy had raised levels of Endosulfan in the BM compared to those without. All the children with raised BM Endosulfan levels were found to be from areas exposed to the pesticide.