Is our rice safe from banned endosulfan?

riceThe Consumers Association of Penang is appalled by the Pesticide Board not taking action to eradicate the pesticide endosulfan.

Endosulfan, a highly acute toxin and a suspected endocrine disruptor, was banned in 2005 under the Pesticides Act 1974.

In a letter to CAP dated 17th October 2008, the Pesticide Board informed us that the registration for endosulfan was terminated in 15th August 2005. Those found selling the pesticide will be prosecuted under section 53A (Pesticide Act 1974) (Amended 2004). It is an offence to posses or to use a pesticide that is not registered in the Act and those found guilty will be fined RM10,000.00 or a year imprisonment.

endosulphan-edcEndosulfan is banned in more than 50 countries. Due to its high toxicity and high potential for bioaccumulation and environmental contamination, a global ban on the use and manufacture of endosulfan is being considered under the Stockholm Convention.

However in a recent survey conducted in Kerpan, Sanglang, Pendang and Sik we found the banned pesticide to be easily available.

The pesticide can be bought from shops selling agricultural chemicals. Even though it is not displayed in the shops, it is available upon request. A liter of the pesticide is sold for RM32.00 in an unlabelled bottle.

According to the shopkeeper endosulfan is very effective in getting rid of golden apple snail (siput gondang emas) which feeds on padi and saplings. The pesticide takes only 10 to 15 minutes to kill the snails compared with up to two weeks with other pesticides.

endosulphan-pesticidesPadi farmers in the area openly admit that the prohibited substance is available and is constantly sprayed to rid the farms of pests. It is generally referred to as Racun Cina (Chinese poison) as the packaging carries only descriptions in Chinese characters, farmers say they have no choice but to rely on the banned pesticide for its “effectiveness”.

However the farmers suffered skin problems and weak joint after using endosulfan to treat the snail infestation. The pesticide killed the snails instantly but a few weeks later the farmers suffered side-effects which doctors have confirmed are due to contact with pesticides.

From time to time, there have been newspaper reports of farmers complaining of skin rashes and sprayers falling sick after applying the chemicals in the field.

endosulphan-frogsEndosulfan is one of the more toxic pesticides on the market today, responsible for many fatal pesticide poisoning incidents around the world Endosulfan is also a xenostrogen a synthetic substance that imitates or enhances the effect of estrogen and it can act as an endocrine disruptor causing reproductive and developmental damage in both animals and humans. Numerous studies have documented its potential to disrupt hormones and animal studies have demonstrated its reproductive and developmental toxicity.

Endosulfan also has a detrimental effect on the environment and wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation (USA) states that endosulfan is extremely toxic to wildlife and acutely toxic to bees. It is acutely toxic to birds – mallard ducks, quails and pheasants.

Endosulfan is highly toxic to aquatic organisms and massive fish kills due to endosulfan have been reported from many places. It also causes endocrine problems, reduction of protein in tissues and other negative health effects.

In view of the above, the Consumers Association of Penang calls on the Pesticide Board to:

  •  Strictly enforce the ban on endosulfan
  •  Educate farmers on the health and environmental effects of endosulfan
  •  Provide safer means to eliminate pests for example promote the rearing of  ducks in padi fields which feeds on the water snails.

It is pointless to impose a ban on endosulfan only on paper when the pesticide is freely available to poison humans, animals and the environment.

Press release – 24 June 2010