Tha Last Chance, a book by farmers

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  • Thursday, April 7, 2011
  • Students of chemical engineering belonging to the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Matunga joint the farmers from India on Sunday, March 13, 2011 to seek support for protecting the farmers’ right to choose endosulfan. In order to spread the message across the participants, farmers launched a book “The Last Chance”, based on personal experiences with Endosulfan.

    Food Security is core to a Nations security and increasing a nation’s agriculture output is the first step towards its self reliance. It is vital for a country like India with a population of more than a billion to be self sufficient in food production. Over 14% of India’s growth in form of GDP comes from the agriculture and related sectors. India is one of the largest producers and exporters of food grains, fruits and vegetables and leads in the production of various agricultural crops. Today India, besides feeding a growing population can also meet its nutrition requirements. This achievement is the contribution to by India’s 250 million farm workers.

    These are large, medium, small and marginal farmers. Most of them have small landholdings and toil hard on their farms. They depend a lot on the balance of a healthy farm ecosystem which has pollinators and beneficial insects in abundance. Pollinators are central to the farm ecosystem. Honeybees are among the most prolific pollinators. Pollination by honey bees is effective in fertilizing the crops which is why bees are very precious to a farmer’s ecosystem. Many honeybee species are native to India and are present across farms in the country. In a typical farm, besides pollinators there is also a huge population of insects. These include harmful insect pests as well as beneficial insects. Beneficials are those insects which prey on other insects and act as a natural enemy of insects which damage crops. They are a free resource for the famer for his crop protection needs. However, when experiencing a serious pest attack, as a last resort farmers opt for chemical crop protection to ensure the safety of their crop. When using chemicals as a means for crop protection farmers are conscious of the need to protect their precious farm ecosystem.

    It is this concern which draws farmers to choose endosulfan – the only available generic crop protection known to be safe to honeybees and beneficials. Indian farmers have been using endosulfan for over 40 years for crop protection while managing the balance and diversity of their farm ecosystem.Being “off patent” makes endosulfan affordable, especially for the small and marginal farmers. As a generic insecticide it is easily and widely available.

    This is an important reason why it is extensively by millions of farmers. Globally, it is the third largest generic insecticide in use today. It has been safely used across the world for over 55 years. These are some of the little known facts relating to endosulfan. Besides disturbing reports published in the media and articles on the internet not much has been discussed or written about the usefulness of endosulfan and the experience of its users – the farmers.

    The perception created until now has only invoked fear among those who have not heard voices of these farmers. From being referred to as a poison and a toxin that can cause birth defects, infertility and cancer, endosulfan has been vilified to be a persistent organic pollutant and therefore a risk to human health and environment. India has also been accused as being the only country standing in the way of a push for a global ban of this misunderstood pesticide. LAST CHANCE is an intriguing case study of a pesticide whose perception has been strategically and systematically maligned to serve powerful commercial interests.

    It is a classic example of how a small but established group of environmental NGO’s funded by Europe have unleashed an internet and media campaign to disrepute endosulfan despite the fact that it has been safely used for over 55 years by millions of farmers worldwide. It gives a glimpse as to how the original inventor of endosulfan stopped defending its continued use once they lost commercial advantage.

    It is a real account of how endosulfan was stigmatised so that it can be replaced by patented alternatives. LAST CHANCE documents the push to ban endosulfan and is based on facts and evidences painstakingly compiled over seven to eight years. It is based on documental evidence gathered through the Right to Information Act. It is based on sound science. Most importantly it is based on actual user experience of farmers with the product. The book chronicles the views of scientific experts and observers who participated and contributed in policy advocacy issues on discussions involving endosulfan during its review at the Stockholm Convention. LAST CHANCE highlights the need for a farmer’s “Right to Choose”, for his experiences to be accounted for and his voice to be heard when decisions are made on issues relating to his needs, his dignity, his livelihood and his ecosystem.

    The facts compel the reader to act before an injustice is done to farmers under the pretext of protecting human health and environment.LAST CHANCE is a call before day break – it offers readers an opportunity to support India in its opposition to the European proposal to list endosulfan as a Persistent Organic Pollutant, a decision that the Conference of Parties of the Stockholm Convention will make when they meet in Geneva during April 2011.

    Educated in a town, but with roots in the hinterlands, our protagonist returns to his family home only to find that there is much distress regarding the future of their traditional occupation—farming. His family has been using an effective generic farm input, Endosulfan, for 30 years at an unbelievably affordable cost amidst rising prices. But now, they are much aggrieved about the possible ban of the pesticide—in the absence of which they will have to pay almost ten times its price for a substitute that would never be half as good… all for unsubstantiated reasons. Some of the substitutes that are recommended are already banned in Europe. They will also kill pollinators that help farmers grow fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals and several important cash-crops.

    But there’s so much in the media about it! What are India and her farmers really to lose? Is this pesticide worth spinning incredible conspiracies around?

    On getting to the bottom of this strange plot, our hero discovers just how morally corrupt trade practices in the developed world can be… All at the cost of ignored voices in developing nations that are expected to remain hushed. Here is a story of a single realisation—that this may indeed be the last chance for India to decide and stand up for herself… and make her innumerable voices count… to say that our people—our farmers will not endure. The book ends with true documentary evidence that has been meticulously culled out from various sources such as the website of Center for Science and Environment (CSE), RTI and government agencies.
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