Resource centre on India's rural distress

All you wanted to know about Endosulfan (…but were afraid to ask!)

Endosulfan, the pesticide which is widely believed to be responsible for thousands of deaths, diseases and devastation, was able to save its own life largely because of India’s questionable efforts at global forums. The controversial pesticide has been in news for a long time because of its harmful effects on humans, wild life and the environment. Obviously the $100 million industry is going out of the way to defend the pesticide even though many Indian states have banned it under public pressure. Its producers have, of course, contested the reasons for which 87 countries have banned its use and for which many court cases have been filed in India and abroad. 

The Inclusive Media Team has compiled and simplified the following material on and about Endosulfan from various sources whose list has been given along with the URLs. Among those who feel strongly about its harmful effects are dozens of voluntary organizations, research and advocacy groups, community networks, and a large number of activists from the fields of health, nutrition, farming, wild life and environment. The point of view of the pro-Endosulfan lobby has also been included so that the readers can make up their mind about its impact. The information has been presented under the following four categories and the bullet points in each category are followed by the URLs of the sources which the readers can access for more detailed information at a click of the mouse:

1. What is Endosulfan?
2. The international experience
3. Arguments against Endosulfan
4. Arguments in favour of Endosulfan


(Cartoon courtesy

What is Endosulfan?

• Endosulfan is a chemical pesticide (belonging to the organochlorine group), which is used against insects and mites found in vegetables, fruits, paddy, cotton, cashew, tea, coffee, tobacco and timber crops. Its chemical name is 6,7,8,9,10,10- hexa chloro- 1,5,5a,6,9,9a- hexahydro– 6,9- methano- 2,4,3- benzodioxathiepine-3-oxide and is in existence since 1950s. Endosulfan is also used as a wood preservative and employed to control tse-tse flies and termites. The pesticide was invented by Hoechst AG Company of Germany over 55 years ago (now stopped production). 

• India has allowed use of as many as 67 pesticides on crops that have either been banned or severely restricted by other countries.

• A study by Kerala government shows that Endosulfan leads to high abortion rates, infertility, intra-uterine deaths, besides kidney, liver and neurobehavioral disorders. Among children it causes morbidity, congenital heart disease, cerebral palsy and skeletal abnormalities. The pesticide leads to high levels of estrogen among school girls, which in the long run, causes cervical and breast cancers. It is believed that the pesticide has caused 4,000 victims in Kerala, through cancer, crippled limbs and babies born with deformities; 496 related deaths have been officially recorded. Given its poor track record, a nationwide ban on Endosulfan has been demanded by the CPI (M), CPI and their fraternal organizations and many civil society organizations (CSOs) and NGOs such as NAPM. Kerala (31 October, 2006) and Karnataka (17 February, 2011) had earlier banned this pesticide. The Kerala government pressed the Central Government to adopt a stand in favour of a global ban on the production and use of Endosulfan at a Conference of Parties (COP) to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) that began in Geneva on April 25, 2011.

• The Stockholm Convention is a global accord to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which are chemicals that remain persistent in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms and are toxic to humans and wildlife. As of now, 173 countries are parties to the Stockholm Convention and about 20 chemicals have been approved for elimination, restriction or curtailing of unintentional production under the Convention with or without exemptions.

• India actively participated in the International Negotiation Committee (INC) meetings that led to the drafting and acceptance of the Stockholm Convention. The Convention was adopted in May 2001 and came into force on 17th May 2004. India ratified the Convention on 13th January 2006 and came in to force on 12th April 2006.

• The fifth Conference of Parties (COP) of the Stockholm Convention took place in Geneva from 25 April to 29 April, 2011 in order to decide the fate of Endosulfan. India and a few other developing countries extracted several exemptions, including a phase out period of 11 years so as to ban production and use of the toxic pesticide at the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in Geneva. India sought for a postponement of the decision on a global ban on Endosulfan to the next meeting of the COP to the Stockholm Convention in 2013. India has negotiated financial assistance in return for a phase-out at the Convention since newer and safer chemicals are costlier. It is alleged by the CSOs that the chemical, agriculture and health ministries have adopted a regressive stance on banning Endosulfan under the influence of the Indian Chemical Council, an industry body.

• The UN-backed Stockholm Convention has now placed Endosulfan in Annexure A, a list of banned chemicals posing danger to human beings and environment, with some exemptions. Representatives from 127 governments during the recent Stockholm Convention have asked for eliminating the pesticide worldwide. Although the Conference of Parties has banned Endosulfan, India has secured certain exemptions (as explained earlier) that will allow it to continue to use the insecticide on 22 select crops. The crops include cotton, jute, coffee, tea, tobacco, cow peas, beans, tomato, okra, tomato, eggplant, onion, potato, chillies, apple, mango, gram, arhar, maize, paddy/rice, wheat, groundnuts and mustard. There are 12 nations who have neither banned it nor permitted it. There exists 27 nations including India, Pakistan, Mexico, Ethiopia, Uganda and Zimbabwe who are still using it.

• It has been argued by the Endosulfan lobby that the European Union (EU) has hijacked the Stockholm Convention to push for a global ban on Endosulfan by enlisting Endosulfan as a Persistent Organic Pollutant. While considering the EU proposal to list Endosulfan there were serious procedural lapses:

* The text of the convention, their articles and rules were not followed
* The process was not transparent
* There was conflict of interest as European Union the notifying party for Endosulfan also prepared the risk profile
* The proposals to recommend Endosulfan lacked scientific merit and decisions were taken despite significant data gaps.
* India’s protest and dissent notes were ignored and all the decisions relating to Endosulfan were taken by voting in spite of serious objections from India, China, Argentina and other countries.


Endosulfan, Factsheet and answers to common questions, IPEN Pesticide Working Group Project-2004,

Endosulfan Industry's dirty war to save its toxic product: Summary of Recent Events by CSE, Centre for Science and Environment, March, 2011,  

National Implementation Plan: Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, April 2011,

Banned pesticides being used in India, admits Pawar by Sujay Mehdudia, The Hindu, 12 March, 2011,

Pesticides banned abroad used in India, admits Minister,, 11 March, 2011, 

India seeks postponement of decision on endosulfan ban at Geneva by Roy Mathew, The Hindu, 26 April, 2011, 

Ban on Endosulfan: Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh says govt sensitive to concerns, slams V S Achuthanandan, 2 May, 2011, The Economic Times,

Endosulfan: meet in Geneva begins, India still in denial by Savvy Soumya Misra, Down to Earth, 25 April, 2011,

State to press Centre for Endosulfan ban, The Hindu, 19 April, 2011,

Stockholm Convention will discuss global ban on endosulfan by Roy Mathew, The Hindu, 18 April, 2011, 

Karnataka bans use of endosulfan, The Hindu, 18 February, 2011,

European Union Exploits Stockholm Convention, The Business Standard, 22 January, 2011,  

Pesticide industry sees European link behind ban on endosulfan, 3 May, 2011, The Pioneer,

An end to endosulfan? The Business Standard, 3 May, 2011,

Pesticide will go-eventually by Raja Murthy, The Asia Times, 4 May, 2011,

Pesticide Endosulfan to Be Banned Worldwide, Environment News Service, 5 May, 2011,

International experience

• The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified Endosulfan as Category Ib – Highly Hazardous. The European Union (EU) rated Endosulfan as Highly Hazardous. World Health Organisation (WHO) classified Endosulfan in Category II - Moderately Hazardous.

• Endosulfan is widely considered to be a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP) but was not included in the initial list targeted for phase out under the Stockholm Convention. Endosulfan was in the initial list of POPs being considered for world-wide elimination at the first meeting of experts in Vancouver, Canada (1994) jointly convened by governments of Canada and Philippines but was later removed from the list.

• Nearly 87 countries have banned Endosulfan and India is in favour of an exemption rather than a ban on the pesticide. Countries which have banned the pesticide include Singapore, Belize, Tonga, Syria, Germany, Sweden, Philippines, Netherlands, St. Lucia, Columbia, Cambodia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Restricted use is allowed in Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Korea, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Thailand, Taiwan, Denmark, Serbia & Montenegro, Norway, Finland, Russia, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama, Iceland, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

• Endosulfan is not allowed to be used in rice fields in many countries. It has been sold under different trade names in various countries such as Thiodan in Bangladesh, Brunei and Chile, Fanodan in Indonesia and Pakistan, and Contra and Endox in Philippines.

• According to coffee growers in Colombia, Endosulfan was much worse than the insect pest broca, which it seeks to eliminate. Various studies have found respiratory problems among workers and researchers found significant quantities of Endosulfan in the blood and urine of agricultural workers. The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) has recorded a number of cases of adverse effects of Endosulfan in different countries. In the US, Endosulfan had caused adverse impact on the aquatic life. It was the primary cause of pesticide poisoning in Sudan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Colombia, Indonesia, Ecuador, Mauritius and Paraguay. Endosulfan users in the cotton industry in Australia were alerted a few years back when significant amounts of residues were found in meat. Environmental groups and rural communities in Australia have been warning of the dangers of Endosulfan contamination for several years. Reversible blindness and lack of muscle coordination has been reported in sheep and cattle grazing on Endosulfan contaminated grass.

• Endosulfan caused death of 15 people in the Western province of Matanzas, Cuba in February 1999. It led to 37 deaths in Borgou province of Benin during 1999-2000. Endosulfan barrels washed in irrigation canals caused fish kills in Sudan in 1988. In Sulawesi, Indonesia, 32 cases of poisoning due to Endosulfan have been reported from 1990 to 1993. In the Philippines, Endosulfan was responsible for the largest number of deaths due to pesticide poisoning reported in 1991. The pesticide is also found in human tissues as breast milk from parts of Egypt, Colombia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, sub-Saharan Africa and Spain. An alarmingly high level of the pesticide is found in human blood and breast milk in Kerala.


Endosulfan, Factsheet and answers to common questions, IPEN Pesticide Working Group Project-2004,

The Perils of Endosulfan by KM Seethi, The Economic Times, 26 April, 2011, 

Endosulfan has chronic adverse effects on humans, The Times of India, 9 May, 2011,

Arguments against Endosulfan

• Like the tobacco lobby, which was against scarier pictorial warnings on cigarette and bidi packs in order to make them seem less harmful, it has been argued by the pesticides lobby that Endosulfan is not harmful. Pesticides manufacturers lobby along with Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers are not in favour of banning Endosulfan countrywide. It has been alleged that the pesticides industry has used the good offices of the Agriculture ministry to unleash its propaganda that Endosulfan is a safe chemical. Desperate attempts have been made in the past to save a US$ 100 million domestic Endosulfan industry.

• One estimate suggests that at least 1,000 people have been killed by this toxic chemical and more than 8,000 people seriously impacted in the villages of Kasargod. According to the National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM), continued aerial spray of Endosulfan since 1976 has caused 9,000 deaths, and nearly 4,800 bedridden patients with severe physical and mental deformities in Kerala alone.

• The victims in Kasargod have suffered over 20 years of aerial spraying of Endosulfan over the cashew plantations between 1977 to 2000. Through studies it has been revealed that congenital problems, physical deformities, gynaecological problems and cancer are common in villages of Kasargod. Similar problems were reported from villages in Dakshin Kanada in Karnataka. Kokkada, Patrame and Nidle villages in Belthangady taluk of Karnataka are the worst hit. Fresh Endosulfan cases have surfaced in Uttara Kannada district.

• Studies in India and abroad had detected Endosulfan residues in nearly 5,000 most widely consumed foods, including fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. High levels of residues were detected in all samples of cauliflower and brinjal taken in Ranchi (Jharkhand) in 2005. It has been found in grapes, guava, rice and mangoes in India (research studies by Shahi et al, Kumari et al, Singh et al, Jayashree and Vasudevan).

• A survey done by Health Department of Kerala in 11 panchayats of Kasargod during December and January, 2011, identified 3,937 victims, besides 336 in nearby panchayats.

• ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) while recalling the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in December, 2010 has demanded for a total ban on the pesticide.

• The National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) in 2002 presented a report to the Union government linking Endosulfan to the prevalence of health disorders.

• The NIOH report noted that there was a significantly higher prevalence of learning disabilities, low IQ and scholastic backwardness among children, besides serious neurological problems and congenital and reproductive abnormalities among people in the Kasargod region. The report has been confirmed by the team of doctors of the Department of Community Medicine from Calicut Medical College, who conducted an epidemiological investigation since October 2010 upon the directive of the Kerala government.

• The NIOH study has confirmed, through satellite mapping, that topology of the Kasargod area is such that Endosulfan sprayed in the cashew plantations surrounding Padre will contaminate the entire area.

• A study conducted by the Salim Ali Foundation found that the indiscriminate use of the toxic chemical in Kasargod caused a biodiversity disaster in the area. A decline in plant diversity between 40% and 70%, particularly for native species, compared to the natural habitat could be observed in this particular area. .

• Endosulfan is one of the prime agents of pesticide poisoning. Many studies concluded that it has been dreadfully toxic to humans, fish and other aquatic life. It causes a plethora of adverse effects, including death, disease and birth defects, among humans and animals. The toxicity would result in cancer, allergies and hypersensitivity, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, reproductive disorders and disruption of the immune system.

• The state government of Kerala gives free medical care, a monthly aid of Rs 1,000 and rice at Rs 2 a kg to the Endosulfan victims—a scheme the LDF government started in 2006. In order to politically counter the burgeoning popularity of LDF regarding the Endosulfan ban, the Congress is planning for rehabilitation and compensation packages for the victims in the state.

• Seeing the ill effects, the activists of Communist Party of India (Marxist)-CPI(M), Students Federation of India-SFI and the Democratic Youth Federation of India-DYFI have been demanding a ban on Endosulfan across the country. The National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM) has also sought a “complete ban” on the use and manufacture of the controversial toxic agri-chemical Endosulfan. The Central Government is waiting for the final report of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), which was studying the causes of Endosulfan, before considering the request of banning the chemical.

• A study by Centre for Science and Envisonment (CSE) found that over usage of pesticides has led to a rise in diseases like asthma, cancer, joint aches, premature greying of hair and even mental disorders in the Malwa region of Punjab comprising the districts of Bathinda, Mansa, Moga, Faridkot, Sangrur, Barnala and Ferozepur. Bathinda and Muktsar were worst affected and villages like Sheikpura, Jajjal, Giana, Malkana and Mahinangal in Bathinda reported 91 cancer deaths in a decade and also found high level of pesticides in the blood samples of farmers. 

• Matrimonial ties in Kasargod, Kerala are now determined on the basis of blood tests before marriage so as to ensure that prospective grooms do not carry Endosulfan residues in their blood.

• The Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) on 10 May, 2011 ordered Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL), Kochi, manufacturing Endosulfan, to close down its operations on charges of environmental pollution. The PCB order said HIL had violated provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, the Environment (Protection) Act and the Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules.

• India should re-emphasize on Integrated Pest Management policy (IPM) which is in existence since 1985. IPM includes multiple controls such as bio pesticides (which could be as simple as crushed leaves), identification of pests and collective action by farmers in an area, breeding new varieties with built-in resistance. What is required is more awareness generation about bio-pesticides.


Pesticides lobby’s coup by Latha Jishnu, Down to Earth, 15 January, 2011,    

The Perils of Endosulfan by KM Seethi, The Economic Times, 26 April, 2011, 

Endosulfan Industry's dirty war to save its toxic product: Summary of Recent Events by CSE, Centre for Science and Environment, March, 2011, 

Left activists seek ban on endosulfan, The Hindu, 26 April, 2011,

NAPM in favour of ‘complete ban' by Gargi Parsai, The Hindu, 26 April, 2011, 

Implement NHRC report, says NGO by J Balaji, The Hindu, 21 April, 2011,

Centre to study other opinions too by J Balaji, The Hindu, 26 April, 2011,

Survey identifies 4,000 victims of Endosulfan by Roy Mathew, The Hindu, 4 April, 2011,

Another Kasaragod by Savvy Soumya Misra, Down to Earth, 31 January, 2011,

No pause in Punjab’s toxic harvest by Amrita Chaudhary, 30 July, 2010, The Indian Express, 

85 days of a cabbage's life by Sreelatha Menon, The Business Standard, 8 May, 2011,

Kerala: No alliances from Endosulfan-hit village by Kalathil Ramakrishnan, Express Buzz, 8 May, 2011,

10 Endosulfan cases surface in N Karnataka, The Times of India, 6 May, 2011,

Kochi endosulfan unit ordered to close by Roy Mathew, The Hindu, 11 May, 2011,

Arguments in favour of Endosulfan

• India supplies 70 percent of the world's Endosulfan needs-a market valued at $ 300 million (Rs. 1340 crore). India's exports of Endosulfan are worth US$ 40 million. Out of the 9,000 tonnes India produces every year, half is bought by the country's 75 million farmers, making it the world's largest consumer of Endosulfan as well. That is why New Delhi is reluctant in imposing a ban on this chemical.

• In India Excel Crop Care Limited controls approximately 60 % of the Endosulfan production, to be followed by Coromandel International Limited (approx) 25 % and the state-owned HIL with a (approx) 15 % market share.  Globally, China and Israel are the other manufacturers but their share is very small. Gujarat has vested interest in opposing the ban on Endosulfan as two of the three big Endosulfan manufacturers—Excel Crop Care Limited and Coromandel International Limited—are based in the state.

• The Pesticides Manufacturers and Formulators' Association of India (PMFAI) do not agree with the report of the Ahmedabad-based National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) that Endosulfan is a health hazard. The PMFAI claims that imported substitutes to Endosulfan would cost the Indian farmers dearly. The PMFAI has refuted the study done by the Centre for Science and Environment (2001) that showed high levels of Endosulfan residues both in humans and the ecology. PMFAI has ignored the 2003 report by a high powered committee of the Kerala government, which concluded that Endosulfan was the cause of the health problems in Kasargod.

• Inherited genetic disorders caused diseases among human beings of Kasargod that obtained even before Endosulfan came to be used, according to the PMFAI.

• Leading farmer groups in India claim that Endosulfan protests are sponsored by multinational companies conspiring to sell their more expensive pesticides in developing countries. It is alleged that European chemical giants had decided to phase out Endosulfan in 2001 as it was no longer profitable to them. Chemicals including pesticides and insecticides were the second largest traded commodity in the world, after fuel, in which the manufacturers of the European Union countries enjoyed a 60 per cent share in 2009. A ban on Endosulfan to be substituted by other imported pesticides would immensely benefit these manufacturers.

• Workers from Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL) plant in December, 2010 claimed that Endosulfan was manufactured and used for more than 50 years across the world and continues to be in use in many countries without any ill effects to humans or environment. The harmful effect of Endosulfan came to limelight only recently.

• There are several alternatives to Endosulfan but they too may pose health problems. There is apprehension that banning Endosulfan for more expensive substitutes could affect millions of farmers, and cause food prices to rise. The next cheapest available pesticide is said to be 10 times the cost of Endosulfan.

• Banning Endosulfan can adversely affect the labour force employed in the Endosulfan industry. There are over 6000 workers employed in the manufacturing of Endosulfan in various plants of India and 400 of these workers are employed in the HIL plant.

• Studies conducted by Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad, Achuthan Commission, Kerala Agriculture University, IMA and Dubey Committee found no linkage between use of Endosulfan and health problems associated with its use at the Kasargod district of Kerala. OP Dubey committee report (1984) and the CD Mayee report (2005) showed 'no links established' between Endosulfan and the reports of health problems in Kasargod.

• In March 2011, Gujarat released a study done by the state health and family welfare department, which concluded that exposure to Endosulfan has no impact on people’s health. The Report of the Committee (headed by Prof. Ramesh K. Goyal and Hemant G Koshia) to Evaluate the Safety Aspects of Endosulfan concluded that there is no risk posed to workers, farmers and other users of Endosulfan as well as the community at large due to exposure to Endosulfan and its metabolites and hence recommended the continued manufacture, use and trade in Endosulfan active and its various formulations.

• Four expert panels in 1991, 1999, 2003 and 2004 found no ill-effects of Endosulfan on humans.

• In 2003, a Kerala government-appointed medical team conducted a survey comparing areas where Endosulfan had been sprayed and areas untouched by the pesticide. Eighty thousand people each from the two areas were part of the survey. It found that cases of mental retardation, congenital deformities and infertility were high in the sprayed areas as compared to the non-sprayed areas, but only relatively. The numbers indicate that the health problems are unusually high in the non-sprayed areas too. Surprisingly, the non-sprayed areas were found worse than the sprayed areas when it came to multiple abortions and physical disabilities.

• A two-part study in 2009 titled "Endosulfan in China - emissions and residues", by the Dalian Maritime University in Liaoning province reported Endosulfan residues in the soil, but did not conclude whether the pesticide damaged health and environment.

• Despite the high-decibel campaigning for the cause of the affected people, neither the government nor the agitators have a grip on the magnitude of the tragedy. Some officials in Kerala's Kasargod think that the exact number of Endosulfan victims is yet to be known. There is no mechanism to verify if a patient is a pesticide victim or not.


Withdraw erroneous report on endosulfan, Centre urged by Manas Dasgupta, The Hindu, 13 February, 2011,

Many alternatives to Endosulfan by Roy Mathew, The Hindu, 22 April, 2011,

HIL workers at Kerala Endosulfan plant seek probe into NIOH study, The Business Standard, 18 December, 2010,

The Perils of Endosulfan by KM Seethi, The Economic Times, 26 April, 2011, 

Endosulfan Industry's dirty war to save its toxic product: Summary of Recent Events by CSE, Centre for Science and Environment, March, 2011, 

Kerala’s pesticide puzzle by Shaju Philip, The Indian Express, 30 January, 2011,

Report of the Committee to Evaluate the Safety Aspects of Endosulfan, Department of Health and Family Welfare, Gujarat, 15 March, 2011,

India will not ban endosulfan pesticide, says Sharad Pawar by Iftikhar Gilani, Tehelka, 22 February, 2011,

Pesticide will go-eventually by Raja Murthy, The Asia Times, 4 May, 2011,