Several alternatives exist for endosulfan in the country though those opposing its ban ignore that.
An expert committee of the Central government had listed alternatives to endosulfan for 47 out of 55 pests affecting 29 crops in Orissa in 2008-09. The Pesticide Action Network International has pointed this out in a submission to the Stockholm Convention POPs Review Committee last year.
Alternatives were not listed only for eight pests affecting five crops. They were: pigeon pea (pod fly), mustard (leaf and pod caterpillar and sawfly), sesamum (pod capsule borer and sphingid caterpillar), sunflower (sastor semilooper) and ragi (pink borer and millets shoot fly).
However, PAN International pointed out that an Integrated Pest Management hosted by Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwavidyalaya Agricultural University, Jabalpu, Madhya Pradesh had suggested chemical and non-chemical management for four of the pests. Other sources provided management options for the remaining four.
Many of the alternatives to endosulfan may also pose health problems. However, most of them are not persistent in the environment.
Dr. M. C. George, national trustee of the farmers’ organisation Infam, notes that the alternatives to endosulfan might be ten times costlier. They are also manufactured by multi-national companies while much of the production of endosulfan India was by public sector Hindusthan Insecticides Limited, Kochi.
Dr. George says that Infam stood for total elimination of pesticides and fertilizers in farming. This was not a contraction to the view that cheaper pesticides should not be banned selectively.
A field guide (How to grow crops without endosulfan) published by PAN, Germany, lists several cultural and physical methods, biological control methods and use of beneficial insects and plants and homemade solutions as alternatives to use of endosulfan.
In Andhra Pradesh, farmers of Enabavi, who suffered adverse effects of pesticides such as endosulfan and monocrotophos, had successfully tried a system called non-pesticidal management (NPM). Enabavi was a place where endosulfan was used on almost all crops, especially paddy, cotton, red gram and vegetables. NPM focused on prevention of pest incidences through logical and scientific interventions. Pest control involved maintaining pest levels at or below threshold levels in specific crops and areas, and not on the elimination of pests.
The villagers found that NPM is more cost effective and sustainable than chemical intensive farming. While pesticides drained money out of local economy, NPM helped to retain it.