Saturday, May 31, 2008

Food Security, the Rural Economy, and Endosulfan


Agronomy is a drastically under-rated technology all over the

world. Masses of farmers routinely produce only modest fractions of the

yield potentials of their fields. Most importers of farm produce from the

poor and emerging worlds have failed to meet their own nutrition

requirements. Their agrarian communities are doubly impoverished as

a result of extension failures. Precision agriculture benefits elude

poorly-resourced farmers, and they are first victims of the geo-politics of

hunger, malnutrition, and exploitation. Intellectual property protection

takes precedence over issues of social and sovereign integrity. Farm

subsidies in the first world, concerted attacks on generic farm inputs,

and flagrant arm-twisting to gain market entries in poor and emerging

countries, are hall-marks of colonialism in the garb of this Millennium. It

is not inevitable any longer for the downtrodden to submit to the

Dromology of western propaganda. India can and must take a world lead

in extending food security, rural prosperity, and objective regulation.

Endosulfan, which is a product of the domestic and public sectors of

India, and which has been a beacon of the green revolution, deserves

professional stewardship in the service of the nation.

Historic and Future Perspectives of Agrarian Exploitation

Arable land was once abundant. Some of the poorest nations of today used to be verdant and fertile. Travelers from temperate climes marveled at the bounties available near the equator. The Orient was considered to be a treasure-trove of spices, silk, and a host of other forms of farm produce. This was the original motivation for colonial exploitation that reached a zenith of its own making in the 18th century. The resultant exploitation has never ended, though it continues in subtle manner. Christopher Columbus sought the shores of India when he launched his first infamous expedition from Italy. His blundering form of navigation on the High Seas led him in the opposite direction from his aim. Aleutians and a host of culturally endowed indigenous peoples of both Americas were brutally repressed as a result of the marauding misadventures of Columbus and his ilk. However, the British, French, and Portuguese would not allow Indians to rest in peace as a result of the wrong turn Columbus made soon after leaving the shores of his avaricious sponsors. Agriculture was a prime target for the East India Company, and for other European trading posts that were established in the sub-continent. It was left to the genius of Mahatma Gandhi to see through the selfish designs of evil rulers.

It is tragic for some, and an opportunity for others. We do not learn from history. Descendants of exploiters and the exploited seem destined to re-enact the roles of their ancestors, not unlike moths that fly determinedly towards death. Western economists love to prescribe the transition from agriculture to industry, and thence to services, as some world mark of progress. However, they fight all attempts to open their own farm production systems to open competition. Indians, at least some of us, are not able to emerge from the colonial haystacks of our brains. We join the cacophony of ridicule against self-reliance and food security. That is why we take such pride in outsourcing our intellectual strengths, even as we continue to be dependent on others for vital ingredients of our diets. India is also a willing and eager signatory to the abusive patent regime. Some Indians are also at the vanguard of ignorant abuse of symbols of our self-reliance, playing in to the hands of western patent owners, whether by oversight or selfish designs.

Endosulfan as a Champion of Food and Rural Security

Endosulfan is one of the most admirable by-products of World War II-related technologies. The laboratories from which this classic molecule was born were originally charged by Adolf Hitler to produce nerve poisons to kill the enemies of the German State of that era. Just as Germany has become a champion of modern civilization since those dark days of the early 20th century, so has Endosulfan emerged from the shadows of death to provide succor, prosperity, and new lives to countless numbers of the oppressed agrarian communities of the third world. Endosulfan is free from the oppressive yoke of patents. This makes it a favorite target for European corporations that are unable to survive in free markets. Europe uses Dromology so effectively against Endosulfan that even social activists in India lose all sense of discretion and join choruses of protest against the defenseless chemical in blind and slavish compliance to the abuse of the occident.

Facts will not change, no matter whether we care for them or not. Endosulfan is the only registered pesticide in use with a tolerant strain of the egg parasite Trichogramma. It is a popular partner for herbal extracts and bio-rational pest management agents. Endosulfan is the most economical choice for budget and IPM-conscious farmers. It is easy and convenient to use as per prescribed label instructions. It is possible to use Endosulfan safely and judiciously. It is a matter of development of appropriate skills. Any pesticide can be abused, whether willfully or by oversight. Locusts, lepidoptera, and hemiptera are amongst the most feared of pests that can be effectively managed with Endosulfan. No other molecule is as widely and consistently recommended in official and expert agronomic packages. Endosulfan is a strategic weapon in the hands of communities and countries that value their food security situations. The replacement of Endosulfan by expensive instruments of the patent regime are as debilitating for emerging nations, as is the illogical movement to prevent its use in non-edible and highly processed fiber crops.

Facts and Fiction of Pesticide Abuse

Suicides by consuming pesticides are stark reminders of abuse potentials. However, these sophisticated products of modern technology are designed intentionally to have sub-chronic and long term effects as well. Hence, potentials for abuse are higher than lay people commonly realize. Endosulfan is factually safer than most therapeutic substances prescribed by the medical fraternity. Urban communities have well-developed social infrastructure for qualified professionals to administer life-saving injections. The latter consists of such highly toxic substances that they must be used in incredibly small proportions. Unfortunately, it is not popular for poor farmers to be as well-endowed as the urban rich. They are left to their own devices when it comes to protecting their crops from rapid losses to pests. There are other reasons as well for pesticides to be abused on occasion.

Abuse is not inevitable. Professionals from the pest control industry present incontrovertible evidence of the efficacy of label prescriptions. It is possible to use a pesticide without harm to people, non-target organisms, and to the environment. Skills and material resources both come in to play. This is why the registration process is so involved and resource-intensive. All safety data has to bear rigorous scientific validity, and extensive independent reviews as well. The NOEL is divided by as little as 10, and sometimes by 100 to arrive at an ADI. Cutting edge physical chemistry is deployed to detect residues in as little as a part in a billion. Pesticides are amongst the most tightly regulated products on earth, which is why only a small number of the ones synthesized make it to market.

Distorting Regulation for Motivated Ends

Regulation has necessarily to be decentralized. Agronomy for one area is irrelevant for another. The BRIC countries actually need regional differences in their regulatory systems because they include such disparate growing conditions. Regulation for a farmer cannot be the same as for a consumer. The efficacy and safety parameters cannot be the same by definition. Regulation has to ensure that the essential needs of both producers and users are met in full. Label directions and MRLs are specific outputs of regulation that meet such concerns in full. All regulation is dynamic, responding to social concerns and to technological opportunities, as they arise. However, regulation must also be prospective, for neither industry nor farmers can respond to retrospective changes. All regulation must be based on objective evidence, and should be framed free of publicity-seeking proponents.

Pesticide regulation and intellectual property rights are subtly inter-related. The European industry has taken vicarious leads to restrict availabilities of generic pesticides. This paves the way for new patented molecules that farmers would not use if cheaper alternatives were available. Insecticides are targeted with extra vigor, because the temperate climes of member countries do not require this category of pesticides as much as poorer countries in lower latitudes. Europe also abuses the paucity of indigenous regulators in some of the poorest countries: governments blindly follow European directives to restrict the very products that would actually serve their interests best.

New Paradigms of Stakeholder Relations

India occupies a unique place in the world of farm production. It is the home of the Green Revolution. Sustained increases in arable land productivity, especially with respect to wheat, are amongst the most secular successes of the country since it regained independence some six decades ago. The vast majority of all Indians have tangible roots in the Mother Land, and most of us depend on her bounties in order to survive.

India is also a vast repository of scientific knowledge. It is a leader even within the BRIC bloc in this respect. The country's regulators have a glorious history of fighting epidemic and endemic pest challenges. Centuries of periodic famines have been overcome ever since the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine, and Storage was formed for the first time. The national humiliation of PL 480 has been overcome through cornerstone policies of self-reliance in the manufacture of strategically important generic pesticides.

There is no room for complacency. The nation has made crippling concessions to the machinations of patent patriarchs. Fortunately, safeguards against extreme abuse exist for life-saving medicines. This has helped South Africa combat viral diseases at affordable costs. Unfortunately, similar barriers to exploitation by European agri-input companies are not in place. Indigenous and ignorant activists play in to the hands of those who seek to replace generics with monopolies, though the motivations of such anti-national activities remain in the realm of speculation.

The kharif season of 2008 is an appropriate juncture for meaningful change. Pesticide stewardship is an enabling highway for all stakeholders of sustainable agricultural productivity. Such a move can also serve the best interests of rural prosperity. The safe and judicious use of pesticides, as well as implementation of the best IPM, IRM, ICM, and IAM principles, can optimize the legitimate aims of all Indians. It can also serve as a template for other emerging countries that suffer from abusive influences of former colonialists.


The first speech of Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru on becoming Prime

Minister of Free India, was remarkable in its classic foresight and

relevance. We have come a long way, but it is not yet a full measure.

Vigilance is an eternal price that we must pay to retain integrity.

Here are five guiding concepts that can link our food security, rural prosperity, and environmental conservation aims:

1. Use co-operatives of agrarian women to establish rearing facilities for bio-rational organisms.

2. Facilitate the safe and judicious use of indigenous and generic pesticides.

3. Introduce Precision Agriculture technologies.

4. Use the ISO 14001 series to raise safety standards.

5. Make agricultural extension inclusive and participatory

Jai Hind

Recommended Reading

Allaoua, Z, 1996, India: Five Years of Stabilization and Reform and the Challenges Ahead, World Bank Publications

Blaut, J, 1993, The Colonizer’s Model of the World, Guilford Press

Chen, A, and Song, S, 2006, China's Rural Economy After WTOfont>, Ashgate Publishing Limited

Konandreas, P, Huddleston, B, and Ramangkura, V, 1978, Food Security: An Insurance Approach, International Food Policy Research Institute

Kracht, U, and Schulz, M, 1999, Food Security and Nutrition: The Global Challenge, LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Munster

Mansfield, E, 1995, Intellectual Property Protection, Direct Investment, and Technology, World Bank Publications

Norsworthy, L, 2000, Rural Development, Natural Resources, and the Environment, World Bank Publications

Pawar, C, and Indulkar, A, 2008, IPM in India, retrieved June 2008 from:

Radwan, S, and Lee, E, 1986, Agrarian Change in Egypt, Routledgefont>

Srinivasan, A, 2006, Handbook of Precision Agriculture, Hawaorth Press

Virilio, P, and Derian, J, 1998, The Virilio reader, Blackwell Publishing

Brazil: equitable, competitive, sustainable contributions for debate, World Bank Publications

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