11 April 2011

Over 135 Groups Ask Sec. Alcala to Ban Highly Toxic Pesticide



Over 135 public interest groups today asked the government to impose a permanent ban on endosulfan, a highly toxic pesticide, and to actively back a global move to have it eliminated for good to protect the public health and the environment.

Through a petition letter, the groups, led by the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Pesticide Action Network (PAN), urged tough action against the said pesticide ahead of a crucial intergovernmental meeting that is expected to seal the fate of endosulfan.

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) will meet on April 25-29 in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss matters related to the implementation of the treaty, including the recommendation by a panel of scientific experts to ban endosulfan.

The UN POPs Review Committee (POPRC) last year recommended to add endosulfan, after a rigorous process for evaluating the said chemical, to Annex A of the treaty as a new POP for worldwide elimination.

The "AlerToxic Patrol" volunteers of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats) brought the petition letter to the Department of Agriculture (DA) where a picket was also held.

The petitioners, which include a broad set of environmental health, climate justice and sustainable development advocates, asked Secretary Proceso Alcala to be in step with nations who will soon make a historic decision of adding endosulfan to the POPs treaty, which will eventually lead to its elimination from global use.

Among the signatories were the “greenest” 2010 presidential candidate Nicky Perlas, former health chief Dr. Jimmy Galvez Tan, Mindanao statesman Sen. Nene Pimentel, actor and playwright Roy Alvarez, toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio, pulmonologist Dr. Maricar Limpin, human rights lawyer Marlon Manuel, labor leader Josua Mata, climate campaigner Dr. Helen Mendoza, Sierra Madre advocate Fr. Pete Montallana, zero waste pioneer Dr. Met Palaypay, educator Dr. Leah Paquiz, Philippine Greens convenor Obet Verzola, and beauty queen Cathy Untalan.

“It is imperative for the Philippine delegation to bring to the meeting a strong policy position banning endosulfan, which has been linked to neurological disorders, mental retardations, congenital physical deformities, and deaths among community farmers and residents in developing countries,” said toxicologist Dr. Romy Quijano, President of PAN-Philippines.

“We can no longer turn a blind eye to the health and environmental hazards caused by endosulfan. It's time for our country and the world to terminate this acutely toxic chemical pesticide," said Manny Calonzo, representative of both GAIA and the EcoWaste Coalition.

Numerous assessments of the human health and ecological risks of endosulfan by governments, academics and citizens’ groups, including testimonies from pollution victims, have confirmed the toxic, bio-accumulative and persistent characteristics of endosulfan, the groups said.

A formal ban on endosulfan, the groups insisted, will bolster the “temporary ban” on the importation, distribution and use of endosulfan under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Memorandum Circular 2009-02 “to protect the public health from any undesirable risks (and) hazards on the use of endosulfan.”

The groups told Secretary Alcala that the decision to ban endosulfan should be “easy, non-contentious and defensible” as the Philippines has no registered use anymore for endosulfan.

Del Monte and Dole pineapple companies, the only two entities previously permitted to import and use endosulfan, have already switched to alternative pesticides following the deadly M.V. Princess of the Stars maritime tragedy in 2008 where some 10 metric tons of endosulfan also went down with the ill-fated passenger ship.

The groups reminded Secretary Alcala that Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), of which he is the Chair of the Board of Directors, is empowered under P.D. 1144 “to restrict or ban the use of any pesticide... upon evidence that the pesticide is an imminent hazard, has caused, or is causing widespread serious damage to crops, fish or livestock, or to public health and environment.”

Over 80 governments, including the state governments of Kerala and Karnataka in India, the 27-country European Union and the governments of Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea and Sri Lanka, have taken decisive steps to protect human health and the environment by phasing out and banning endosulfan.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in June 2010 has announced its action to terminate all uses of endosulfan because it “poses unacceptable risks to agricultural workers and wildlife, and can persist in the environment.”

-end-

Please visit www.ecowastecoalition.org to view the petition letter and list of signatories. Thanks!

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