(Beyond Pesticides, October 29, 2008) Two of the largest pineapple growers, Dole and Del Monte, have agreed to stop using endosulfan on pineapples grown on their plantations in the Philippines, beginning next year. The companies have opted not to renew their licenses for the use of this highly toxic chemical but instead will consider a list of alternative pesticides.
The Philippines is one of the few countries that still allow the use of endosulfan, though on a restricted basis. Endosulfan is used on pineapple plantations to kill pineapple mites that cause pink disease, a discoloration of canned fruits. This measure to stop the use of endosulfan has been attributed to the recent sinking of the ship MV Princess of the Stars, whose cargo hull contained ten tons of endosulfan. The ship capsized and partially sank on June 21 in a typhoon, killing nearly 800 people onboard. In the wake of that tragedy, leaders in the Philippine government called for an end to endosulfan exemptions granted to foreign companies. Frustrations were raised over the potential for toxic contamination which threatens the health of the Philippine people.
400 packs of endosulfan, each pack weighing 25 kilograms, or a total of 10 metric tons, have since been recovered from the MV Princess of the Stars. Approximately 10 metric tons of endosulfan has been imported yearly since 1995 by Dole and Del Monte.
“Because of the over-publicity of the hazards of endosulfan due to the mishap of the MV Princess of the Stars, Dole Philippines, Inc. and Del Monte Philippines, Inc. are saying that they would stop using the chemical,” Dario C. Sabularse, deputy director of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) in the Philippines, said in an interview.
Endosulfan is banned in Europe and many other countries around the world due to the serious toxic effects attributed to its use. However, multi-national food companies Dole and Del Monte have maintained exemptions to the ban and continued to use endosulfan, even though the Philippines banned the use of endosulfan in 1993. The Dole and Del Monte were the only companies permitted to use endosulfan in the Philippines.
This week, ministers and officials from 120 member-countries of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations will meet in Rome to decide whether to add endosulfan, along with pesticide tributyl tin compounds and industrial chemical chrysotile asbestos, to the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure under the Rotterdam Convention. The PIC is a trade watch list that requires that harmful pesticides and chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted in at least two countries, not be exported unless explicitly agreed by the importing country. The list already names 39 hazardous substances including DDT, chlordane and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB).
The U.S. EPA is currently considering action on endosulfan in response to petitions submitted in February 2008 followed by a legal brief from the Natural Resources Defense Council, technical letters, and some 13,000 individual signatures on petitions. Last May, concerned scientists and public health professionals issued an open letter calling on the EPA to cancel all uses of endosulfan on the grounds that it is a highly toxic, bioaccumulative, and persistent chemical. In July a broad coalition of groups represented by Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the EPA to protect children, farmworkers, and endangered species from endosulfan’s long tail of lingering effects. The coalition also called on EPA to revoke all tolerances for endosulfan even though the agency will not address cancellation until early 2009.
Endosulfan is an organochlorine pesticide, in the same family as DDT and lindane, and like DDT and lindane, it bioaccumulates and has been found in places as far from point of use as the arctic. It is also a suspected endocrine disruptor, affecting hormones and reproduction in aquatic and terrestrial organisms.
Source: GMA News and Public Affairs