Benin bans endosulphan

Benin, a country on the western coast of Africa, has banned use of the pesticide endosulphan. The decision, taken in February this year, is based on the recommendations of a four-year study conducted by Pesticide Action Network (pan) Africa, pan uk and ngo s in West Africa. The ban, which will come into effect once the existing stocks are used up, comes after a similar decision by the eu and in the wake of organic cotton movement in Africa.

The us, however , continues to use endosulphan despite its Environment Protection Agency saying the chemical poses "unacceptable risks'. In India, the Union agriculture ministry banned endosulphan in 2005. The pesticide was being aerially sprayed on cashew plantations in Kasaragod district. It was found that there was a high incidence of nervous disorders, congenital neurological disorders, body deformations, cancers, reproductive disorders, miscarriages and endocrine disruption in the area. Peer-reviewed studies had identified endosulphan as the cause.

Benin is among the largest cotton producers in West Africa. Other countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast are likely to phase out the pesticide by 2009. Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast have over 1.6 million litres of endosulphan in stock, said Damien Sanfilippo of pan uk.

Endosulphan was introduced to West Africa's cotton growers in 1999. It was intended to be used for four years but more than a million bottles of endosulphan continued to be distributed throughout the region every year, despite the rising number of pesticide poisoning, the PAN report said. Blood samples of cotton cultivators had detectable levels of endosulphan and there were "striking' similarities in the symptoms experienced and in the conditions of use, the report added.

Although endosulphan may be on its way out, chances are that cotton growers will shift to tihan till they go completely organic. tihan, WHO says, has chemicals which could be endocrine disruptors and carcinogenic.