I know I've written it before, but we're really witnessing the endgame for endosulfan in Geneva this week. I'm here, once again, for negotiations under the Stockholm Convention, otherwise known as the POPS treaty. The global agreement bans the worst of the worst chemicals — Persistent Organic Pollutants like dioxins and PCBs. As I've been chronicling in this blog, endosulfan has been winding its way through the Convention's evaluation process for several years now. If the stars align, it'll finally be added to the Convention this week, triggering a global phaseout.
Thanks to the hard work of PAN and our partners around the globe, momentum for a ban has been steadily growing. Just a few years ago the number countries who had banned or were phasing out endosulfan stood at a few dozen. Now there are more than 80. Just yesterday Mozambique joined the list, announcing a ban. Several countries still using endosulfan have indicated privately that they want to stop, and are hoping for a ban under the Stockholm Convention.
So who is it that wants to keep this antiquated neurotoxic insecticide around?
That would be India, but even they seem to wavering. Up to now they'd been adamantly opposed to listing it, and resorted to spurious procedural and unfounded scientific arguments to defend it. While the Indian endosulfan industry continues in this manner, the Indian government seems to have turned a corner. They appear resigned to a global phaseout, and now are talking about exemptions and financial assistance for implementing alternatives.
So I'm cautiously optimistic. Anything can still happen, and we likely won't have a final decision until 4 am Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, in an effort to demonstrate that endosulfan is not needed, PAN and our partners have set up a cafe serving organic (and thus endosulfan-free) coffee, chocolate, and other products (coffee and chocolate are among the major crops on which endosulfan is still used).
I toted about 50 lbs of organic coffee beans and chocolate with me on the plane, including samples from Brazil, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Uganda and several more countries. Other partners brought in tea, spices, rice, beans, and more from all over the world. Our colleagues in the Czech Republic brought a coffee urn to the meeting via train. And as cotton is the biggest crop use of endosulfan, we'd made T-shirts of Indian cotton proclaiming: "Made from endosulfan-free organic cotton." Not the most creative message, I know, but clearly to the point.
And so yesterday, donning our shirts, we passed around organic Brazilian coffee and Latin American chocolate to the delegates as they broke for lunch. And as you can see from the pictures, it was a big success. The shirts are a surprisingly huge hit, with delegates left and right asking where they could get one! Alas, we'd only made eleven of them, but we scored a hit with India's second largest newspaper, The Hindu, covering the event.
The deliberations continue two more days, and I'll be blogging updates through the week. Please check back!