Del Monte Phils. says it has stopped using endosulfan

"We no longer have any stock of endosulfan, not even for reserve, I think our last stock was consumed before the end of September last year," his e-mail dated February 6 said.

Zacal furnished MindaNews a copy of an October 8, 2008 letter sent by Luis F. Alejandro, DMPI general manager and chief operations officer, to the DENR 10 Environmental Management Board informing the latter of their pullout of endosulfan.

"Due to recent events which show risks caused by acts of third parties and factors beyond our company's control we have discontinued the use of endosulfan," Alejandro said in the letter to EMB regional director Sabdullah Abubacar who inquired about the pullout five days before.

Alejandro, however, noted it had not been easy looking for alternatives after they decided to discontinue using endosulfan.

"Endosulfan has been proven to be most helpful to the Philippine pineapple industry," he said citing its contribution to employment and revenues for the government.

Alejandro also stressed the company has been a "responsible and safe user of endosulfan".

"The new compounds that we are now using are far less toxic than endosulfan, while hopefully having endosulfan's ability to control mites without leaving detectable residues in the fruit," he said in the letter.

Endosulfan has proved to be effective in controlling mites that cause pink disease in canned pineapple.

The Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA) has confirmed the complete pullout of endosulfan by DMPI from its chemicals even ahead of the expiry of its authorization as restricted user.

Danilo Negre,  FPA provincial coordinator, said that as of his last plant inspection in the first week of November 2008, the company had completed the pullout of the chemical.

The pullout followed Bukidnon’s passage of an ordinance banning the use and transport of the chemical in Bukidnon.

Bukidnon banned endosulfan in August 2008 at the height of investigations on the sinking of Sulpicio Lines' M/V Princess of the Stars.

The ill-fated ship that sank on June 20, 2008 carried 10,000 kilos of endosulfan reported to be enough for Del Monte's one year supply.

The city of Malaybalay has also passed a resolution urging the FPA not to renew its authorization for endosulfan upon its expiration.

The pullout came ahead of the December 31, 2008 expiration of the 3-year authorization issued by the FPA Board to DMPI and Dole, allowing the companies restricted use of the chemical since 1993, Negre told MindaNews on February 4.

Negre said the firm now uses actellic and ortus, identified as alternatives to endosulfan.  

But actellic is more commonly used, he added.  He described the chemicals as less effective in controlling mites that cause pink diseases, so there is a need for more dosage.

"It is more expensive, too.  But it is safer (than endosulfan)," he added.

He said the two chemicals are still "environmentally hazardous" although not as much as endosulfan.

He said unlike endosulfan, actellic and orthos are non-POPs (persistent organic pollutants). POPs, such as endosulfan,  are chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulates through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment

Local government officials have hailed DMPI's pullout.

But Zacal won't reveal if indeed they are using the two chemicals Negre named.

"As to the names of the new pesticides we are using, I'm sorry but I have no liberty to share that with you but nonetheless I assure you all pesticides we use are registered and approved for use by FPA," he said.

Manila media reported the approval by FPA for the use of Pirimiphos methyl (Actellic 50 EC), Avermectin (Agrimek 1.8 EC), Fenazaquin (Magister 10 EC), and Fenpyroximate (Ortus 5 SC) as alternatives to endosulfan. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)