Endosulfan Ban in the Philippines and Hoechst’s Lawsuit

Dr. Romeo Quijano’s account of the defamation suit filed against him in 1993 by multinational firm Hoechst (now Bayer) regarding remarks that endosulfan (now a banned pesticide) causes cancer

In 1990, endosulfan was noticed to have become the most frequent cause of death among pesticide related poisoning cases in the Philippines. It’s manufacturer Hoechst (now Bayer), submitted documents for endosulfan re-registration. I was tasked by the toxicology committee of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) to review the documents and submit my recommendations.

My findings reveal that several studies and review documents from different sources consistently show that endosulfan is highly poisonous, causing death and toxicity to various organ systems, especially the nervous system. It is genotoxic, immunotoxic, and has the potential to cause cancer. In contrast, many of the studies submitted by Hoechst have been performed by the Industrial Biotest (IBT) laboratory in Chicago which has been convicted already in the US for fraudulent practices at the time Hoechst made the submissions.

Upon the recommendation of the toxicology committee, the FPA issued a ban order on endosulfan 35% and restricted the use of endosulfan. Hoechst sued the FPA and obtained a court injunction. In 1993, after I was quoted in the newspaper supposedly saying that endosulfan causes cancer, Hoechst sued me for defamation with $800,000 claim.

Hoechst persistently claimed that endosulfan does not cause cancer, was not genotoxic, that “consumer safety was proven” and that endosulfan was a “relatively safe, effective, user beneficial, insect and environment friendly pesticide.” In September 1993, The FPA issued a new order reiterating the ban and restriction on endosulfan, together with four other highly toxic pesticides. Again, Hoechst vigorously contested the order through a restraining order from a judge who was later exposed to have close relations with the company’s lawyer.

In 1994, the Supreme Court ordered the suspension of the proceedings at the Regional Trial Court effectively lifting the restraining order against the ban on endosulfan. Hoechst continued to advertise without mentioning restrictions on the use of the pesticide and without warning of adverse effects. Hoechst defied the order of the FPA to submit their records of inventory of remaining endosulfan stocks. Shortly thereafter, the court case filed by Hoechst against  Dr. Quijano was dismissed.

An exemption on the ban of endosulfan 35%, however, was granted by the FPA for use in pineapples under supposedly strict monitoring guidelines for two years. The FPA dissolved the Toxicology Committee and extended the exemption for use in pineapples against the advise of the committee.

Results of monitoring of workers in a pineapple plantation showed chromosomal damage. The scientist who performed the study on chromosomal damage did not release her report due to apprehensions of a backlash from the companies. I personally talked to this scientist who was a colleague of mine in the University and she promised to publish later her work in a scientific journal. That was about two years ago and until now, she has not published her work.

Other reports on the Hoechst lawsuit

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