Pesticides and the Farmworker

July 21, 2005

The basis of this statement is the “Ten Commitments”, a paper formulated by farm worker organizations and advocates which made specific recommendations for protecting farm workers and their families and the public and surrounding communities. The intent was to overcome long-standing neglect and unjust and uninforced laws. The SMFS has modified their statement to adjust to its own evaluations and considerations.

1. Zero tolerance for the use of any pesticide known or  suspected to cause cancer, birth defects, neurological damage, Parkinson’s disease, or that are extremely toxic. During any phase-out period, a minimum of 14 days of quarantine be enforced before workers can be allowed to reenter the work area in which any such pesticide has been applied.

2.  Prohibit all aerial applications of pesticides. Given the best of intentions by growers to protect the workers it has proven to be impractical to expect that proper masks, clothing, warnings, medical treatments will be applied. Most of these insecticides, herbicides and fungicides never even reach the target pest. Eighty-five to ninety percent drift off-target, contaminating air, soil, water and surrounding communities. Ground spraying is an adequate procedure, if spraying is necessary.

3.  That there be new legislation to require and enforce a mandatory national pesticide reporting system for all growers which will include information on all active and inert ingredients in all pesticide products.

4.  Crop sheets, posting and warning signs, training with regards to health effects, protective clothing and other safety information in plain English, Spanish or whatever- all be guaranteed as a right-to-know for all farm workers.

5.  All pesticide-related incidents and illnesses must be reported by agricultural employers and health professionals as part of a mandatory national reporting system.

6. Guarantee to all farm workers the right to bring legal action to enforce their rights under the law including protection against employer retaliation, violation of the Worker Protection Standard Act, and regulation of toxic pesticides.

7. Ultimately, pesticide protection is contingent upon the social protection by government of the farmworkers. Therefore, all farm workers must have the right to organize, to union representation, to a living wage, to overtime pay, to strong child labor provisions, to a safe workplace and to workers’ compensation benefits- just like all other workers.

8. After close cooperation and approval by farm workers there must be instituted a fund for a continuing program for both biological and environmental monitoring of pesticides in the families and communities of the farm workers.

9. There must be government funded research involving the cooperation of the farm workers as well as their approval that sets up a program to monitor long-term effects of pesticides including cancer, reproductive harm and neurological damage.

10. Reassign federal and state agricultural research funding that currently deals with toxic pesticides to a transition from toxic pesticides to more healthful, rational and sustainable pest control methods.