Once a year we all have an opportunity to recognize the contributions of the country's nearly 2 million farmworkers, and support their efforts to gain the dignity and rights they so deserve. Next Monday, March 27 marks the beginning of National Farmworker Awareness Week, a series of events and activities organized by Student Action with Farmworkers to spotlight these issues and honor the work of legendary labor rights activist Cesar Chavez.
With tobacco, lead and alcohol we ultimately acted with precaution when the science on human health effects raised red flags – and we’ve saved millions of lives.
So what do you call it—wise, fiscally responsible, necessary?— when we act to promote farm practices that protect the natural resources that allow us to produce abundant, healthy food, even though the science on just how this is accomplished is not yet complete? Organic or ecological agriculture promises to do this and more. It also helps maintain vibrant rural economies and save lives by providing nutrient-rich food and eliminating the use of highly hazardous pesticides. Scientists now know that it can also help mitigate climate change.
You may remember the tragic death of 17-year-old farmworker Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez back in 2008. Maria died of heat stroke when her body temperature rose to 108 degrees in the scorching heat of the San Joaquin County vineyard where she was working. She was pregnant at the time.
Maria’s family is finally getting its day in court, and our colleagues at United Farm Workers of America (UFW) tell us that her employer may walk away without being held accountable for her death.
Two successful organic producers were among those recently recognized for pest control innovation by California officials. The state's Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced recipients of its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Innovator Awards last month, and among the awardees were Dixon Ridge Farms and Bonterra (Fetzer) Vineyards. I was delighted to see the two award winners featured again last week at the annual EcoFarm conference, a three-day gathering of thousands of organic growers, input providers, processors, distributors, academics, government agencies, non-profit organizations and eaters near Monterey, California.
A victory 7 years in the making! Yesterday EPA published its proposed rule on testing pesticides on humans, and it's a giant step forward. The new rule categorically bans testing on pregnant or nursing women and on children. It expands protections for all testing including tests conducted by other governments, private industry and organizations. And it sets stringent criteria to ensure that tests are scientifically credible.
We often look to scientific research on the hazards of agricultural chemicals to support our call to protect farmworkers and their families from pesticides—a call that all too frequently goes unheeded. But we don't give up, and I'm delighted to say, neither do the dedicated researchers upon whom we depend. Scientists at UC Berkeley recently released another round of solid data documenting the dramatic impacts pesticides can have on children's health.