More than two million farmworkers perform some of the most demanding manual labor in this country, cultivating and harvesting the crops that feed us all. Yet these workers are some of the least protected from on-the-job harms — including exposure to highly hazardous pesticides.
As residents of rural, agricultural communities, farmworkers and their families can also be exposed to health-harming pesticides drifting into homes and schools from nearby fields, or seeping into drinking water sources.
This chemical exposure takes a heavy toll. Research clearly shows that farmworkers not only experience more chemical poisonings from on-the-job exposures than any other sector, they also face higher rates of long term health impacts than the general public, including cancer, birth defects and learning disabilities.
What we’re doing
PAN works in coalition with farmworker advocates across the country. We recently won new, stronger national rules to protect farmworkers on the job, and we're now joining our partners to press for adequate enforcement of these protections. We're also a founding member of the groundbreaking Equitable Food Initiative.
These collaborative efforts are moving us toward a long overdue goal: a safe, healthy work environment where the workers who are the backbone of our food system have dignity and power.
Building a food system that’s healthy for all means connecting the dots. The same chemicals that put farmworkers and rural communities at risk can coat fruits and vegetable on plates across the country. Here’s how you can help:
- Support enforcement of stronger rules to protect farmworkers on the job. Sign up for PAN Alerts to find out how you can help keep the pressure on EPA as they implement these recent changes.
- Make smart food choices that support a healthy, just workplace for farmworkers. Use our online tool WhatsOnMyFood.org to choose foods that use fewer pesticides, and look for the Food Justice Certified and “Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured” labels when you shop.
- Spark a conversation about building a food system that's healthy, thriving and sustainable for all — including farmworkers. Dig deep into our “Learn more & share” page below to find blogs and resources to pass along to your online community, friends and family.
¡Si Se Puede!
See below for further research and facts about the importance of fair harvests.
After 15 years of ongoing pressure to improve farmworker safety rules — the federal Worker Protection Standard — EPA released their new, stronger rules in September 2015.
While we were pleased the agency finally took action, these improvements don’t do all they should — and whether they will be fully enforced remains a big question. PAN — together with farmworker unions, farmworker advocacy groups, healthcare providers and many, many more — will continue to press EPA and state agencies across the country to adequately protect farmworkers from pesticide harms.
But these improvements are the result of our collective efforts, and they do make a difference. Here are just a few key milestones of the powerful joint campaign behind this important milestone:
- Thousands of comments delivered to EPA’s online docket representing labor, environment, health, faith, food, public health agencies and farmers;
- Over 200,000 signatures on petitions presented to EPA;
- Dozens of farmworkers met directly with members of Congress and federal officials; and
- A new coalition website and creative social media activism raised public awareness.
We know policymakers heard us.
Join PAN’s online community and we’ll keep you posted as we continue to organize our collective voice to pressure EPA to enforce these new worker protection rules. Farmworkers and their families deserve nothing less.
The Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) label appears on all produce certified to be "Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured" through this innovative program.
EFI-certified produce is grown according to rigorous standards for fair working conditions, pest management and food safety. It’s now on produce sold by participating retailers, including Costco.
From the start, the program has involved farmworkers, farmers, retailers and consumers in development of the standards and certification process. PAN is proud to be among them.
EFI-certified food is a way to support broader change toward sustainable farming — including safe and healthy conditions for those who grow it. Here’s EFI project director Peter O'Driscoll:
We hope this new label will enable consumers to find ‘equitable food’ in their retail outlets, and to use their purchasing power to encourage growers and retailers to join the effort to make our food system safer and fairer for all of us.
Keep an eye out for the label on store shelves! And visit the EFI website to learn more.
Too often, farmworkers and the challenges they face are an invisible part of our food system. You can help change the conversation.
We invite you to dive into at least one (maybe all!) of the pieces below, and share the links — and the ideas they spark — with your online community, friends and family.
- Thankful for bounty, motivated for change: PAN organizer Medha Chandra shares how chlorpyrifos affects farmworkers from field to table.
- Voices united for farmworker safety! PAN staff scientist Margaret Reeves describes a key moment in our fight for a new Worker Protection Standard.
- Responsibly grown, farmworker assured: More about the story behind this progressive new food label.
- Cesar Chavez: Parent & pesticide activist: PAN’s Executive Director Judy Hatcher marks Cesar Chavez Day.
Food for thought
- TEDxFruitvale: Harvesting Change: 24 speakers providing thought-provoking and inspiring ideas related to farmworkers and food system change.
- Pesticide Lake: A powerful seven-minute film exposing the complex links between pesticide exposure and disease.
- Protectfarmworkers.org: The coalition website for the campaign to protect farmworkers from pesticides on the job.
Start here, learn more — and spark a conversation about building a food system that's healthy, thriving and sustainable for all.