Skip to main content

Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals

bees on honeycomb

Why do we care about honeybees? Just browse the produce section of your local Trader Joe's or the football-field-long Berkeley Bowl, the popular Bay Area grocery store, to get a quick answer. It's estimated that one in every three bites of food we eat depends on honeybees for pollination, and they happen to be the healthiest bites, too. Without honeybees, the apples, avocados, almonds, blueberries, strawberries, melons and many other nutritious, California-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables we eat every day wouldn't exist.

A farmworker picks strawberries in Wayne County, NY.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants your feedback as it updates rules meant to protect children and adult agricultural workers from pesticides.

In this first installment of a weekly series, farmworkers share stories from the frontlines, illustrating why we need an even stronger standard than EPA proposes. Join them in taking action, and share your story below.

Harvested snap beans.

This week marks the official end to the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of genitalia-altering pesticide residues on snap beans. Numerous published studies by an EPA scientist found that rats fed vinclozolin in utero had feminized genitalia with malformations like vaginal pouches, undescended testicles, and malformed penises. Yet the EPA ban did not happen on its own.

A small private plane tied down next to the runway at a regional airport.

(The Right to Know Reader is a series of blog posts to educate families on the toxic chemicals in our daily lives. Earthjustice is working to enact stronger protections from these toxic chemicals for our families, communities and the environment because everyone has a right to know the truth about harmful toxins.)

President Clinton signs the Executive Order in the Oval Office (February 11, 1994).

In 1982, when I was a young lawyer in North Carolina, the state had to clean up miles of roadsides where toxic PCBs had been illegally dumped. The state decided to dispose of the toxic waste in a landfill which it proposed to place in a predominantly low-income African-American community in Warren County, far from where the clean-up was occurring. The decision sparked protests from the community, and activists from the broader civil rights world joined the fight.

Farmworkers pick strawberries in Wayne County, NY.

After more than two decades, the Environmental Protection Agency announced revisions to the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, an outdated standard intended to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure.

While advocates welcomed signs of life in the Obama administration’s progress to provide stronger protections from pesticides for approximately 2 million farmworkers, the proposal raises questions about the EPA’s understanding of the population the WPS is meant to serve.

Mario Vargas, a farmworker organizer from Ohio, his daughter Myra Vargas (middle), and Alexis Guild of Farmworker Justice walk past the U.S. Capitol in July of 2013, as they head to a meeting in the Hart Senate Office Building.

When Mario Vargas showed up at the Washington, D.C., offices of representatives from his home state of Ohio in July, he shared stories from farmworkers who are getting sick from pesticides. Joined by his daughter and girlfriend, they made the rounds talking about how it feels to inhale pesticides while pregnant, how farmworkers don’t know what their basic rights are, and how many workers are afraid to tell the truth about what is really going on in the fields.

This month, Maine became the second state in the nation to require labels on food that contains genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. The state’s decision is part of a growing, nationwide effort to assert the right of consumers to know what they’re eating. Currently, more than 26 states are considering proposals to require labeling of altered foods, including Hawaiʻi, where Earthjustice is pushing for laws requiring labeling of GE products.

Pages