Protection of People, Farms and Ecosystems from Pesticide Poisoning

As intractable as synthetic pesticide use seems today, it is only within the last 80 years of agriculture’s rich and diverse 10,000–year history that synthetic pesticide reliance has become hallmark to agriculture, and the lynchpin of an industrial and chemical model of production.

Pesticide reliance in agriculture has been aggressively encouraged by multinational chemical corporations including Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dow–DuPont, and others. This push toward large–scale industrial agricultural production reliant on corporate inputs, including chemicals, fertilizers and seeds, has displaced farmers across the countryside around the world, preventing diversified, ecological, and productive food and farming systems while threatening viable rural livelihoods.

The large chemical corporations exert significant influence as key agricultural, food, health, nutrition, worker and trade policies are created and implemented. Their influence dominates markets, the halls of government and many agricultural research institutions. Since the late 1950s, the use of synthetic pesticides has grown dramatically. Pesticides are now a $50 billion global industry, and more than one billion pounds of pesticides are used in the United States each year, touching all aspects of the industrial food system.

Since the 1950s, a wealth of scientific research has shown that pesticide exposure is linked to significant human health harms and ecosystem devastation, while providing precious little economic benefit to farmers, eaters or rural communities. Indeed, farmers that use pesticides become tethered to a pesticide treadmill: farmers pay rising costs for chemicals to multinational corporations each year, while finding it increasingly difficult to effectively manage insects, weeds and other pests, as the pests reliably become resistant to chemicals. Damage is most severe for those people and ecosystems on the front lines of pesticide exposure in rural communities, and for those people who face multiple exposures: at home, at work, at play, and at school.

Human health harm

Pesticide exposure can cause immediate illness and death, and long–term exposure is linked to several diseases, including various cancers, birth defects, neurodevelopmental delays and cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s Disease, among others.

Ecosystem harm

Pesticides wreak environmental havoc, threatening biodiversity and undermining the ecological systems upon which life depends. Amphibians, grassland birds, as well as honey bees and other pollinators such as monarch butterflies, are some of the species most obviously under threat from exposure to pesticides.

Protecting health, ecosystems and equity

Ceres Trust supports organizations and independent scientists in Hawai’i, the upper Midwest and the San Joaquin Valley of California that are part of movements to protect people, farms and ecosystems from pesticide poisoning.


Stories from the Field

Beyond Toxics Leads Challenge to Oregon OSHA’s Proposed Rules

Farm Worker Rally
In 2017 and 2018, Beyond Toxics led the fight to challenge Oregon OSHA’s proposed new rules on farmworker pesticide protections.
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Good Neighbor Iowa’s Public Education Campaign

Good Neighbor Iowa signs
Good Neighbor Iowa launched a statewide public education campaign on April 22, 2017 to significantly reduce and eliminate pesticide use in schools, parks, childcare centers, churches, businesses, and all other large expanses of turf in communities throughout Iowa.
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Food Justice Tour and Summit

World Support Food Justice
Hawai'i Alliance for Progressive Action and Pesticide Action Network collaborated on an international food justice tour and summit, challenging the global impacts of the agrichemical industry and bringing together pesticide–affected communities from around the world into common cause.
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Organizing to Protect Children

HI Governors Office
Hawai'i SEED organized alongside mothers from across the Hawaiian Islands to meet with the Governor and staff, demanding that children be protected from the health and developmental harms related to pesticide exposure (2016).
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Pesticides in Paradise

HI CFS Infographic
The Hawai'i Center for Food Safety published a report, Pesticides in Paradise, Hawai'i's Health and Environment at Risk, shared across the islands to engage communities in learning about pesticide use in Hawai'i, and taking steps to protect the health, sovereignty, and diverse ecosystems of the island chain.
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The Power of Grassroots Organizing

When the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced their draft regulation to protect schoolchildren from exposure to agricultural pesticides, the Safe Ag Safe Schools coalition in Salinas pressured DPR to ensure that a public hearing was added to the roster of events.
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Beverly St. John

Toxic Tators Event
Beverly St. John acts on her concerns about illness and the environment through participation in the citizen’s group Toxic Taters. She is willing to confront the justification for agricultural chemicals. She is moved by a love of her culture and by a living compassion for the future of everyone’s children.
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