Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2012

Abstract

Farmworkers in the United States are recognized as an environmental justice community. The farmworker population is low-income and primarily Hispanic, and is at a disproportionate risk from exposure to an environmental contaminant pesticides. Farmworkers face distributional, procedural, corrective, and social challenges with this exposure, as is common with other environmental justice communities. Social challenges include socioeconomic and political inequities that are grounded in the historical domination of the agricultural industry over its labor force. The production and use of pesticides is a function of the economic priorities of industry. Employers profit from pesticide use and are able to maximize their profits through less regulation. They are able to circumvent dissent about pesticide use by exerting social control over the group that they put at risk---farmworkers.

The premise of this Article is that social, economic, and political factors interact in a way that ensures that farmworkers continue to lack participation in decision-making in pesticide regulation, that disproportionate health impacts are perpetuated, and that changing the status quo is difficult. Farmworkers have had little success in addressing harmful occupational pesticide exposure using methods that some environmental justice communities have employed, i.e., lobbying for effective regulation, engaging in public demonstration, or pursuing traditional litigation. In order to find appropriately tailored remedies for this particular environmental injustice, it is important to recognize that disproportionate pesticide exposure has less to do with a particular framework of regulation and more to do with underlying social and economic forces.

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