Why Labeling is Important for Farm Workers

Farm workers are the backbone of the U.S. agricultural economy. They shouldn’t have to risk their health from regular exposure to pesticides to put food on their own table or ours.

Farm workers are consistently exposed to dangerous pesticides


  • EcoWatch reported that: “An estimated 5.1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops annually in the U.S., and farmworkers face the greatest threat from these chemicals than any other sector of society, with thousands of farmworkers each year experiencing pesticide poisoning.”
  • “An average of 57.6 out of every 100,000 agricultural workers experience acute pesticide poisoning, illness or injury each year, the same order of magnitude as the annual incidence rate of breast cancer in the U.S.,” found a Beyond Pesticides report.
  • Virginia Ruiz stated that “the close proximity of agricultural fields to residential areas and schools makes it nearly impossible for farmworkers and their families to escape exposure because pesticides are in the air they breathe and the food they eat, and the soil where they work and play.”
  • According to EcoWatch, “The federal government estimates that there are 10,000-20,000 acute pesticide poisonings among workers in the agricultural industry annually, a figure that likely understates the actual number of acute poisonings since many affected farmworkers may not seek care from a physician.”
  • EcoWatch also reported that, “The cumulative long-term exposure to pesticides has put farmworkers and their children at risk of developing serious chronic health problems such as cancer, neurological impairments and Parkinson’s disease. Children, according to a recent American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report, face even greater health risks compared to adults when exposed to pesticides.”

Farmers are using more herbicides and insecticides because of GE crops

  • Overall pesticide use decreased only during the first few years of GE crops (1998 and 2001), but has since increased by 26 percent from 2001 to 2010.
  • According to The Wall Street Journal, “Insecticide sales are surging after years of decline, as American farmers plant more corn and a genetic modification designed to protect the crop from pests has started to lose its effectiveness.”
  • A recent Forbes story highlighted a report by Food & Water Watch that shows the quick adoption of GE crops by U.S. farmers has increased herbicide use over the past 9 years.
  • A story on Midwest corn farmers by NPR found that:

    “It appears that farmers have gotten part of the message: Biotechnology alone will not solve their rootworm problems. But instead of shifting away from those corn hybrids, or from corn altogether, many are doubling down on insect-fighting technology, deploying more chemical pesticides than before.”

  • And the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that:

    “Roundup Ready, or glyphosate-tolerant, crops — which are genetically engineered to withstand applications of Roundup — have become ubiquitous on American farmland, accounting for the vast majority of corn and soy grown in the country. But in recent years, as farmers have increasingly relied on the Roundup Ready system, weeds have evolved to survive glyphosate.”

GE crops have caused “superweeds”, “superinsects”, and increased use of herbicides


  • A report by Charles Benbrook, a WSU research professor, found U.S. farmers are using more hazardous pesticides due largely to heavy adoption of GE crop technologies that are sparking a rise of “superweeds.”
  • According to a report from the agribusiness consultancy Stratus, nearly half (49 percent) of all U.S. farmers surveyed said they have glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm in 2012, up from 34 percent of farmers in 2011.
  • In addition, Stratus found that more and more farms have at least two resistant species on their farm. In 2010 that was just 12 percent of farms, but two short years later 27 percent had more than one.
  • According to Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann, western corn rootworms found in four Iowa fields have developed a resistance to Monsanto’s pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) allowing the bug to eat its fill on previously untouchable corn.
  • In 2010, Monsanto acknowledged that in industrial-agriculture regions of India, where Monsanto’s Bt cotton is a dominant crop, a cotton-attacking pest called the bollworm had developed resistance.