Coalition Accuses California Pesticide Regulators of Civil Rights Laws Violation due to Lax Oversight

In California, the pesticide-reform group has had it up to here with the state attorney general’s failure to investigate civil rights violations impacting farmworkers. The state’s hazardous pesticide usage is a cocktail for disaster, damaging brains and lungs and causing cancer — with Latine and Indigenous communities bearing the brunt. If this isn’t a civil rights violation, I guess we’re all just living in a B-movie horror flick titled “Pesticides from Hell!”

A Rising Call for Pesticide Reforms in California

In Watsonville, California, a group advocating for pesticide reforms has called for an investigation into alleged civil rights violations. Yanely Martinez, a representative from Californians for Pesticide Reform, highlighted the excessive use of harmful pesticides in California, particularly in farmworker communities like Watsonville. Martinez called for greater transparency around pesticide use and the end of discriminatory policies.

An investigation co-led by Californians for Pesticide Reform and law professor Gregg Macey concluded with an “advisory opinion,” offering guidelines for investigating violations and ensuring compliance with state and federal civil rights laws. The investigation revealed multiple failures of state and county pesticide regulators, leading to disproportionately harmful health impacts on farmworker communities.

State pesticide regulators are currently reviewing the report from the People’s Tribunal. Meanwhile, Jessica Gonzalez, a senior at Watsonville High School, echoed Martinez’s sentiments, expressing concern for the health of her community and urging pesticide regulators to prioritize health over profits.

A History of Discrimination Charges

California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation has faced allegations of civil rights violations before. The agency was the subject of the EPA’s preliminary finding of a Title VI civil rights violation in 2011. However, despite an agreement to carry out air monitoring for pesticides around schools and provide resources for dealing with pesticide exposure, there has been little change in real-world conditions.

California’s majority Latine counties suffer a significantly higher rate of pesticide exposure, with the ZIP code including Watsonville being one of the most affected areas. Ann López, an advisory opinion co-author and director of the nonprofit Center for Farmworker Families, called this a clear case of environmental racism.

Pesticide Exposure: The Unseen Threat

Testimonies from the People’s Tribunal on Pesticide Use and Civil Rights in California in September revealed the wide-reaching impacts of pesticide exposure. Pesticides have been linked to learning deficits, impulsiveness, autism spectrum disorder, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Farmworkers also recounted experiencing allergies, skin rashes, vomiting, and increased anxiety due to fear of retaliation for speaking out.

The Environmental Working Group developed a pesticide mapping tool so community members could see when and where pesticides are used. However, the data is outdated, leaving residents unable to adequately protect themselves. The result is a pressing need for an overhaul of the current pesticide regulation system in California to protect farmworker communities and uphold their civil rights.

Original Story at