Farm workers subsidise the pesticide industry via sickness & disease. 

The convenience of pesticides should not allow international agencies and governments to underestimate the potential cost to health and to the environment. On every continent.

Worldwide, people working and living near crops and orchards suffer pesticide related disease.  However, due to the accumulation of different pesticides, many of the more toxic pesticides 'slip through the net' as symptoms cannot be differentiated according to a particular pesticide. In many poorer countries more dangerous pesticides are  less regulated - and they often remain available long after other countries have removed products from sale.

If there is an argument for an international system of pesticide assessment - perhaps this is it.  A duty to protect the most vulnerable: agricultural workers, pregnant mothers and children in less developed economies.  At the core of RITE is a duty of care to prevent harm.

Migrant and poor workers are often most vulnerable and least able to speak up, often due to language and literacy challenges. Pesticide related illness is often undocumented.

Pesticide workers can suffer acute poisoning and diverse alterations of the digestive, neurological, respiratory, circulatory, dermatological, renal, and reproductive system.[1]

'Agricultural workers have elevated risks for several specific cancer types including leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and cancers of the lip, stomach, prostate, brain, and connective tissue.' [2] 

Cancer deaths have been found to double in regions where GM crops and agrichemical pesticides are used.  Independent science has repeatedly demonstrated the connections, the toxicity of the pesticides, the pathways to ill health and the effect on the environment.

No cumulative risk assessment is carried out by the US EPA, WHO or European Commission - many pesticide workers annually work with the same mix of pesticides.

World Health Organisation : sitting on it's hands while suffering unfolds.

Countries suffering - Chronic kidney disease, malformations, suicides & cancer.

India:  As an agrarian country, and one of the largest pesticide manufacturers in the world, there are well documented case studies documenting pesticide related ill health and community sickness with reports of childhood illness, malformations, cancers and chronic kidney disease (CKDu) throughout the many growing regions.

Latin America: South American universities are at the forefront of research into the effects of glyphosate. Andrés Carrasco, a doctor who identified and investigated malformations and other pesticide related disorders and illnesses, was an early researcher to document the unfolding tragedy. As a result many South Americans may be very aware of the harm herbicide resistant GMO’s, and their heavy spray regime, can cause to farm workers and families living nearby to GMO fields. 

Argentina:  'A federal environmental law requires applicators of toxic chemicals to suspend or cancel activities that threaten public health, "even when the link has not been scientifically proven," and "no matter the costs or consequences," but it has never been applied to farming, the auditor general found last year.' [4]

"The change in how agriculture is produced has brought, frankly, a change in the profile of diseases," says Dr. Medardo Avila Vazquez, a pediatrician and neonatologist who co-founded Doctors of Fumigated Towns, part of a growing movement demanding enforcement of agricultural safety rules. "We've gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects, and illnesses seldom seen before."  [4]

Cordoba - A comprehensive report on cancer in the province documented five years of information. The highest rate of deaths occur where most transgenic and agrochemicals were used. The death rate is double the national average.  "What we have complained about for years was confirmed and especially what doctors say about the sprayed towns and areas affected by industrial agriculture. Cancer cases are multiplying as never before in areas with massive use of pesticides." [5]

Brazil -  public prosecutor wants to ban glyphosate and conduct a re-evaluation of the 8 top active chemicals suspected of causing damage to human health. In August 2018 a judge in Brazil  suspended regulation of Roundup pending a government assessment. 

In Central America pesticide corporations use trade negotiations to avoid bans and undercut public health protections.  [6]

Asia: Research out of Asia indicates awareness of pesticide related disease is increasing as reports of illness (and again, CKDu) grow, particularly in Sri Lanka, where over 22,000 deaths from CKDu linked to glyphosate usage. Sri Lanka placed a temporary ban, which was later lifted. A recent study (Jayasumana et al., 2015) builds on the hypothesis that CKDu in Sri Lanka is a drinking water-related disease in farmers who have a history of spraying glyphosate.

Pesticide poisoning disproportionately affects children and infants (Goldmann, 2004), and the developing foetus is especially vulnerable. Children are often more highly exposed through the way they eat, drink and play. Women are also highly susceptible to the effects of pesticides. Physically, they have higher absorption through skin and more body fat, and are further affected through reproductive impacts. Two thirds of rural women in developing countries come from low-income households, and they often head households as men migrate to cities in search of work. Poverty and malnutrition exacerbate the effects of pesticides. Women, while frequently employed as pesticide applicators, are less likely than men to receive formal training in reduced risk practices (Watts 2010, forthcoming).
Aside from poisoning, the impacts of dependency on pesticides in the Asian region have been previously documented, including effects on livelihoods caused by debt and poverty due to the increasing chemical costs and crop losses, and loss of biodiversity which is the source of food, health and livelihood for many rural communities (Rengam et al., 2001; Rengam et al., 2007). Pesticides can infringe human rights to food, health and clean drinking water - not only those of workers and farmers that experience occupational exposure to pesticides, but also those of residents in surrounding farmland and villages, and consumers who are exposed to pesticide residues on food (Young, 2005).
— Asian Regional Report on Community Monitoring of Hazardous Pesticide Use. PANAP 2010 [7]

Again, funding for research reflects documented illnesses in farming regions and continues to explore the glyphosate/health connection.  Suicides with pesticides is a major social issue everywhere, but particularly in Asia. Pesticides are used for 1/3 of the world’s suicide fatalities.

Africa:  'Farmers viewed regular ill health from pesticides almost as a fact of farming life and felt
powerless to change their situation. One young mother who suffered a miscarriage after inhaling pesticides on the family cowpea plots, said “The pesticide does its job but it’s the side effects we don’t like. There is no option-we have to do this.'  Increasingly, smallholder farmers are using pesticides (often unlabelled and adulterated), but without the protective equipment and management practices that will protect them. [8]

'The potential cost of pesticide-related illnesses in sub-Saharan African between 2005 and 2020 could reach $90bn (£56bn), according to a UN report .. highlighting the growing health and environmental hazards from chemicals. [9]

It said the estimated cost of pesticide poisoning exceeds the total amount of international aid for basic health services for the region, excluding HIV/Aids.' [10]

New Zealand:  Studies to prove safety for pesticides are provided by the applicant (the pesticide corporation). The current decision document proving worker safety in New Zealand AOEL (accepted operator exposure level) for glyphosate (Roundup) in New Zealand cites two ancient private, unpublished studies : Suresh, T.P. 1993 : Teratogenicity study in rabbits. (Rallis).   Lankas, G.R.; Hogan, G.K. (1981): A Lifetime Feeding Study of Glyphosate (Roundup Technical) in Rats: Project No. 772062. (Monsanto).


Example: Phenoxy Herbicide 2,4-D

The USA non-carcinogenic status of 2,4-D is based on a thorough assessment of pesticide industry produced studies.

2,4-D 2005 EPA evaluation, repeatedly cites these studies as the reason for 2,4-D's continued status as non-carcinogenic. The W.H.O. 1996 evaluation of 2,4-D also details industry-produced, out of date studies. 

The connection between phenoxy herbicides and illness such as soft tissue sarcoma and malignant lymphoma has been understood for over 30 years. [8] [9]  But the Agencies ignore this and continue to increase the residue levels.

In 2001 the permitted level for 2,4-D on our cereals doubled, without consultation of the raft of independent studies showing that 2,4-D causes damage. 2,4-D is sprayed on wheat as a defoliant. (Agent Orange, which 2,4-D is a component of, was used as a defoliant in the Vietnam war.)

The Agencies do not include independent research in it's core studies that make up the decisions on carcinogenicity.  

And pesticide workers continue to suffer.

Pesticide related disease is an environmental cost in every country, including my own, New Zealand. Economic benefits should not allow us to ignore the environmental costs.


Pesticide Action Network is the largest international science based organisation demonstrating pesticide harm.

PAN Asia & the Pacific   PAN Latin America: PAN Chile.

PAN India - also in India Centre for Science and Environment, ASHA, and India for Safe Food.  Vandana Shiva, a tireless campaigner for safe and nutritious food..

PAN Africa    PAN Europe     PAN North America    PAN New Zealand   Farmworker Justice Organisation      Earthjustice Organisation 

The Slow Poisoning of India Documentary. Ramesh Menon.

Living in the Shadow of the Bhopal Disaster. Mother Jones. Photographs by Alex Masi, oral history by Sanjay Verma, introduction by Maddie Oatman

Victims call for justice 30 years after Bhopal pesticide disaster. Reuters. Nita Bhalla.

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[1] . Payán-Rentería R1, Garibay-Chávez G, Rangel-Ascencio R, Preciado-Martínez V, Muñoz-Islas L, Beltrán-Miranda C, Mena-Munguía S, Jave-Suárez L, Feria-Velasco A, De Celis R. Arch Environ Occup Health. 2012;67(1):22-30. doi: 10.1080/19338244.2011.564230.

[2] Epidemiologic studies of cancer in agricultural workers. Dr. Neil Pearce PhD1,* andJohn S. Reif DVM, MSc2 Article first published online: 19 JAN 2007.    DOI: 10.1002/ajim.4700180206

[3]  Danger in the fields.  Dario Aranda. Pagina 12, 23 June 2014

[4] Huffington Post: As Argentina's Pesticide Use Increases, Many Worry About Growing Link To Health Problems.  MICHAEL WARREN and NATACHA PISARENKO. 10/20/2013.

[5] Cancer deaths double in Argentina's GMO agribusiness areas.  Lawrence Woodward.   24th August 2014

[6] Who's afraid of national laws? Pesticide corporations use trade negotiations to avoid bans and undercut public health protections in Central America. Rosenthal E. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2005 Oct-Dec; 11(4): 437-43.

[7] Communities in Peril: Asian regional reporting on community monitoring of highly hazardous pesticide use. 2010 PAN AP

[8] Hazardous pesticides and health impacts in Africa. PAN UK & Africa 2005/6.

[9] Pesticides could cost sub-Saharan Africa $90bn in illness bill, UN warns. The Guardian, September 6, 2012.

[10] Soft tissue sarcoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in workers exposed to phenoxy herbicides, chlorophenols, and dioxins: two nested case-control studies. Kogevinas M1, Kauppinen T, Winkelmann R, Becher H, Bertazzi PA, Bueno-de-Mesquita HB, Coggon D, Green L, Johnson E, Littorin M, et al. Epidemiology. 1995 Jul;6(4):396-402.

[11]  Relation of soft-tissue sarcoma, malignant lymphoma and colon cancer to phenoxy acids, chlorophenols and other agents.  Hardell L. Scand J Work Environ Health. 1981 Jun;7(2):119-30.