Santa Clara University

Food & Agribusiness Institute

Food & Agribusiness Institute

Food & Agribusiness Blog for news, events, announcements, and more.

  •  Food for Thought Speaker Series: Pesticide Poisoning Among Farmworkers

    Wednesday, February 16
    12-1:30 p.m.
    Forbes Family Conference Center
    Lucas Hall Room 126

    Lunch will be provided; RSVP required

    Featuring Michael Marsh, Directing Attorney of the Salinas Migrant office of California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA)

    Popular discourse debates the benefits of organic versus conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.  But little attention is given to farmworkers who live and work on the front lines in the “war”—as conventional growers see it—against agricultural pests.  As agriculture has boomed, so has pesticide use.  In Monterey County, for instance, approximately 8 million pounds of pesticides are applied each year and approximately 1,000 individual pesticide applications are made each day.  Farmworkers and their families are frequently sickened by pesticides—workers are sprayed in the field or work on plants covered in pesticide residue, school buses have been doused in “over spray”, and entire communities have been contaminated by pesticide drift.  Unfortunately, not enough is being done to protect farmworkers from pesticide poisoning.  While California pesticide regulating agencies claim to provide the highest level of protection in the country, the reality is far different.  Many regulations are ineffective, and many enforcement agencies are underfunded or have a conflict of interest in their dual purpose to both promote conventional agriculture and protect workers from pesticides.  As long as the organic/conventional debate remains mired in the suburban question of what belongs in our refrigerators, farmworkers and their families will continue to be ignored and sickened by pesticides.

    Michael Marsh is Directing Attorney of the Salinas Migrant office of California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA), an organization with twenty-two offices statewide dedicated to improving the lives of farmworkers and their families.  Michael formerly directed CRLA’s Agricultural Worker Health Program.  Michael provides legal assistance and representation to farmworkers in a variety of employment matters, including unpaid wages, occupational health and safety, heat illness prevention, meal and rest periods, and sexual harassment.  Michael represents farmworkers who have been poisoned and/or exposed to pesticides, and argues that one of the principal reasons to eat organic fruits and vegetables is to protect the farmworkers who provide us with the food we eat.  Michael joined California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) as an Equal Justice Works Attorney Fellow in 2004 after graduating from UCLA School of Law.

    For more information about CRLA, visit and

    Co-sponsored by the Environmental Studies Institute, the Office of Sustainability, the Bronco Urban Gardens Program, The Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center, the Center for Social Justice and Public Service, and the Office for Multicultural Learning. Part of the Legacies Series.

    To RSVP click here:

Food & Agribusiness Institute
Printer-friendly format