Thursday, January 04, 2007

What's the penalty for exposing
farmworkers to toxic pesticides?

The state of North Carolina has lost a key ruling in its historic case against Ag-Mart and can fine the tomato grower no more than $500.

The state had sought $184,500, its largest pesticide fine ever.

Ag-Mart is accused of exposing employees to toxic pesticides, but an administrative law judge ruled that more than two-thirds of the 369 pesticide law violations the produce company faces are invalid.

Florida-based Ag-Mart sells tomatoes under the brand names Santa Sweets and Ugly Ripes at grocery stores across the country. The company, which employs several hundred seasonal workers, is charged with forcing employees to work in fields freshly sprayed with pesticides, which can damage the nervous system and cause birth defects.

Ag-Mart is being sued by a former field hand who, after working in Ag-Mart's Florida fields during pregnancy, bore a child with no arms or legs in December 2004. The boy, known as Carlitos, was born in Immokalee.

Read the Sarasota Herald-Tribune article here. And see previous posts about Carlitos here, here, here, here, here and here.


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