Sunday, October 9, 2011
Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook
Rarely, if ever, has a book made me this angry. I had no idea that today, here in the USA, in Florida, people are being held against their wills as slaves, beaten, subjected to cancer causing and birth defect causing caustic chemicals, living in horribly disgusting substandard conditions, sometimes locked up and killed, and we have all eaten tomatos that they picked. Our country, the land of the free, is not adequately protecting migrant farm workers from horrific abuse and working conditions and substandard pay.
This book brings these issues to light and they are issues that we all need to be aware of. Migrant farm workers who come to this country illegally are not trying to steal jobs from Americans. They are just trying to earn a living and are willing to work hard in conditions that legal Americans would not put up with and that we should not allow to exist in our country. Even though it is legally not supposed to happen, tomato pickers are routinely forced to work in fields where pesticide is being sprayed causing them to have respiritory problems and skin rashes and to have babies born with no arms and legs and other, often life-threatening and deadly birth defects. One man walked through what he thought was water as he worked and when he went home and showered, all of his toenails fell off.
Not only are we eating tomatoes that have been grown in and routinely sprayed with these poisons that we may be ingesting, but the workers who plant and pick those tomatos are getting all kinds of horrible illnesses from the pesticides that our country allows to be sprayed on our food. Is it worth that cost to eat tasteless tomatoes?
This book also chronicles the different types of tomatoes that are grown and shows that it is possible to grow tasty tomatoes organically and in safer conditions for the workers. The author tells about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which is assisting the migrant farm workers to earn at least minimum wage and to prosecute those tomato farmers and field bosses who are engaged in human trafficking.
Here is their website: http://ciw-online.org/slavery.html
I personally won't buy tomatoes from Florida any more. I realize, however, that the Florida tomato fields are not the only part of our agricultural industry that incorporates slave labor. We all need to become aware of the injustices and horrible abuses of human rights that are going on in our country and we need to do something about it. This book was a real eye-opener for me and I hope that others read it and are touched by it and moved to action against these abuses as well.