Modern Tomato and Slavery
If you accustomed to buying tomatoes in your grocery store, you might just be selling your soul without knowing it. Most tomatoes that you find in the store, are grown in Florida. They are grown in the sand without any nutrients, sprayed with over 100 different pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides and then harvested when green and hard and transported to the plant where they are exposed to ethylene gas to allow the skin to turn red thus looking ripe and delicious. The result toxic and tasteless. If this doesn’t turn you off enough, perhaps being enlightened on the conditions the pickers have to face might do the trick.
The modern day tomato pickers (and same goes for oranges and apples) are treated like slaves. Over 70% of workers are undocumented immigrants, used and disposed of. In a candid interview with Etocracy.com with Barry Estabrook, author of ‘Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit’ – he describes just horrible these conditions are.
Slavery is what is happening. There is no way to gloss it. You can’t say “slavery-like.” You can’t say “near-slavery.” “Human trafficking” doesn’t even do it credit. Here are some things that are in court records; it’s all been proven.
People are being bought and sold like chattels. People are locked and shackled in chains at night in order to prevent them from escaping. People are being beaten severely if they’re too tired to work, too sick to work or don’t want to work hard enough. People are beaten even more severely or murdered if they try to escape. They receive little or no pay for their efforts.
That, to me, is slavery. It’s like 1850, not 2011.
Florida tomatoes can be sprayed with more than 100 different fungicides, pesticides and herbicides. Some of them are what the Environmental Protection Agency calls “acutely toxic” – which is a nice way of saying they can kill you. The containers come with skulls and crossbones.
I talked to three or four dozen tomato workers during the course of my research and I’d ask them if they’d ever been sprayed. It was like asking them if they put their pants on one leg at a time. They’d say, “Of course! It happens every day.” It’s illegal, but it happens. Florida tomatoes have to be sprayed regularly or they’ll die because of all the insects and diseases there.
Most workers now are first generation Hispanic, so they know there have been short term effects.
Florida attorney’s defending pickers agree that this is ground zero for modern day slavery. The cold hard truth is that if you’ve eaten a winter tomato purchased from a supermarket or at a restaurant, then you have eaten food that has been picked by a slave. Us Attorney Douglas Malloy in Florida, says “That’s not an assumption. That’s a fact.” This is what we have created by our demand of convenience. Buy local.