Toxic Free North Carolina recently announced the unfortunate end of a long battle. Since 2005, the agricultural giant Ag-Mart has been under investigation for negligence that likely resulted in severe birth defects in at least three farmworker families whose mothers had worked while pregnant on Ag-Mart farms in Florida and North Carolina. The North Carolina Pesticide Board accepted a final settlement agreement in the case that started in 2005 when the state found hundreds of AgMart pesticide safety violations in what would become the Department of Agriculture’s largest enforcement case ever.
As Toxic Free NC reports, “One of the children died, and another, Carlitos, became a symbol of this case through stirring photography and reporting in the Raleigh News & ObserverPalm Beach Post. An investigation by the NC Division of Public Health could not prove whether the exposures of pregnant workers to pesticides caused the birth defects, but found that they were almost certainly a contributing factor." In the settlement, Ag-Mart is to pay $25,000 and must conduct a pesticide education program for North Carolina farmworkers during the 2011 and 2012 growing season.
“This is a ludicrous response to a heinous crime,” says PAN senior scientist Dr. Margaret Reeves, who worked on a critique of the Florida Department of Agriculture’s investigation of the case.