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Becoming a Victim of Pesticides : Legal Action and Its Effects on the Mobilisation of Affected Farmworkers

Jean-Noël Jouzel a, Giovanni Prete b,*

a Centre de sociologie des organisations (CSO), 19, rue Amélie, 75007 Paris, France
b Institut de recherche interdisciplinaire sur les enjeux sociaux (IRIS), Université Paris 13, UFR SMBH, 74, rue Marcel Cachin, 93017 Bobigny cedex, France
* Corresponding author.

Available online 27 October 2015 on Science direct
doi : 10.1016/j.soctra.2015.09.010

This article analyses the effects of legal action on the mobilisation of farmworkers suffering from illnesses they link to the use of pesticides. It draws on a qualitative survey conducted with members of the Phyto-Victims Association, a protest organization comprised of sick farmworkers, their families, and the legal professionals who support them. Using this material, we retrace the paths taken by these farmworkers to obtain recognition for their status as pesticide “victims”. We describe the ambiguous effects of the law on this process at both individual and collective levels. We show how the law helps farmworkers to see their illness as an injury requiring compensation and to consider themselves as “occupational victims”. We also suggest that legal action prevents a full exploration of the responsibilities involved, and may trap farmworkers in a reductive face-off with pesticide producers.

Keywords : Law ; Pesticides ; Health ; Victims ; Social Movements ; Agriculture.

Article Outline

  • 1. Improbable victims : the difficult recognition of pesticide-related occupational diseases
    • 1.1. Thwarted entry into the trajectory of a farmworker victim of pesticides
    • 1.2. Recognition “before the law” of occupational diseases
    • 1.3. When the trajectory makes the combatant
  • 2. From the individual to the collective : the Phyto-victims cause taken up by the law
    • 2.1. A legal professional’s increasing involvement in the cause
    • 2.2. Constructing a strategy for legal action
    • 2.3. The fiction of good labelling : the experience of the law and its blind spots
  • 3. Conclusion
  • References

Sociologie du travail
Volume 57, Supplement 1, November 2015
Translated by Christopher Hinton