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2 Sides in Pesticide Dispute Face Off

March 12, 2000|CATHERINE BLAKE

In a dispute over proposed pesticide restrictions, farm workers carrying signs and placards faced environmentalists at a rally Saturday at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

The two groups, lined up on either side of a walkway leading to a public hearing on methyl bromide use, chanted slogans at each other.

The farm workers protested the potential lost jobs and income from eliminating methyl bromide.

The pesticide is a potent pest killer that when ejected into the soil removes many insects, mites, rodents and weeds before planting.

The fumigant has long been targeted for elimination by environmentalists and others because they say it is highly toxic and depletes the Earth's ozone layer.

"We are trying to get the message across that we do not want to take away jobs; we want to help find alternatives," said Eric A. Cardenas, a community organizer with the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara.

Many of the anti-pesticide protesters came from the center and UC Santa Barbara.

Mario Franco, an employee of Western Berry Farms, said the facts about the pesticide are disputed and workers can speak for themselves on the issue.

A few of the signs, most of them in Spanish, read: "We have our own voice, don't speak for us. All these people came to prove that it is not affecting their health. They keep saying we are poisoning our people and we aren't."

The public hearing is the second of four being held across the state by the state Department of Pesticide Regulations.

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