Who is picking our food?

Horticulutre Special Report
In a major investigation the Ecologist reports on the hidden stories behind those harvesting the fruit and vegetables - and other staples - we eat everyday, both in the UK and internationally
Over the past year the Ecologist has been investigating conditions for some of the thousands of workers picking some of our most popular foods.
Our reporting has taken us from Kent, Sussex and East Anglia in the UK, to Italy, the US and Africa, and the Caribbean, amongst other locations, examining those at the bottom of supply chains that bring us salad, tomatoes, oranges, bananas, nuts, tea and other staples.
Our unique and groundbreaking investigations have uncovered vast exploitation - including the sexual abuse of woman - shocking health impacts for workers exposed to dangerous chemicals, and the disturbing use of child labour, amongst a range of other abuses. 
We've also looked at what can be done to improve the sustainability of supply chains, met the teenagers fighting back against the might of US agribusiness, and toured the UK salad 'mega-farm' that's pioneering a new approach to employing migrant workers, asking whether this the future for industrial horticulture.
This is an ongoing project and further special reports, news and analysis will be published during 2012.

  • Andrew Wasley & Gianluca Martelliano report from southern Italy on the plight of Europe's 'tomato slaves', uncovering how exploitation and squalor blight the lives of migrant workers harvesting tomatoes that end up on dinner plates across Europe - including the UK

  • Barry Estabrook investigates the shocking cost of the industrial tomato sector's love affair with toxic chemicals - revealing how in the US serious birth defects have been linked to pesticide exposure suffered by female tomato pickers

  • Andrew Wasley gets an exclusive tour of Britain's salad 'mega-farm' to see how its thousands of migrant workers live

  • Read the original 'Who's picking our food?' investigation as a PDF
  • Gianluca Martelliano reports on developments following our orange harvest investigation, including pledges from Coca Cola and the Italian Government to address the problem.


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News investigation Scandal of the 'tomato slaves' harvesting crop exported to UK
Across Italy an invisible army of migrant workers harvests tomatoes destined for our dinner plates. Paid poverty wages and living in squalor, medical charities have described conditions as 'hell'. Andrew Wasley reports from Basilicata, southern Italy
Chemical warfare: the horrific birth defects linked to tomato pesticides
The 'Immokalee babies' were born with severe deformities after their mothers were each exposed to pesticides whilst harvesting tomatoes. Barry Estabrook reports on the case that shocked the US
PG Tips and Lipton tea hit by 'sexual harassment and poor conditions' claims
Unilever denies some female employees at its Rainforest Alliance-certified tea plantation in Kenya are subjected to sexual harassment. But Dutch research outfit SOMO paints a very different picture. Verity Largo and Andrew Wasley report
Police raid on illegal shellfish gang reveals 'national problem'
Our national taste for shellfish is leading to exploitation of our shores by criminal gangs, putting human health and fragile environments at risk
The Harvest: new film reveals scourge of child labour in US farming
Despite campaigning to reduce child labour internationally, the US is home to at least 230,000 child labourers toiling in the fields to pick blueberries, tomatoes or cotton

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