Silent Invaders

Pesticides, Livelihoods and Women's Health

Edited by Barbara Dinham and Miriam Jacobs


The health and environmental impacts of the pesticides used in hi-tech agriculture are under scrutiny. This work brings together the experience and findings of the people involved in monitoring the development pesticides, dialoguing with manufacturers, and campaigning for tighter controls.
At a time when the world‘s intensive hi-tech agricultural system is being criticised for its health and environmental impacts, pesticides are increasingly under scrutiny. Pesticides Action Network UK is part of an international network of national and community organizations monitoring pesticides and campaigning for tighter controls and for new bio-friendly approaches to agricultural production. This book brings together in an up-to-date and comprehensive manner the experience and findings of many different scientists, farmers‘ organizations and PAN members around the world.

The particular focus is on women‘s health. In many societies, most work in the fields is done by women rather than men. As a result, not only are more women than men often exposed to pesticides, but the toxic effects impact on women in specific physiological ways. The information in this volume documents this and makes clear the urgent need for more systematic attention to gender issues in pesticide and sustainable agriculture-related research and action.

Of particular practical usefulness are those sections which examine what progress has been made by governments and corporations in improving safety and safe use of pesticides; and how local communities, and in particular women, have fought back against indiscriminate and unsafe pesticide use, and pursued alternatives. A tool kit points readers to relevant action methodologies and sources of further information.

Author Bio

Barbara Dinham is director of the Pesticide Action Network UK.

Miriam Jacobs is a nutritionist and toxicologist. She lectures in food safety and toxicology at the University of Surrey. She also lectures at the Royal Veterinary School, University of London, and sits on the FRAME (Fund for Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments) working group on endocrine disruptors.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword - Clare Short
  • 1. Introduction: The Failure to Protect Women from Pesticides - Marion Moses
  • Part I: Pesticides versus People
    • 2. Introduction to Part I - Barbara Dinham
    • 3. 'Nobody Told Me They Were Harmful': Pesticide Exposure and the Health of Women Farm Workers - Margaret Reeves and Lucy Rosas
    • 4. Multiple Health Problems in Latin America - Catharina Wesseling
    • 5. Rural Mothers with HIV: Eliminating Pesticide Exposure - Sam L Page
    • 6. Women, Pesticide Use and Access to Information: Experiences from Niger Marian J. H. Hulshof and Sankung B. Sagnia
    • 7. Caught in the Cotton Trap: Women's Exposure and Dependence in Benin Simplice - Davo Vodouhe
    • 8. A Woman's Work is Never Done: Agriculture in Senegal Abou Thiam with Seynabou Sissoko
    • 9. Invisible Farmers: Rural Roles in Pakistan - Nasira Habib
    • 10. Day in, Day out: Lack of Protection in India - Daisy Dharmaraj and Sheila Jayaprakash
  • Part II: The Science of Pesticide Exposure and Health
    • 11. Introduction to Part II - Miriam Jacobs
    • 12. High Risk Exposure: Gender, Age and Poverty - Jenny Pronczuk, Nida Besbelli and Michael Ruse
    • 13. Measuring Gender Differences in Response to Pesticide Exposure - John McLaren Howard
    • 14. Human Exposure to Airborne Pesticide Pollutants - Ordias Chikuni and Anuschka Polder
    • 15. Cancer Risks in Agriculture - Lucia Miligi and Laura Settimi
    • 16. Environmental Organochlorine Exposure and the Risk for Breast Cancer - Lennart Hardell
    • 17. Explaining Breast Cancer and Chemical Liniks: Health Hazards for Women Workers - Dieter Flesch-Janys
    • 18. Birth Defects in an Agricultural Environment - Ana M. Garcia
    • 19. Reproductive Health and Pesticide Exposure - Xiping Xu and Sung-Il Cho
    • 20. Unsafe Sex: How Endocrine Disruptors Work - Miriam Jacobs
    • 21. Pesticides and P450 Induction: Gender Implications - David F. V. Lewis
  • Part III: A Precautionary Approach to Policy and Regulation
    • 22. Introduction to Part III - Barbara Dinham
    • 23. Failing Laws: Assumptions and Realities for Women in South African Agriculture - Leslie London and Hanna-Andrea Rother
    • 24. Safety at Work and Gender Bias: Attitudes to Risk in Setting Policy - Meriel A. Watts
    • 25. Implementing Pesticide Regulation: Gender Differences - Andrew Wattterson and Jenny Wattterson
    • 26. Double Jeopardy: Chemicals in the Home and the Workplace - David Watt
  • Part IV: Taking Action
    • 27. Introduction to Part IV - Barbara Dinham
    • 28. Breaking the Silence: Women Struggle for Pesticide Elimination - Sarogeni Rengam
    • 29. The Bhopal Aftermath: Generations of Women Affected - Satinath Sarangi
    • 30. The Campaign against Lindane: The Lessons of Women's Action - Jill Day
    • 31. Integrated Pest Management: Gender Sensitive and Participatory Approaches - Adrienne Martin and Kerry Albright
    • 32. Integrated Pest Management: Training Women To Take Control - John Pontius and Alifah Sri Lestari
  • Technical Annex
  • Web Resources
  • Abbreviations
  • Glossary
  • About the Contributors
  • Index


'We should all be indebted to Miriam Jacobs for her work on the effects of pesticides. She is that rare creature: a scientist who uses simple language we can all understand. Every woman who cares about the connection between her health and the food she eats should read this book.'
John Humphrys, broadcaster and author of The Great Food Gamble

'Silent Invaders follows the tradition of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring to wake us up from the ecological slumber that allows poisons to spread even in a period when safe alternatives to them are recognised and proven.'
Vandana Shiva, scientist, author and campaigner

'Authored by leading thinkers in the field of public health, this is a book to send to government officials, carry into public hearings, discuss with neighbours, and keep open on one's own writing desk.'
Sandra Steingraber, author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment

'A superb book constituting a well documented, excellently reasoned case against the continued widespread use of chemical pesticides.'
Dennis Parke, former Chairman of the WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues


Publication Date: 1 November 2002
352 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781856499965
Library Edition: 9781856499958

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