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Pesticides, Waste & Human Health: Our Impacts

All over the world, conventional pesticides pose significant health hazards to workers and wildlife -- a problem compounded by the fact that safety practices governing their use are often inadequate or unenforced. While developing countries account for only 25 percent of global pesticide use, they suffer 99 percent of acute pesticide-related fatalities1.

Our programs call for integrated pest management -- relying on nature’s own defenses. Although Rainforest Alliance Certified farms are permitted to use certain agrochemicals, they may only do so under stringent controls designed to protect people, wildlife and ecosystems. Businesses that work with us must also safeguard the health of employees, their families and surrounding communities and are required to reduce and treat their waste.

Rainforest Alliance Certification Earns Top Honor for Pesticide Practices on Farms

When the UK branch of the Pesticide Action Network evaluated the pesticide practices of all existing agricultural certification schemes, Rainforest Alliance certification tied for the top honor and was cited as having the most detailed requirements for health protection.

Certified Coffee Farms Are Better at Handling Waste and Pesticides

  • In a 2012 comparison2 of certified and noncertified coffee farms in Colombia, certified farms had significantly higher rates of: protective-equipment usage for chemical applications; specialized warehouses dedicated to chemical storage; employee training in first aid and pesticide application; septic-tank use; and solid-waste collection.
  • On coffee farms in Brazil, Rainforest Alliance certification led to more responsible farm management including: the disposal of wastewater from coffee washing; the management of waste produced in the fueling and washing of farm machinery; waste and sewage disposal from lodgings and houses; and the use of complete protective gear3.
  • In a survey4 of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee farms in Nicaragua, farmers reported that since earning certification in 2004, the combination of fewer chemicals and a better quality of life had led to improved overall health, and that their workers now had better shower and toilet facilities.

Certified Banana Plantations Reduce Agrochemicals and Water-Contamination Risks

In Ecuador, Rainforest Alliance Certified banana farms performed significantly better5 than their noncertified peers on measures of agrochemical use, waste disposal and water quality.

Certified Forestry Enterprises Are Safer and Offer Better Access to Medical Care

In an examination of certified and noncertified community-run forestry3 enterprises in Acre, Brazil, certified businesses did a better job of protecting their workers. Members of certified enterprises were more likely to use protective gear and nearly four times more likely to have taken part in a safety course.

Sustainable Tourism Businesses Reduce Waste and Improve Worker Health

A survey of tourism businesses that have worked with the Rainforest Alliance found that:

  • 71 percent reduced their solid waste by recycling and reusing materials, and the remaining 29 percent maintained stable waste levels even as their number of visitors increased.
  • 93 percent improved job quality and reduced the risk of accidents by adopting safety measures.

The Social Benefits of Our Work:

  1. Pesticide Action Network,

  2. David Hughell and Deanna Newsom, Impacts of Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee farms in Colombia, 2013.

  3. Imaflora, Does Certification Make a Difference? Impact Assessment Study On FSC/SAN Certification In Brazil, 2009.

  4. Sandra K. Znajda, Examining the Impacts of the Rainforest Alliance/SAN Coffee Certification Program: A summary of local perspectives from San Juan del Rio Coco, Nicaragua, Dalhousie University, Canada, bib. entry 0092, 2009.

  5. C. J. Melo and S. A. Wolf. “Ecocertification of Ecuadorian Bananas: Prospects for Progressive North–South Linkages,” Studies in Comparative International Development 42 (2007): 256–278. (Abstract:

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