Students Urge Grape Boycott
Committee Plans to Raise Student Awareness of Protest
A group of students supporting the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) boycott of grapes met Thursday night to discuss ways of encouraging other students to join the protest.
Erin E. Miller '93, co-chair of the Harvard Committee on Food and Justice said the group hopes to raise awareness by boycotting grapes and by postering and picketing.
"There are really good things going on [with the boycott]," said Sue M. Johnson '91-'92, the group's other co-chair. "If consumers could cut into sales 9 percent, the growers will have to listen," said Johnson, who spent the summer in California working for UFW.
At the organizational meeting, the group outlined plans to poster, table and petition on campus during the next three weeks. The group's long-term goals include testing locally-sold grapes and picketing large supermarket chains.
"Bread and Circus would be our big target," Miller said. "Right now they are selling what they call organic grapes that aren't any different from regular grapes," she said.
The group's leaders said they formed the organization in response to a speech by labor leader Cesar Chavez last year at the Kennedy School of Government. Chavez, a leader of the UFW campaign, urged students in that speech to spread the grape boycott to Harvard.
The 11 people who attended the meeting viewed a film produced by the UFW called "Wrath of Grapes" that depicted children who had developed cancer as a result of pesticide use. The film criticized grape producers and blamed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its lax standards.
According to UFW, a third of the 8 million pounds of pesticides used in grape production have been found to cause cancer. The UFW began its boycott on California table grapes in 1984 to protest of the use of these pesticides.
"The EPA has said that they can't make a direct connection betweeen pesticides and cancer, which is pretty sad," Johnson said. "They are completely inefficient," she said.