Processing Magazine

Trial begins in Central American banana workers case

July 23, 2007

Central American banana workers were left sterile after being exposed to a dangerous pesticide that was improperly applied and used in amounts exceeding guidelines, an attorney said during his opening statement in a civil trial. According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit accuses Dole Fresh Fruit Co. and Standard Fruit Co., now a part of Dole, of negligence and fraudulent concealment while using the pesticide DBCP in the 1970s. According to the lawsuit, Dow Chemical Co. and Amvac Chemical Corp., manufacturers of the pesticide, "actively suppressed information about DBCP''s reproductive toxicity.” The lawyer representing the workers claimed Dole sprayed the pesticide rather than injecting it into the soil or mixing it with ground water as its manufacturer recommended on the product''s label. DBCP was used to kill microscopic worms on the roots of the banana plants. Dole told workers to apply 10 gallons a year, when label instructions called for just 1 1/2 gallons, according to Miller. DBCP was approved for use in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency until 1979. In Nicaragua, it was legal from 1973 until 1993.