Dole Dodges Bullet But Banana Workers Not So Lucky
Last week, a federal judge ruled against 150 banana plantation workers in their case against Dole Foods for health problems following exposure to the toxic pesticide dibromochloropropane (DBCP). The judge did not deny that exposed Dole workers suffered health impacts, but that U.S. courts could not enforce a verdict from legal proceedings that did not meet international legal standards.
The workers’ case against Dole had been tainted by allegations that some attorneys seeking legal fees enticed unqualified plaintiffs into alleging damages where none existed. As a result, cases brought by many actual victims of the poisoning were clouded by suspicions. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, “actual workers who may have been hurt may receive nothing, even though Dole continued using a dangerous pesticide called DBCP after it had been linked definitively to male sterility.”
In 1977, California health officials reported sterility in workers at a Dow DBCP plant, and the chemical maker discontinued production. Though the EPA banned DBCP for most uses (including on bananas) in the U.S. in 1979, Dole continued to use the chemical on bananas in Nicaragua until 1980.
Dole has a history of continuing the use of hazardous pesticides long after they are known to be harmful to health and the environment. In the Philippines, Dole and Del Monte continued to use endosulfan until earlier this year, even though the chemical was banned for others in the country in 1993. Endosulfan is an organochlorine pesticide (the same pesticide family as DDT) that can cause reproductive and developmental harm in humans and wildlife. It is banned in the EU and in 20 nations worldwide. A coalition of farm worker, environmental and health groups sued the EPA in 2008 to ban the use of endosulfan in the U.S.