Originally published June 23 2011
The true history of Dole, banana plantations, chemical pesticides and human suffering
by Kaitlyn Moore
(NaturalNews) One Hundred Years of Solitude, a novel by Gabrielle Garcia Marquez, is a historical account of the fictional town Macondo. A town loosely set around his Mr. Marquez's hometown in Aracataca, Columbia. A tale that is a social commentary of sorts on the effect of the American banana industry and the environmental, social, and physical havoc that followed it its wake.
Dole's Early Years
Castle and Cook to Standard Fruit to Dole, the name changes but Dole's dirty game stays the same because dirty is the way Dole likes to play. American naturalist Dan Koeppel relates an often forgotten story surrounding some of Dole's initial business dealings in the Honduras.
In 1903 the town hall in La Ceiba burned down taking with it marriage, birth, and land records. (http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/essa/det-sekell...)
The destruction of the land records left the officials with no official determination of who owned what land. Joseph Vaccato and his company Standard Fruit capitalized on this event in two ways- they no longer had to pay plot owners for using their land to grow bananas and the Dole plantations surrounding the village got most of the land in the reshuffle. Fast forward to 2011 where Dole is now the largest fresh fruit company with revenues over 7 billion dollars.
Dole and DBCP
In June 1989, Mother Jones went down to Costa Rica to get a first hand account from workers in the small villages of Rio Frio and Valle de la Estrella regarding the effect of the toxin DBCP on their lives. DBCP, formally known as dibromochloroproprane, is often referred to by its street name Nemagon.
This nematicde was the all the rage with fruit companies because it was extremely effective at killing a microscopic worm that feeds on banana plant roots without damaging the plants. The problem is that Nemagon is directly tied to sterility in men, miscarriages, stillbirths, birth defects, various types of cancer, depression, impotence and the list goes on.
The workers interviewed explained that direct exposure resulted from workers carrying the chemical in containers on their backs as they treated the banana plants. One worker reported that the chemical felt at first hot and stingy, then quickly went to cool and icy and that "it smelled awful and made us sleepy". Workers also commented on the environmental effects, " All the frogs and toads were gone in the valley after we used Nemagon... the fish would die in the rivers". (http://books.google.com/books?id=NucDAAAAMBA...)
Both the manufactures of Nemagon and the U.S. government have been aware of its sterility and carcinogenic effects since the 1950's. Yet it wasn't until 1977 when workers at an Occidental plant noticed that they all were sterile, that the true effects of Nemagon became painfully clear. In the midst of the news storm that followed the discovery- Dow and Shell closed down production of DBCP.
Also, the EPA began the process of deregulating the toxin: making it illegal to use within the United States. Main competitors Chiquita and Del Monte stopped using the chemical in 1977, but not Dole. Instead Dole took the position of favoring its profits over the health and well being of its workers. When Dow tried to back out of shipping Dole DBCP, Dole threatened to sue them for breach of contract. (http://books.google.com/books?id=DY4r1GsMq1w...)
Mother Jones reporters Constance Mattheissen and David Weir spoke with Jack Dement, who was at the time of the Nemagon scandal, in charge of overseeing what chemicals were to be used on Dole plantations abroad. In an internal memo, dated August 6, 1977, Dement made the decision to continue to use DBCP until it was banned in the company's areas of operation. EPA findings be damned - Dole publicly used the chemical in various countries around the world until mid- 1978. However, Mother Jones reported that another internal report existed that contained evidence that Dole was using Nemagon in its foreign banana plantations as late as November 1980.
Again, in 1988 45 Dole workers were poisoned by a DBCP substitute named Temik a highly toxic known disrupter of the human immune system. In 2002 the Human Rights watch uncovered abuses by Dole in Ecuador, a country that supplies Dole with one-third of all of their bananas. The report contained evidence that children as young as 8 were working 12-hour days, using sharp and dangerous equipment, frequently exposed to pesticides, and subject to sexual harassment. Granted similar abuses existed on other fruit company plantations, however seventy percent of the children interviewed worked on a plantation that supplied Dole. (http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/bana...)
In 2010 Dole was included on the scrooge list of the International Labor Rights Forum as a company notorious for suppressing workers right to organize. The company has been accused of making payment to a paramilitary group in Columbia known as the AUC. Statements given by AUC commanders attest to receiving this payment from Dole and other multi-national corporations. A lawsuit (that was subsequently dismissed) alleged that Dole was the mastermind being the murder of 51 men, in a bid to takeover their land. (http://www.laborrights.org/sites/default/fil...)
Dole and DBCP Litigation
Early litigation cases against Dole were relatively successful- in 1992 over 1000 Costa Rican workers won a damage awared of of 20 million. In 1993 another class action suit against Dole, Chiquita, Del Monte, Dow, Shell and Occidental resulted in a 41.5 settlement for workers from Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Philippines. Yet other cases have fallen short, Dole alleges fraud, and somehow verdicts are lessened and judgments are overturned.
In a now infamous case, Attorney Juan Dominguez filed suit in 2008 against both Dow and Dole. In a classic Dole move the company sought to have the case dismissed on the grounds of fraud by Juan Dominguez and some of the Plaintiffs. In 2009, relying on testimony from John Doe witnesses (Dole successfully won a motion for them to remain anonymous due to concern for their safety), Judge Victoria Cheney dismissed the case.
Another victory for Dole, but maybe just temporarily, in January 2010, the plaintiff's new attorney made a motion challenging the dismissal. It seems as if some of those "Jane Doe" witnesses have come forward and publicly stated that their testimony was procured by Dole via bribery. http://www.elnuevodiario.com.ni/nacionales/7... Earlier this year the Tellez case received another small victory - Juan Dominguez, the attorney whom Dole accused of participating in the fraud, was cleared of any wrongdoing by the State Bar of California
Dole Goes BANANAS!
Swedish filmmaker Frederick Gertten filmed a documentary about the Tellez case and when a trailer was shown after the film's entry into the 2009 LA Film Festival competition, Dole flipped their wig. Dole didn't even wait until it'd seen the movie to begin its campaign of harassment. Dole deployed their hired gun- law firm Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher - and sent numerous cease and desist letters to individuals involved directly and indirectly with the film. Dole even went as far as to petition Judge Cheney and the Swedish Embassy to step in and block the film. (http://www.bananasthemovie.com/wp-content/up... ) (http://www.bananasthemovie.com/wp-content/up...)
Soon after the films limited release Dole filed a SLAPP suit, then they got slapped.... in the face with a furious backlash from the Swedish community that climbed as high as the Swedish Parliament. Soon a bi-partisan petition was circulating in Parliament that called upon Dole to dismiss its suit, which it eventually did. The anti-SLAPP filed by Gertten and his crew was granted and Dole was ordered to pay their attorneys fees.
Dole's reaction to the film was telling, this is a company that doesn't want their machinations revealed to the American public. Those bananas on your kitchen counter come at a pretty steep price - the destruction of workers lives and their environment- the only question left to be answered is whether or not this system is one in which you want to be an active participant.
3. 3. http://www.vipirg.ca/publications/pubs/stude...
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