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Chiquita, Dole, & Del Monte Sued for Poisoning Banana Workers in Costa Rica

From: THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER
October 8, 2004, Issue #374
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness
>From a Public Interest Perspective

EDITOR\PUBLISHER; A.V. Krebs
E-MAIL: avkrebs@earthlink.net
WEB SITE: http://www.ea1.com/CARP/
TO RECEIVE: Send name and address

SICKENED COSTA RICAN BANANA PICKERS FILE SUIT AGAINST TWO CHEMICAL COS. AND U.S. FRESH PRODUCE FIRMS

REUTERS: Thousands of banana pickers in Costa Rica have filed a lawsuit in
Los Angeles against two chemical companies and three major U.S. fresh
produce companies, claiming exposure to a toxic pesticide caused a range of
reproductive disorders.

The suit --- filed against Dole Food Co., Chiquita Brands International
Inc., Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., Dow Chemical Co. and Shell Chemical Co.,
a subsidiary of Royal Dutch/Shell Group --- accuses the companies of using
dibromochloropropane on bananas in Central America after it was banned in
the U.S. in 1979.

The pesticide, a soil fumigant sold under the brand names Nemagon and
Fumazone, is suspected of causing sterility, testicular atrophy,
miscarriages, birth defects, liver damage and cancer when inhaled or
absorbed by the skin, according to the lawsuit filed Friday.

A spokesman for Cincinnati-based Chiquita said the company had "just become
aware of this and has not had time to review the complaint."

Representatives for Dow, Shell, Dole and Del Monte were not immediately
available for comment.

Dow and Shell stopped making DBCP in the late 1970s but continued selling it
to Costa Rica "in conscious disregard of the health and safety" of workers
there, the lawsuit said.

The suit also accuses the produce companies of continuing "to oversee the
application" of DBCP on their banana farms.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs also accused the companies of conducting a
"settlement campaign" in which workers exposed to the pesticide were induced
to sign releases freeing the companies of liability.

The companies allegedly offered to settle the claims for sterility for
$2,900 to $6,500 a piece as long as the workers did not involve their own
lawyers.

The lawsuit requests general and punitive damages for what it describes as
"wanton and reckless acts . and outrageous and malicious conduct." It's
claims against the companies include product liability, fraud, negligence
and conspiracy, but it did not specify an amount. [ October 6, 2004 ]