One California banana-eating man is taking Dole to court, alleging that the food giant misled consumers about the environmental practices at a banana plantation run by one of its contractors in Guatemala.
“Dole markets and sells its bananas as though they were farmed in an ecologically friendly and otherwise sustainable manner,” Clayton Laderer, a California resident, said in a complaint filed Nov. 13 in federal court in Los Angeles.
“In fact, some of Dole’s bananas, including bananas grown in impoverished areas of Guatemala, are produced in a way that destroys natural ecosystems, contaminates the drinking water of affected communities, and poisons local residents.”
Laderer said he wouldn’t have bought Dole’s bananas had the company disclosed the alleged environmental harm caused by the Guatemala plantation. He seeks to represent other Dole banana buyers in a class-action lawsuit.
The lawsuit details further damage, including allegations that the development of the plantation involved the draining of 1,200 acres of pristine wetlands and the construction of a dam that caused severe flooding damage to local farmers’ land and crops. Dole, the world’s largest producer of fresh fruits and veggies, pledged in 2010 to reduce its carbon footprint through soil conservation and water management. The company hasn’t commented on the lawsuit.
Steven Berman, the attorney who filed the claim, said, “Dole promised its customers it had an ‘unwavering commitment’ to environmental responsibility. Yet, it gave its business to a plantation that showed a complete disregard for the local environment.” From Hagens Berman, the law firm representing Laderer:
“Farmers in this region — many of which are subsistence farmers — could previously count on two harvests each year,” said Berman. “Since the dam was constructed, many are barely harvesting enough to make it through the season.” …
According to the complaint, various governmental and environmental groups, including the Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture and Water & Sanitation Health, Inc. (WASH), have confirmed that the actions of the plantation directly resulted in flooding and water contamination in the area …
“We applaud it when companies make — and follow — declarations of ecological responsibility,” Berman noted. “But when a company increases its market share by misleading consumers, as we allege Dole has done, that is both despicable and cynical.”
If it appeals (sorry, had to), pissed-off banana eaters can join Laderer in his fight by contacting the Hagens Berman attorneys at DOLEBANANAS@hbsslaw.com.