Latin American banana farmers sue U.S. companies over pesticides

A pesticide designed to eradicate worms from Latin American banana trees may have had a detrimental effect on workers’ … oh, how to put it … bananas. At least 5,000 agricultural laborers from Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama have filed five lawsuits in the U.S., claiming that exposure to the pesticide DBCP in the 1970s left them sterile. Jury selection began yesterday for the first lawsuit, which was filed by dozens of Nicaraguan farmers in 2004 against multinational companies Dole, Dow, and Amvac. The trial, held in Los Angeles, will air claims that the companies “actively suppressed information about DBCP’s reproductive toxicity,” knowing that long-term exposure could cause problems but not issuing any warnings or protection. While not denying the toxicity of DBCP, a Dow spokesperson responded that frequent turnover among banana workers made prolonged exposure to the chemical unlikely. Guess those 5,000 cases of sterility were just a coincidence.