Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Chiquita's Children

From "In These Times" magazine:
"In the ’70s and ’80s, the banana companies Dole, Del Monte and Chiquita used a carcinogenic pesticide, Nemagon, to protect their crops in Nicaragua. Today, the men and women who worked on those plantations suffer from incurable illnesses. Their children are deformed. The companies feign innocence...

Today, we know that the companies had reason to worry about the potential danger of their product from the start. Laboratory tests conducted in the ’50s revealed that Nemagon caused testicular atrophy in rats. Regardless, scientists defended the product and in 1961 it was given the green light by the Department of Agriculture. The pesticide was instantly successful with American fruit companies, which exported it to their plantations in Central America and all over the world.

The health problems caused by Nemagon were first observed in 1977. That year, a third of the workers in a California factory that produced the chemical were declared sterile. They sued Occidental Petroleum Corporation, their employer, which was forced to pay millions in compensation to the affected workers.

That same year, the Environment Protection Agency ordered American companies to stop using Nemagon, judging it too noxious for human contact. But the ordinance was valid only for the United States. Standard Fruit Co. (now known as Dole Food Co. in the United States) continued to use Nemagon in Honduras as late as December 1978, a year after the disclosure of the sterility problem, as well as at its Philippine plantations until well into the late ’80s. The result: Tens of thousands of workers continued to be exposed to the nefarious chemical for years...

...In Nicaragua, the ex-workers aren’t giving up. In the last two years they’ve organized three marches from Chinandega to Managua, more than 84 miles. The last of these marches, begun on January 31, 2004, attracted more than 5,000 people, many of whom are sick and weak.

'We walked for 10 days,” says Espinales, who was one of the march’s organizers. “Once we were there we were made to camp in front of the National Assembly for days before the president would pay us any attention.'

The march garnered national interest thanks to its size and length. The big Nicaraguan dailies dedicated full pages to the victims of Nemagon, a product dubbed 'death’s dew.' "

See this relevant Fact Sheet. Meanwhile the Nemagon lawsuits are spreading to Venezuela.

Remaining in Nicaragua, it seems that the Sandinistas are on the verge of power again, as the political climate warms up, which has alarmed their neighbourly Big Brother, which continues to strong-arm the country in a most unabashed way. Perspective. News. Alternative-building.

Also other famous people might be running for president of Nicaragua...

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