Dole defends use of poison

first_imgHe also charged that Dole continued to use DBCP at its Nicaragua operations even after DeLorenzo received a 1978 report that 10 out of 10 workers in Costa Rica were found to have become sterile. DeLorenzo said the application process in Nicaragua and Costa Rica were “100 percent different” from the one in Honduras. “We thought it was safer in Honduras,” he said. DeLorenzo also said Dole didn’t believe then and doesn’t believe now that its Honduran workers were made sterile by the pesticide. He said their exposure wasn’t severe enough to cause sterilization and that there is always a certain percentage of a population that is sterile. Miller, meanwhile, produced internal company documents that showed that after the Dow Chemical Company sent a letter to Dole in the 1970s saying it would no longer sell DBCP, Dole responded by threatening a breach of contract action if it didn’t receive the supply it had ordered. The head of Dole testified Tuesday that his company, the world’s largest producer of fresh fruits and vegetables, ensured that its workers in Honduras in the 1970s had access to free medical care that included monitoring for any reproductive problems. Dole Fresh Fruit Co. and Standard Fruit Co., now a part of Dole, are accused in a lawsuit of negligence and fraudulent concealment while using the pesticide DBCP in the 1970s. The plaintiffs, a dozen former banana workers in Honduras, claim the pesticide made them sterile. David DeLorenzo, now president and CEO of Dole, said the company encouraged its Honduran workers to report any infertility problems when he was in charge of the company’s banana operations in that country in the 1970s. Duane Miller, the attorney representing the former workers, maintained the company never had a program to test its employees, even after it was revealed that Dole workers in Costa Rica were suffering infertility problems caused by DBCP. DBCP, which was used to kill microscopic worms on the roots of banana plants, was approved for use in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency until 1979. In Nicaragua, it was legal from 1973 until 1993. Dole attorney Rick McKnight said in his opening statement that the fruit company stopped buying the pesticide three days after the U.S. government suspended its use. McKnight has also emphasized how little the workers were exposed to the chemical when it was applied once or twice a year. The pesticide was diluted with water, sprayed at night for 15 minutes, and the plants were then washed with 56,000 gallons of water for more than an hour afterward, he said. The case is one of five filed in Los Angeles County by at least 5,000 agricultural workers from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more