November 17, 2012
Dole Hit with Lawsuit Alleging Environmental Destruction
by Robert Kropp
The Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman files a lawsuit against Dole for knowingly purchasing
bananas from growers whose operations have destroyed wetlands and poisoned water sources with
pesticides in Guatemala.
After settling lawsuits totaling more than $900 million for its use of a banned pesticide in
Nicaragua, Dole has sought to position itself as an environmentally responsible company. In 2011,
the company announced that it would sell bananas on farms certified by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a coalition of
conservation groups that seeks to establish sustainable agricultural standards throughout
agricultural supply chains.
But a lawsuit filed this week by the
Seattle-based firm Hagens
Berman suggests that like too many corporations, Dole has found it more convenient to employ
the tactics of greenwashing rather than commit to genuinely sustainable practices. According to
Hagens Berman, "In spite of Dole's promises to act as a safe and sustainable company in communities
where its products are grown, the company knowingly purchased bananas from a plantation in
Guatemala that devastated the local environment and community."
"A contractor who supplies
Dole with approximately 290 million pounds of bananas built a dam in the Department of San Marcos
in Guatemala to protect its banana and oil-palm plantations," the law firm stated. "The complaint
alleges the dam caused extensive flooding, and that development of the plantation included draining
1,200 acres of pristine wetlands."
"The dam resulted in severe flooding downstream from
the banana plantation, destroying local farmers' crops and causing significant economic losses."
"Dole promised its customers it had an 'unwavering commitment' to environmental
responsibility," managing partner Steven Berman said. "Yet, it gave its business to a plantation
that showed a complete disregard for the local environment."
Berman said that farmers in
the region, who could previously count on two harvests a year, now barely harvest enough to live
Also, "The drinking water that local people rely on has nitrate levels ten times the
maximum level recommended by the World Health Organization," he said.
The lawsuit contends
that by espousing sustainable agricultural practices that it did not in fact follow, Dole has
violated the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the California Unfair Competition Law and
California Common Law in relation to fraud and unjust enrichment.
"We applaud it when
companies make – and follow – declarations of ecological responsibility," Berman said. "But when a
company increases its market share by misleading consumers, as we allege Dole has done, that is
both despicable and cynical."
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