Former banana workers in northern Honduras met with the United Nations (UN) Commissioner to demand compensation for the contamination they received last century from nemagon, a substance used in banana areas to combat nematodes.
"The UN's intervention will help us face the Standard Fruit Company Honduras so that we can solve this problem and obtain fair compensation," the farmers' defense attorney stated.
The meeting with the UN Human Rights was a positive step to obtain fair compensation in a struggle that has lasted more than 25 years.
What is nemagon?
According to the Atlas of Environmental Justice Atlas of Environmental Justice (an inventory of socio-environmental conflicts and resistance at a global level), nemagon is the popular name for DiBromoCloroPropane (DBCP), the active ingredient in a nematicide used as a soil fumigant created by Dow Chemical to eradicate a worm from banana plantations owned by the United Fruit Company.
As a consequence of its use during the seventies and eighties of the last century, thousands of peasants got ill, had malformations, serious allergies and other skin diseases; Today, more than 5,000 Honduran peasants are asking for financial compensation to ensure a dignified death.
For almost two decades, farmers have claimed they have contracted skin cancer, sterility, deficiencies in bone development, and vision problems due to being exposed to the chemical during working hours. Studies on the impact this nematicide had on the natural environment (water, land, soil) have not been carried out yet. Women and their children were also affected.
As stated in the Atlas of Environmental Justice report, in 1978, having proven toxicity, Dow Chemical and Standard Fruit Company (Dole) signed a contract in which Dow Chemical sold part of the existing DBCP inventory to Dole but solely to be used outside the US. In 1979 the use of the pesticide was suspended in Costa Rica and Dole moved the use of the chemical to Honduras.
The pesticide has been banned throughout the Honduran territory and throughout the world. However, there are still thousands of families suffering the consequences of the chemical and without being justly compensated. Many peasants died from the nemagon and never received compensation.
This reality was experienced by the entire Central American region with notable impacts in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In 2008, the Permanent Peoples' Court (TPP) in Lima decided to morally and ethically sanction the attitudes of these companies that, guided by economic interest, harmed thousands of peasant families in the Central American Caribbean.