Former Honduran banana workers affected by nemagon demand compensation from UN

Former banana workers from northern Honduras have met with the United Nations (UN) commissioner to demand compensation for the contamination they received in the last century from nemagon, a substance used in banana areas to control pests. nematodes.

“The UN intervention will help us deal with the Standard Fruit Company Honduras so that we can resolve this issue and get fair compensation,” the farmers’ defense lawyer said.

The meeting with the UN Human Rights was a positive step to obtain fair compensation in a struggle that has lasted for more than 25 years.

What is the nemagon?
According to the Atlas of Environmental Justice Atlas of Environmental Justice (an inventory of global socio-environmental conflict and resistance), 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 result of its use in the seventies and eighties of the last century, thousands of peasants fell ill, had deformities, severe allergies and other skin diseases; Today, more than 5,000 Honduran peasants are asking for financial compensation to ensure a dignified death.

For nearly two decades, farmers have claimed to have contracted skin cancer, infertility, impairments in bone development and vision problems from exposure to the chemical during working hours. Studies on the impact of this nematicide on the natural environment (water, earth, soil) have not yet been carried out. Women and their children have also been affected.

As noted in the Atlas of Environmental Justice report, in 1978, having proven its 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 only for use outside the United States. . In 1979, use of the pesticide was suspended in Costa Rica and Dole moved use of the chemical to Honduras.

The pesticide has been banned throughout Honduran territory and around the world. However, there are still thousands of families who suffer the consequences of the chemical and without being fairly compensated. Many farmers died from the nemagon and never received compensation.

This reality has been experienced by the entire Central American region with notable impacts in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In 2008, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal (TPP) of Lima decided to morally and ethically sanction the attitudes of these companies which, guided by economic interests, have harmed thousands of peasant families in the Caribbean of Central America.

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