A U.S. consumer yesterday sued the Dole Food Company, Inc. (NYSE:DOLE), the world’s largest fruit and vegetable company, alleging the company lies to consumers in stating it is an environmentally friendly and socially responsible company in terms of its banana-growing practices, when in fact Dole purchases bananas from growers whose operations have destroyed wetlands and poisoned water sources with pesticides in Guatemala.
The lawsuit, filed on Nov. 13, 2012, in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that 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.
In one example cited in the complaint filed by Steve Berman, managing partner of the Seattle law firm Hagens Berman, 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 complaint alleges the dam caused extensive flooding, and that development of the plantation included draining 1,200 acres of pristine wetlands.
“Dole promised its customers it had an ‘unwavering commitment’ to environmental responsibility,” said Berman. “Yet, it gave its business to a plantation that showed a complete disregard for the local environment.”
The lawsuit alleges that the dam resulted in severe flooding downstream from the banana plantation, destroying local farmers’ crops and causing significant economic losses.
“Farmers in this region – many of which are subsistence farmers – could previously count on two harvests each year,” said Berman. “Since the dam was constructed, many are barely harvesting enough to make it through the season.”
Berman also noted that the local population suffered and continues to suffer adverse effects from the plantation’s ongoing operations.