Last update:
2017-05-31

Farmworkers sued chemical companies, Ivory Coast

Farmworkers claims against manufacturers, distributors, and users of the pesticide DBCP for genocide and crimes against humanity under the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”) in Ivory Coast.


Description:

On September 2006 a group of farmworkers from Ivory Coast  (under the name of "Abagninin"sued Shell Chemical, Dow Chemical, AMVAC Chemical and Dole Food Company alleging that the DBCP (1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane) caused them to become sterile. The DBCP  was a nematicide to kill little worms.  Farmworkers were affected by inhalation and skin absorption during fumigation.  Despite knowing the negative health effects of DBCP, AMVAC continued manufacturing, selling, and using DBCP on the plantations. Workers allege that AMVAC knew of DBCP’s toxicity and that "after the EPA banned DBCP in 1979, Shell and Dow both ceased production. AMVAC began producing as much as 2,500 gallons of DBCP per day. AMVAC even bought Dow´s remaining DBCP stock after the ban".   The lawsuit was carried out in federal court in Los Angeles by Metzger Law Group and alleges that the chemical companies broke international law and committed crimes against humanity by using the pesticide after knowing the relation between the chemical and sterility and other health damages. The lawsuit was filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act (from 1789) a federal law that allows foreigners to seek redress in U.S. federal courts for wrongs committed abroad. Ivory Coast workers accused the companies of "genocide" and "crimes against humanity".  According to the lawyer, Raphael Metzger -from California- "many of the workers were exposed when they were children, laboring in the plantations" and that "They were never told about the hazards of DBCP, nor given protective equipment", he continues:  "It's a violation of international law to undertake acts which you know will prevent births," and accused the companies of "marketing this poison to the Third World for population control."  However, in 2008 the Californian Court dismiss the case because neither "genocide" nor "crimes against humanity" have been proven.  According to the Court, Genocide requires specific intent to destroy a particular group of victims. The case was disregarded and farmworkers remain up to now without compensation nor recognition of their damage.  DBCP around the world: Lawsuits has been carried out also in national and international courts in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, The Philippines, Ecuador, Honduras and USA (California). Most of them remain unresolved or disregarded. 

Basic Data
Name of conflict:Farmworkers sued chemical companies, Ivory Coast
Country:Ivory Coast
State or province: Kakoukro and Ono
Location of conflict: Kakoukro and Ono
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Chemical industries
Agro-toxics
Specific commodities:Land
Fruits and Vegetables
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

-The quantity of chemical was 40 liters of DBCP/ha per year. (20l/ha in March-April and September-October)

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:700 directly affected
Start of the conflict:2006
Company names or state enterprises:Dow Chemical Company from United States of America
Dole Fruit Company from United States of America
AMVAC Chemical Corporation from United States of America
Shell Chemical Company from United States of America
Relevant government actors:Government of Ivory Coast
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Affected farmworkers
Supporter: Metzger Law Group (litigation of toxic tort and environmental exposure cases)
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impacts-Male sterility and abnormally low sperm counts including psychological damages.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Potential: Specific impacts on women
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Development of alternatives:No data.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:In the USA, The Court dismissed lawsuits by Ivorian plaintiffs.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Alien Tort Statute (ATS) from 1789

ABAGNININ v. AMVAC CHEMICAL CORP. No. 07-56326
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Le bananier plantain en Côte d'Ivoire
[click to view]

Analyse socio-économique de la filière des pesticides en Côte d'Ivoire
[click to view]

CHAPITRE 6 Les compagnies multinationales dans l'économie mondiale de la banane
[click to view]

New approaches to chemical control of nematodes on bananas: field experiments in the Ivory Coast
[click to view]

Morley Slutsky, Jeffrey L. Levin & Barry S. Levy (1999) Azoospermia and Oligospermia among a Large Cohort of DBCP Applicators in 12 Countries, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 5:2, 116-122, DOI: 10.1179/oeh.1999.5.2.116

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Ivory Coast workers can't sue firms in U.S
[click to view]

Claim of genocide denied in suit
[click to view]

Lawsuits against Dole by Ivory Coast plaintiffs dismissed
[click to view]

WEST AFRICAN PLANTATION WORKERS WUE SHELL, DOW, DOLE: CLAIM BANNED PESTICIDE DBCP CAUSED STERILITY
[click to view]

US court: Ivory Coast plantation workers allegedly harmed by pesticides can't sue manufacturing, distributing firms in US
[click to view]

Other documents

Simulations of a worker in the Ivory Coast mixing DBCP solution in a 55-gallon drum Source: Slutsky et al 1999
[click to view]

Simulation of worker injecting OBCParound pineapple' plants in the Ivory Coast. Source: Slutsky et al 1999
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Grettel Navas, ENVJustice Project
Last update31/05/2017
Comments
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