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.


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
NameFarmworkers sued chemical companies, Ivory Coast
CountryIvory Coast
Province Kakoukro and Ono
Site 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
Specific CommoditiesLand
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)

-DBCP was banned in 1979 by EPA but export remained legal

Bananas in the Ivory Coast´s economy:

- Ivory Coast is the Africa's second largest Producer.

- The monoculture of bananas accounts for 8 % of the agricultural gross domestic product and 2% of the national GDP.

- It employs 8-10,000 people (in combination with the pineapple sector) and generates an annual turnover of 220 million Euros.

- The 90% of Ivorian bananas are exported. 80% goes to Europe

Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population700 directly affected
Start Date2006
Company Names or State EnterprisesDow 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 actorsGovernment of Ivory Coast
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersAffected farmworkers

Supporter: Metzger Law Group (litigation of toxic tort and environmental exposure cases)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingInformal workers
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
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-Male sterility and abnormally low sperm counts including psychological damages.
Socio-economic 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
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (failure for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Development of AlternativesNo data.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.In the USA, The Court dismissed lawsuits by Ivorian plaintiffs.
Sources and Materials

Alien Tort Statute (ATS) from 1789

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Le bananier plantain en Côte d'Ivoire
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Analyse socio-économique de la filière des pesticides en Côte d'Ivoire
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CHAPITRE 6 Les compagnies multinationales dans l'économie mondiale de la banane
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New approaches to chemical control of nematodes on bananas: field experiments in the Ivory Coast
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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


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Ivory Coast workers can't sue firms in U.S
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US court: Ivory Coast plantation workers allegedly harmed by pesticides can't sue manufacturing, distributing firms in US
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Claim of genocide denied in suit
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Lawsuits against Dole by Ivory Coast plaintiffs dismissed
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Other Documents

Simulations of a worker in the Ivory Coast mixing DBCP solution in a 55-gallon drum Source: Slutsky et al 1999
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Simulation of worker injecting OBCParound pineapple' plants in the Ivory Coast. Source: Slutsky et al 1999
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Meta Information
ContributorGrettel Navas, ENVJustice Project
Last update31/05/2017