LOS ANGELES (CN) – Chiquita continues to poison Guatemalan villages with “pesticide showers” and environmental destruction despite corporate claims that the company has become environmentally responsible, a customer claims in a federal class action.
Tania Campbell sued Chiquita Brands International on Friday in Federal Court. She seeks punitive damages for fraud by concealment, unjust enrichment, unfair competition and consumer law violations.
Campbell claims that Chiquita advertises its bananas with a well-known blue Chiquita sticker, and advertises its “corporate social responsibility” and “code of conduct,” through a slew of misrepresentations, among them:
“We will protect natural ecosystems, including water, soil and air, by implementing sound and safe operating practices;”
We will also work with suppliers to ensure that they adopt environmental practices when providing goods or services, and will incorporate environmental considerations into our purchase decisions;”
“Planting tree ‘screens’ to help to keep agrichemicals where they need to be and away from people;”
“Reforesting any land not used for banana production to eliminate soil erosion;”
“We have discontinued routine, blanket applications, and we now apply pesticides only when and where necessary;”
“We apply pesticides in ways that protect the health, safety, and well-being of our workers and the environment;”
“We apply fertilizers only in small amounts.”
Campbell disputes all these claims, and others.
She claims that in 2012 alone, Chiquita bought 639 million lbs. of bananas from the Guatemalan company COBIGUA – approximately 95 percent of all the bananas COBIGUA sold that year.
Her 39-page complaint names five Guatemalan villages, or “communities” that allegedly “suffer from water pollution and airborne exposure to toxic chemicals that are the result of defendant’s production practices.”
She claims that “COBIGUA contaminates rivers and drinking water in the affected area with fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and organic matter;”
That “COBIGUA mixes fertilizers into its irrigation system every 14 to 21 days and aerial fumigates its banana fields every 6 to 8 days using toxic chemicals like dithane, paraquat (gramoxone), and mocap (ethoprop);”
She claims that “COBIGUA uses no buffer zone for aerial fumigation of plants that border schools and homes.”
In fact, Campbell says, COBIGUA’s aerial fumigation and failure to respect buffer zones “results in toxic chemical residues visibly seen on the communities’ school’s roof and playground,” that the airborne toxic chemicals have given children nausea, dizziness, vomiting, skin rashes, and other health problems, and that one study reported that “60 percent of those interviewed in the communities stated they have received an actual ‘pesticide shower’ during aerial fumigation with visible indication of white particulates on their arms and legs.”
She seeks class certification and punitive damages. She is represented by Elaine Byszewski with Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, in Pasadena.
Courthouse News reported this article early Monday morning, long before corporate offices were open.
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