Jul 18, 2005
Several hundred people in Nicaragua marched to the capital, Managua, where they have been camped out in front of the National Assembly for the last two months. They are workers from the banana plantations who have been exposed to Nemagon, a pesticide which is known to cause very serious diseases. Some of these workers are nearing death as a result.
Nemagon was invented in the mid 1900s in the United States. Dow Chemical produced and commercialized this product which is used by a number of agribusinesses, including Standard Fruit Company. It effectively combats organisms that attack the roots of banana plants. It also produces larger bananas. And it is not at all costly. So it was a dream come true for the companies in this field.
But ever since 1958, studies on animals in laboratories showed that Nemagon was toxic. These studies were kept secret. Finally, in 1975, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared that this product produces cancer. In 1977, a number of Americans who worked in the production of this chemical were shown to have become sterile. In 1979, Nemagon was banned in the United States.
Nonetheless, Nemagon continues to be used – first of all in Nicaragua, but also in Equador, Israel, Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, Spain and the Philippines – and even in the United States.
Nemagon produces diseases of the skin, of various organs, various cancers and it causes both mental and physical deficiencies in children. These problems are transmitted even to the next generation, as this poison penetrates reproductive cells.
The companies that produced and used this poison knew perfectly well what they were doing: they coldly calculated to let people suffer and die so that profits could continue to flow.
How many victims have there been? Tens of thousands, no doubt. In Nicaragua alone, the number is estimated to be at least 20,000.
The Nicaraguan Parliament, beholden to the United States, does nothing about this situation. It pretends that the couple hundred suffering people camped out in front of the Assembly don't even exist.
In 2002, a Nicaraguan court did condemn three American firms, ordering them to pay several hundred million dollars to some 500 workers. The companies, however, have never paid the money and have no intention to do so.
Broken lives and an environment that will remain ravaged for hundreds of years – the fruit of capitalism's drive for profit.