Dole Sues Creators of 'Bananas!' Documentary

Last Updated Jul 9, 2009 3:41 PM EDT

Dole has filed a defamation suit against the maker of the documentary "Bananas!" which covers a banana pesticide case brought by a group of Nicaraguans against Dole.

Before the film came out, Dole sent cease and desist letters to the filmmakers and tried to persuade the Los Angeles Film Festival not to screen the movie. When that didn't work, Dole resorted to legal action, in what strikes me as a disingenuous use of faulty logic to get the company off the hook with the public.

To recap what's been happening: for decades, several groups of Nicaraguans have been suing Dole over serious health complications allegedly resulting from exposure to the chemical pesticide DBCP. Last month a judge in Los Angeles, Victoria Chaney, threw out two of those cases because there was evidence of widespread fraud. Specifically, there was evidence that there were Nicaraguans who had never worked in Dole's banana fields and never been exposed to DBCP but who lied in an attempt to get in on these lawsuits.

The maker of the Bananas! documentary, Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten, included these legal updates as text in the film, and other than that, he said in a statement [PDF], "This film is still valid and is still the truth about what happened."

Bananas! deals with an earlier but nearly identical lawsuit, in which the jury ultimately ruled against Dole. That case is on appeal because the legitimacy of those victims has now been called into question. Furthermore, attorney Juan Dominguez, who represented the plaintiffs in all three cases and appeared prominently in the film, has been implicated in the fraud and faces contempt charges.

But the existence of fake victims does not prove that no one was ever genuinely harmed by DBCP. Dole seems to be twisting logic in order to argue that the case dismissal proves DBCP is safe.

Dole claims in court documents that Gertten was made aware of Chaney's ruling prior to the documentary's screening and requested that he not publish "known falsehoods" â€"including the depiction of an airplane spraying the DBCP chemical on banana farms and the implication that the toxic chemical caused the death of Nicaraguan citizens.
These are not "known falsehoods." The issue of whether Nicaraguan doctors, lawyers and judges conspired to produce fake victims has nothing to do with the issue of whether other Nicaraguans who really did work for Dole (then Standard Fruit Company) suffered sterility and other effects of DBCP. In fact, it seems to me there would be no reason for the conspiracy and fraud in the first place unless the original case was based on legitimate claims with some chance of legal success.

Related stories on BNET Food:
Fraud Helps Dole in Nicaragua Banana Pesticide Case

  • Katherine Glover