Bananas! * Film Site. “Pesticide lawsuits – a DBCP overview”. 5 May ...


Dec 5, 2012 (4 years and 6 months ago)


Group 8


Group 8 Final Paper

Roxy De La Torre

Dana O’Leary

Max Pankau

Karla Solis

Sarah Weglarz

Our paper is a composition of three articles and two case studies. The first half involves
the articles;
Human right to a safe environment: philosophical
perspectives on its scope and

written by James W. Nickel and
Ethics and Ecology

written by William T.
Blackstone. We chose the case study of the Dole and Chiquita corporations to outline human
rights. Throughout the second half of our paper

we develop the issue of biotechnology by
including Martha L. Crouch’s article
Biotechnology is not compatible with sustainable

and the intense case study of the Monsanto Corporation.

In his article
The Human Rights to a Safe Environment:
Perspectives on Its Scope and Justification
, James W. Nickel seeks to convince his reader that
the right to a safe environment (RSE) is indeed legitimate and should, by moral duty, be put into
consideration and even practice by everyone. He

joins those whom he mentions in his opening
sentence in seeking recognition for RSE. This quest for recognition has been due to the decline
in the ecosystem and many health
related issues as a result. His opening validation of RSE
states that RSE is wo
rthy because “it passes appropriate justificatory tests” (Collins 152). These
tests are presented throughout his article. The case study that our group did that most pertains to
Nickel’s article is the Dole ‘Bananas’ case. This case will be referred to
throughout this paper.

Nickel precedes the justification of RSE by discussing the use of rights language. He
defines two extremes that should be avoided in the argument over RSE: 1) The absolute use of
rights language

Using rights language in virtua
lly all areas of environmentalism, including
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biotic rights, rights of species, animal rights, etc. 2) The absolute absence of rights language

Avoiding the use of the language of rights and the legalisms that allegedly accompany it. He
agrees with the m
oderate use of rights language, but suggests that rights should not dominate
environmental discourse. As opposed to relying too heavily on the idea of rights, “It is better to
phrase most environmental discourse in terms of environmental
, of

towards nature
and of

to future generations” (Collins 152). Immanuel Kant might agree with the
first two reasons Nickel gives, but “obligations to future generations” implies a motive based on
the fear of consequence. This enters the realm o
f a posteriori for Kant and is therefore a
philosophical no
no. In support of the use of rights language, Nickel points out the importance
of RSE because it links the environmental movement to the international human rights
movement, thus broadening the
scope of ears willing to listen. In other words, those who lobby
for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, etc. might sympathetically be drawn to RSE with
the appropriate use of rights language.

In defining the scope of RSE, Nickel firstly admits t
hat there are many different ideas and
definitions of a ‘safe environment’. The national constitutions of Honduras, South Korea and
Portugal all articulate RSE in their own words. But, in the words of Nickel, “Although such a
broad formulation of RSE set
s out an attractive goal, a narrow formulation focusing on human
health and safety has the best chance of gaining acceptance as a genuine human right” (Collins

The following section is where Nickel really starts to define RSE and some of its
operties. He states that it is not concerned with such social matter as crime, corruption, etc. ,
but rather “is concerned only with a particular set of threats to human safety, namely those which
stem from technological and industrial processes and the

disposal of sewage and wastes.
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Broadly speaking, RSE is concerned with the safety from contamination and pollution” (Collins
154). Also, as opposed to encompassing minor threats to a person’s happiness (such as noisy
machinery and the like), RSE covers
only that which creates significant risk of killing people,
making them sick or depriving them of the means of to a reasonably good life. The contingency
of Nicaraguan plantation workers being harmed by the illegal pesticide workers highlights these
fications. After this clarification, Nickel admits that the idea of an environment ‘adequate
for health and well
being’ is very subjective and can be defined differently among different
parties. Thus, he calls on a more clearly defined risk standard at t
he national level through
democratic legislative processes, based upon the current scientific knowledge and fiscal realities.

Nickel moves on to label the duties of different parties concerning RSE. “Persons,
organizations and corporations have a duty t
o refrain from activities that generate unacceptable
levels of environmental risk” (Collins 155). In cases where these parties violate their duties, they
in turn have another duty to restore the environment to its previous state and compensate persons
atively affected. Governments, according to Nickel, have the same duties as the
aforementioned parties and have in addition the duty of restricting RSE violations from private
agencies and appropriately punishing them when they do perpetrate violations.
organizations (such as NATO and the UN) have the all of the above duties as well. They also
have the duty to not support RSE violators. If this is the case, Dole would not be morally
eligible for financial support from the World Bank, as th
ey are known perpetrators of RSE in
light of the multi
million dollar pesticide lawsuit.

In Nickel’s next justification/definition of RSE he conveys that, in order to be genuinely
categorized as an RSE violation, fundamental human interests need to be th
reatened. If the
effect of, say, air pollution were only as bad as causing dullness in the color of a person’s hair,
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no essentials would be threatened and thus the pollution could not be labeled a violation of RSE.
We know, of course, that air pollution
has in fact much more dire consequences, and therefore
are duly justified in lobbying against it. Birth defect
producing pesticides also threaten
fundamentals and the affected Nicaraguan workers who sued Dole Food Company most likely
had James W. Nickel
gunning for them.

Nickel then asks if environmental safety does in fact require environmental rights. His
opinion is that it does, and he gives an example to support this. Even if a person decided that he
was done with polluting the environment, he wou
ld still find it next to impossible to kick the
habit completely. He would still have to drive his car, use electricity and give his business to
establishments that were polluters.

The addressees of Nickel’s article are the parties that hold the power
to bring a more
adequate environment closer to reality. This ultimately includes everyone (individuals,
governments, etc.), and Nickel restates the duties of these parties more elaborately. Mr. James
Stewart Mill would agree on the matter of these duties

because, although abiding by them might
hurt for a generation, future generations will reap the benefits.

Nickel then brings up the subject of feasibility. His thought? “Although RSE is
supported by important moral consideration, RSE could fail to be
a fully justified human right if
its costs were excessively burdensome” and “The obligations flowing from right will be without
effect if addressees are genuinely unable to comply with them, or if they are unable to comply
while meeting other obligations.”

(Colins 160) Ultimately, Nickel doesn’t feel that
implementing safer environmental practices is overbearing and points to other countries that
have been successful with such implementation.

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Nickel’s conclusion reiterates that a strong case does in fact

exist for RSE. To bring it to
fruition, however, he states that weaker forms of promoting pollution control are inadequate and
a strong, enforceable right is therefore needed.

In William T. Blackstone’s article,
Ethics and Ecology
, Blackstone uses eth
ics to
articulate the universal human right to a livable environment. In the absence of a livable
environment, humans are not able to wholly develop their capabilities. Blackstone says
that the most important capacities that must not be restrained from d
eveloping are
rationality and freedom. Incorporating the right to a livable environment as a basic
human right could potentially resolve many of today’s environmental and ecological

Environmental conditions have been steadily changing since t
he beginning of the
industrial age. As technology and business have further advanced, so has pollution and
damage to the environment. Blackstone is suggesting that humans reevaluate what they
consider to be, what Blackstone calls, “Basic, and inalienable
” human rights, and include
the right to a livable environment as one of these rights. Humans and businesses must
work to change the way they interact with the environment in order to make it a livable
place. Humans must prioritize some rights over other
s to ensure a livable environment
for everyone.

In promoting the prioritization of some rights over others, Blackstone argues, “It
will be necessary, in other words, to restrict or stop some practices and the freedom to
engage in those practices.” (Coll
ins 146) In the terms of Mill’s utilitarianism, Blackstone
is arguing that the happiness of those companies polluting the environment must be
sacrificed for the happiness of the rest of the world via a livable environment. Blackstone
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also attributes John
Locke to his theory of the right to a livable environment by saying,
“Even John Locke with his stress on freedom as in inalienable right recognized that this
right must be construed so that it is consistent with the equal right to freedom of others.”
ins 147) Business cannot continue to misuse environmental resources because it
hinders a basic human right

the right to a livable environment. Business, however,
cannot be trusted to be its own environmental police and regulate itself.

Blackstone giv
es three main reasons why it is not logical to assume that business
will act as its own, “pollution police.” (Collins 148) The first reason is that, “The
primary objective of private business is economic profit.” (Blackstone, p.148) The second
reason bein
g that, “Within a free enterprise system companies compete to produce what
the public wants at the lowest possible cost, “ and the third reason is because, “The basic
response of the free enterprise system to our economic problems is that we must have
ter economic growth or an increase in gross national product.” (Collins 148) It is the
duty of the state to restrict business in order to provide for a livable environment for a
greater amount of people.

When talking about restricting certain rights an
d freedoms, Blackstone mentions
how property rights and human rights often conflict. Humans cannot exploit water and
air at will as they once could in the times of John Locke. It is much harder for humans to
simply appropriate things from nature without
breaking the restrictions set by
government legislations. Not only do property rights and human rights conflict, but also
the economic and ecological ways of analyzing environmental problems differ greatly.
Blackstone does not believe that ecological pro
blems can be looked at through an
economic perspective.

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When trying to solve ecological problems through an economic perspective there
are certain human values that are not taken into account. The economic perspective does
not consider certain, “Factors, which are important to the well
being of humans.”(Collin
150) Blackstone believes that humans must reassess their rights in order to start working
to promote a livable environment and the positive welfare of all living things. Blackstone
ends his article with a focus on technology as one of the main causes
of pollution in the

Blackstone believes that the development of technology is responsible for most of
our pollution problems, he says, “New technology always opens up new possibilities for
human relationships and society, for good and ill.
“ (Collins 150) He compares the
development of new technology and its effect on the environment to the effect
contraceptive pills had on changing attitudes about premarital sex. Both the pill and
technology are “morally neutral,” (Collins 150) but they d
o change the way people think
morally about having premarital sex or polluting the environment. Technology allows
for rapid advancement in material and produce production, which unfortunately heavily
pollutes the environment. The fact that money can be g
ained from this new technology
deters business’ motivation to stop polluting the environment.

Even though technology has contributed greatly to the pollution of the
environment, there are opportunities for it to be used for positive gains in ecology as

well. Blackstone states, “Technology has been and can be used to destroy and pollute an
environment, but it can also be used to save and beautify it. “ (Collins 151) In order to
achieve a livable environment for all mankind, these new technologies must
be used to
clean and purify the environment. Measures must be taken to ensure a livable
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environment so humans can carry out their full capacities, and everyone must try to live a
lifestyle that does not restrict the rights of others by polluting the envir
onment. One
specific example of people living out their full life capacity includes the Dole banana

To almost all Americans Dole is known as an all
natural, environment friendly company.
However, to the plantation workers in Nicaragua, co
mpanies like Dole and Chiquita are not only
exploiting their labor and using a hazardous chemical. This chemical is proven to be very
harmful to human beings but that does not change the company’s decision.

In 1977, after learning that the chemical also

caused workers at an Occidental Petroleum
factory to become sterile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prohibited the use of
DBCP in California. Later in 1979, the EPA banned DBCP in the continental United States.
Following the US ban Dow Chemic
al, Shell Oil, Occidental Petroleum, and Amvac Chemical
deliberately exported their existing DBCP inventory to Nicaragua. Standard Fruit then continued
to use it on banana plantations. The company supplied the fields with 500,000 gallons of the

This deadly chemical is Dibromochloropropane also known as DBCP. In the 1960s, U.S.
chemical companies exported DBCP to the Central American banana plantations of Standard
Fruit. The plantations used the fumigant to combat a worm that afflicts the r
oots of the plants
and changes the appearance of the fruit. The fumigant also had toxic effects on animals,
something the manufacturers of DBCP have known for decades. In the 1950s, Shell and Dow
conducted animal studies that found that exposure to DBCP
led to sterility, as well as liver,
kidney, and lung damage.

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DBCP targets the endocrine system; female victims are plagued with menstrual
disruptions, discoloration of the skin, repeated miscarriages, uterine and breast cancer. Both
women and men live w
ith migraines and permanent headaches, bone pains, vision loss, fevers,
hot flashes, loss of fingernails and hair, hematoma
covered skin, weight loss, anxiety and other
nervous disorders, depression, and stomach cancer. Overall, 466 Nicaraguans have died
as a
result of DBCP
caused cancer.

For example one worker, Francisco Gonzales, lost his chance to be a father because of
the pesticide DBCP.

Gonzales states,
"I can't have children, it's very painful, you know, each one of us would
like to have our
own child, a child of our blood. But I was poisoned

The company fully aware of the harmful chemical did not provide its workers with any
kind of protection, let alone, warn them of the risks.

In December 2002, a Nicaraguan judge ordered three U.S. c
ompanies Dow Chemical,
Shell Oil Company and Dole Food Company, to pay $490 million in compensation to 583
banana workers injured by DBCP. Later then in 2007 twelve more workers won their suit
against Dole and were awarded $1.58 million for damages.


2009 a film named Bananas, explored the struggle of Juan Dominguez. He was the
lawyer representing twelve Nicaraguan banana workers. In May 2009, Dole attorneys tried to
stop the film BANANAS from being shown based on the trailer. The Dole attorneys al
so tried to
stop the filming in the courtrooms, but the Judge Chaney refused to stop.

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“Just so we’re clear, I am not in any way going to make, and I will not consider, any
request for prior restraint on free speech”,

Chaney said during the May 8 hearing

In the reading Nickel refers to human rights and to a safe environment. He would say
“RSE (rights to a safe environment) is concerned only with a particular set of threats to human
safety, namely those which stem from technological and industrial proc
esses… In other words
RSE is concerned with safety from contamination and pollution.” The case of the banana
workers strongly promotes human rights and the right to a safe environment. The health of the
workers was being put at risk, without their knowle
dge and consent. The deadly chemical the
workers were dealing with put a threat on their safe environment and health.

Rights to a Safe Environment covers significant risk of killing people, making them sick
or depriving them from the possibility of a

minimally good life. These awful stories and court
cases are prime examples of risk to human life.

The third and final article was written by Martha L. Crouch. She is a professor of
Biology at Indiana University. Throughout her studies and teachings,

she has not only
heightened awareness of genetic engineering. She has also introduced the dangers of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs are produced when non native genes are introduced and
expressed into plants, animals, and other organisms.
Biotechnology is the process of
manipulation through genetic engineering of living organisms to produce new and so
useful products. Crouch has written many other articles about her opinion on biotechnology and
the effects it has on the economy and
environment. Out of the many, we are focusing on
Biotechnology is not compatible with sustainable agriculture
. Throughout this article Martha
outlines main reasons why she feels biotechnology should no longer be developed and used.

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Crouch makes it very

clear to the reader that she is completely against this new
modifying advancement. On page 445 Crouch states that, “Biotechnology is another weapon in
the war to destroy all remaining enclaves of self
reliance, so that everyone in the world will be
dent on transnational corporations and their allies for food, one of the necessities of life.”
Crouch backs this idea up with different points all including the economy and the way of life for

She starts out with the broad topic that the new tec
hnology will increase the
commercialization of food production. Under this idea Crouch outlines different aspects such as;
commercial food production competes with home food production, most people in the world
grow their own food, the food security for p
eople will decrease, and all of this will lead to a
much larger gap between the two class extremes.

The first statement Martha makes, says that commercialization of food production will
compete with food production of the home. This is a common issue mo
stly because, since the
GMOs are designed by human beings, and not Mother Nature, companies are able to put patents
on their products. This makes the products or seeds private property and opens up obstacles for
farmers to grow crops. Not only does biote
chnology complete the largest companies in the
world, it now puts them in charge of food for many nations. Transnational companies such as
Shell oil and Monsanto are gaining more and more power in food production across the world.

Considering more than
half of the people in the world grow their own food at home,
biotechnology will change and destroy billions and billions of lives. The reason is due to the
effect biotechnology has on pure plants. Once pure and genetically modified organisms are
mixed, t
hey are never the same. Mixing of the two types takes place very fast and unnoticed by
air pollination. Once a field of crops gets invested with GMOs, a farmer must change
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everything. The crops will no longer be good grow and eat. The farmers’ next ste
p, with no
choice, is to no longer grow pure vegetable but change to all genetically modified crops. Once
this takes place, they have reached a whole new level. The seeds that are genetically modified
are sold to the farmer from transnational companies.

Because the seeds have patents on them,
new ones must be bought every year and farmers lose the ability to save some for the next
season. Corporations like Monsanto, attempt to sue farmers for breaking the private property
rights they have on the seeds.

The farmers losing their rights then in turn create a large and ever growing gap between
the wealthy and the poor. The majority of home and small farms will lose money and no longer
be able to produce their own food. Eventually they will not be able to

buy new seeds, and the
farms will have to be sold out.

Looking at this issue through the philosopher’s eyes, John Locke and John Stewart Mill
would not comply with the idea of biotechnology. One of Locke’s ideas, dealt with laboring the
land. He thoug
ht that once a human labors the land and puts work into it, it becomes theirs.
However, this does not go along with what transnational corporations, including Monsanto, are
doing to these poor farmers. They are allowing the farmer’s crops to become inves
ted with
GMOs, then watching as the farmers fall deep into debt because they have to buy new seeds
every new season. In perspective the large corporations are taking over the farmer’s land. Locke
would not agree with this concept.

Mill on the other hand holds the concept “greatest good for the greatest amount of
people.” However, this idea also does not follow through with biotechnology. Considering, this
new advancement is not fully developed; we as a society do not know the full

negative and
positive effects about it. We do not know if it is completely good in itself. Therefore, Mill
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would also not agree with biotechnology. Crouch, Mill, and Locke agree that biotechnology is
not good nor advancing our economy and environment t
oday. Although these three are against
biotechnology there are transnational corporations that are not.

Monsanto, the multinational agricultural biotechnology company, stands to be one of the
most lucrative yet controversial companies of the last century
. Since its inception in 1901, its
reputation has been and has remained tainted for causing harm to the environment in the form of
water and air pollution, for maintaining a suspiciously reticent demeanor with respect to key data
involving human health co
ncerns, and for its more recent attempt to control world food
production and eliminate human food sovereignty. The implication is that human rights to a safe
environment have fallen victim to desecration by a company whose comportment displays a
sense of moral rectitude. Today in the United States, the most basic of human needs,
food as it were, is confronted with the prospect of becoming completely reliant on a company
whose primary concern lies in monetary yield and not human welfare.

o began as a company primarily known for chemical production. They are
responsible for things such as Agent Orange, which was used in the Vietnam War as a
deforestation agent, in addition to their most recognized product and number one selling
“Round Up”. After experiencing a bout of lawsuits for polluting the land and bodies
of water surrounding its chemical facilities, it sold its phenylalanine division and transitioned
into an agricultural biotech company. In 1996, they pioneered the use of

genetically modified
organisms (GMO’s), which when applied to crops, refers to any genetic plant type that has had a
gene or genes from a different species transferred into its genetic material using accepted
techniques of genetic engineering, and where s
uch introduced genes have been shown to produce
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a gene product or a protein (Emerson Nafziger, 1). While they market themselves as undertaking
the mission of “feeding the world”, their biotechnology techniques pose a concern for many.

Author, James Nick
el, would argue that Monsanto is violating the duty they have, as a
corporation, to refrain from activities that generate unacceptable levels of environmental risk
(Collins, 155). Research findings that connect GMO’s produced by Monsanto to harmful health

effects have been seized by force and through the use of lawsuits as a result of their resistance to
relinquish their data. The assumption is that if they had nothing to hide, they would follow the
norms of the scientific research community and release t
heir raw data and overall findings
without apprehension.

According to Arpad Pusztai, one of the world’s leading experts in GM food safety
assessments, the type of stomach lesions linked to some GMOs could lead to life
hemorrhage… in addition
he found that the lower part of small intestines in rats after ingesting
potatoes genetically engineered to produce a specific type of insecticide were found to have
abnormal and damaged cells, as well as proliferative cell growth which is a precursor to c
and is of special concern ( This would undoubtedly be considered a
violation to an individual’s right to a safe environment according to Nickel because it creates
significant risk of killing people, making them sick or deprivin
g them from the possibility of a
minimally good life (Collins, 154). This secretive comportment on the part of Monsanto
additionally supports the claim made by William T. Blackstone that businesses cannot be trusted
to act voluntarily [because] corporatio
ns only want to gain profit (Collins,148).

Along the same lines, it is common knowledge that animal model based research studies
are utilized to find the most effective and

foods and pharmaceuticals for the human
population. The idea is that, in their anatomical configuration and molecular functioning,
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animals are homologous to humans. The implication then is that the way in which an animal is
affected by a particular food

or medication, so will a human being. Perhaps, one of the most
startling findings concerning a genetically modified cotton seed (Bt cotton) produced and, up to
present time, sold by Monsanto in India, are that of Dr. Mae Wan Ho. In an article he publis
entitled, “Twenty
Five Percent of Sheep Dead Within Five to Seven Days”, he reveals the
consequences that arose the first time some shepherds and farmers cultivated Bt cotton hybrids.
Dr. Wan Ho mentions, “They started grazing from the end of January

to March…the deaths
began within a week of continuous grazing on the Bt cotton crop residues. Among the list of
side effects displayed by the sheep were coughing with nasal discharge, development of red
lesions in the mouth, passing of red urine, and fin
ally death which occurred within 5
7 days of
grazing. In addition, in a post
mortem examination, black patches in the intestine and enlarged
bile duct and black patches on the liver were found; of the 2, 601 sheep that belonged to 42
shepherds, 651 sheep
died, giving an average mortality rate of 25 percent. This, among many
other research studies conducted outside of the US have raised significant concern for those who
realize that if illnesses of this magnitude can occur in animals, they are certain to o
ccur in human

Additionally, in an attempt to gain total dominion over food production, Monsanto has not only
inflicted harm on countries that initially opposed the use of GMOs, but is also to responsible for
the transgenic contamination of crops
around the world. This sort of contamination occurs when
genetically pure crops, natural and self
sustaining in character, are infected with genetically
modified seeds as a result of wind pollination. Consequently, crops that formerly sustained
ons for centuries grow deformed and fruitless. This has become an issue in areas such as
Mexico, where GMOs are illegal. Transgenic contamination coerces the owners of these, once
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pure, crops to become reliant on Monsanto. According to Martha Crouch, he
rein lies one of the
most alarming issues with biotechnology, [it] interferes with the abilities of communities to
control their own destinies (Collins, 453). This idea of farmers living at the mercy of a
corporation for food supply, can be referred to as

the commercialization of agriculture. In her
article, Crouch refers to the various downfalls of this phenomenon and says that commercial
agriculture occurs as a result of deliberate policy by development agencies and state
governments in the name of [eco
nomic] progress…self reliant people, as a result, are pushed into
marginal areas or cities, or convinced to enter the market themselves. (Collins, 447) Crouch
addresses this concern and offers a solution, which generally supports a return to traditional
ethods of farming. She states that, non
industrialized farming methods can grow subsistent
food; food that does not threaten the environment (Collins, 448). Lastly, she emphasizes the idea
that crops grown without genetic modification have function throu
gh an interdependent
relationship with nature; one that for centuries has continuously thrived and nourished

As the case studies and thorough analysis of literature demonstrate, the human right to a
safe environment, while continually underm
ined and violated through recalcitrant entities
lacking in moral integrity, it is nonetheless, essential to conserve. As long as economic interests
are concerned, corporations and their leaders will undoubtedly dismiss their responsibilities to
those indi
rectly or directly affected by their actions. What undoubtedly needs to arise is a way in
which a balance can be achieved between economic vigor and human well being. The adoption
of a more upstanding mentality will foster the enhancement of the quality
of society as a whole.

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Works Cited

Bananas! * Film Site. “
Pesticide lawsuits

a DBCP overview”. 5 May 2009 Web. 4 March 2010

Banana Workers Win Against Dow, Shell & Standard Fruit. 6 January 2003. Web. 4 March 2010

Chobanian, Shari.
Ethical Ch
allenges to Business as Usual
. Upper Saddle River, N.J.:
Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. Print.

Nafziger, Emerson. "Genetically Modified Organisms."
. Web. 14 Mar. 2010.

Pusztai, Arpad. "Genetically Modified Foods: Are They a Risk to Human/Animal Health?"
. June 2001. Web. 5 Mar. 2010.

Wan Ho, May. "Mass Deaths in Sheep Grazing on Bt Cotton."
itute of Society in

ISIS, 6 Mar. 2006. Web. 8 Mar. 2010. <http://www.i

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