May 5, 2009

What is Nemagon?

Filed under: The Facts — admin @ 10:00 am

I was 21 years old, what did I know? Nobody told us anything. For two years, I applied Nemagon without mask, gloves or protecting clothing. You pump it directly into the ground. Sometimes, the pressure made the liquid splash right in your face. You could feel the hideous smell across 100 meters.
(Interview with banana plantation worker (1)

In the film BANANAS!*, twelve Nicaraguan banana plantation workers are suing Dole for concealing the dangers of a pesticide that they claim made them sterile.

The case is about Nemagon, one of many brand names for Dibromochloropropane (DBCP), a pesticide originally synthesized in 1955. It was used extensively all over the world until 1977, when employees who had handled the chemical at the Occidental Chemical plant in California were found to be sterile (2).

DBCP was used to protect many different crops: vegetables, nuts, fruits, beans and cotton. The target pest was nematodes, tiny worms living in the soil, feeding on the roots. The pesticide was either pumped directly into the ground, or sprayed into the air with irrigation guns (3).

In the 1960s, Standard Fruit (now Dole), Del Monte and United Fruit (now Chiquita) began to use Nemagon massively on Central American, Caribbean and Philippine banana plantations, as well as on sugar, pineapple and cotton plantations. Various chemical companies manufactured the pesticide: the Occidental Corporation, Dow Chemical and Shell Oil. Together, Dow and Shell exported as much as 24 million pounds of Nemagon each year during the 1970s until 1977 (4).

From 1977-1979, DBCP registrations were suspended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which stopped most applications except for use on pineapples in Hawaii. In 1985, the EPA canceled all registrations (5).

Even as early as 1961, an internal Shell report recommended using impermeable protective clothing to prevent contact with the skin, because the product could have undesirable consequences for human reproduction (2, 6).

DBCP interrupts the hormones that act as the body’s “chemical messengers”. This can increase cancer risk and affect the reproduction system. Studies in both animals and humans have found that DBCP can cause low sperm counts and infertility in men (7). Exposure to high levels have also shown to cause kidney and liver damage (5).

Most of the studies conducted so far have focused on males, and it is difficult to confirm DBCP as a carcinogen causing tumors, especially breast cancer. This is because it takes many years before cancer evolves, and it is difficult to isolate DBCP as single factor (7).

However, there are strong reasons to suspect DBCP is the reason for several cases of cancer. Among males who worked up to three years on plantations during the 70s, researchers found an increase of lung cancer cases by 40 percent. Among males who applied pesticides for a period longer than three years, the cases of brain cancer increased by 80 percent (1).

It was mainly men who worked in the fields and applied the chemical. However, women got exposed to DBCP in the packing plants or when they sometimes removed weed or washed the men’s clothes. Children got exposed when they entered the plantations to bring lunch boxes to their fathers (1).

In El Viejo and other villages in Nicaragua’s banana-growing province of Chinandega, where activists estimate 16,500 people were harmed and more than 1,000 died from exposure, DBCP goes under the name "Death’s Dew” (3).


  1. Jakten på den fullkomliga bananen ("The hunt for the perfect banana") – The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), 2004
  2. Dibromochloropropane (DBCP): a review – National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)
  3. Nicaragua fights for ‘Death’s Dew’ compensation –
  4. Victims of Nemagon Hit the Road –
  5. Dibromochloropropane –
  6. Banana Workers Put Shell on Trial –
  7. Pesticides and Breast Cancer Risk: Dibromochloropropane (DBCP) – Cornell University (2007)

See also:
Article and photo gallery from

Other DBCP brand names

BBC 12 Nemagon Nematox
Durham Nematocide Nemanax OS 1987
Fumagon Nemapaz Oxy DBCP
Fumazone Nemaset RCRA waste number U066
Gro-Tone Nematode Nemazon SD-1897
Nemabrom NCI-C00500 UN 2872
Nemafume Nematocide  

List source:
Pesticides and Breast Cancer Risk: Dibromochloropropane (DBCP) – Cornell University (2007)
Consumer Factsheet: Dibromochloropropane – EPA


  1. da best. Keep it going! Thank you

    Comment by AndrewBoldman — June 4, 2009 @ 8:38 pm

  2. This is a big and important issue.

    Really looking forward to see the movie.
    Keep up the good work!!

    Comment by Daniel — June 12, 2009 @ 10:52 pm

  3. Hi, very nice post. I have been wonder’n bout this issue,so thanks for posting

    Comment by JaneRadriges — June 13, 2009 @ 10:11 pm

  4. I wish we would just stop using all pesticides! bugs are natural, chemicals are not. I would rather eat a worm than get cancer.No wonder why other countries laugh at America.

    Comment by Michele Kaufman — June 19, 2009 @ 3:45 am

  5. Great work!! Just wondering if the page will be written in spanish as well? Since the topic concerns people that in general don’t speak english it would be great if they could read it! Wanted to send it to friends in Nicaragua that work with these kinds of things, organizing workers etc…but since they wont understand the language there is no point…and thats really a shame cause they are very interested!

    Comment by Charlotte Gouranios — July 9, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

  6. I’ll support you 100 %.

    Comment by Thomas Westman, Malmö Sweden — July 10, 2009 @ 7:40 am

  7. Keep up the good work! I’ll never going to buy, nor eat, a Dole banana again. I feel bad for the haunted family members.

    Comment by A West — July 10, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

  8. capitalism’s clutch on food is the cause of nearly all disease in America. American food productin abroad will only have the same affect on the local people who associate themselves with production. Great work. Look forward to seeing the movie.

    Comment by j c — July 11, 2009 @ 8:53 pm

  9. I believe this is a fundamentaly important cause. I hope that anyone with legal experience is doing all that they can to help this project!!!

    Comment by Melanie Molloy — August 5, 2009 @ 3:27 pm

  10. DBCP:’It is used primarily as an unclassified nematocide for soil fumigation of cucumbers, summer squash, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, snap beans, okra, aster, shasta daisy, lawn grasses and ornamental shrubs.’ from
    Why would it be used on a tree type crop like bananas? Looks like someone made a bad documentary to backup a fraudulent tort case against an multinational food company. The fraudulent court case was tossed out and the plaintiffs in the film were found to be lying in 2007 in a California court. The question is now, can a known fraudulent documentary be shown without paying the piper for libel?

    Comment by bogus film — October 2, 2009 @ 9:27 am

  11. Dear bogus film:
    Your own reference answers your question: ”Why would it be used on a tree type crop like bananas?
    “…the use as a soil fumigant against nematodes on pineapples in Hawaii.”
    Last time I checked pineapples grow on trees ☺

    Comment by going bananas — October 8, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

  12. Pineapples don’t grow on trees. They’re bromeliaceous plants.

    Comment by Eugene — October 12, 2009 @ 12:24 am

  13. Good work keep it up!

    Comment by Veritas — October 12, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  14. Now I have to see the film!

    Comment by s — October 15, 2009 @ 11:19 pm

  15. In 2009, the earliest in 2010 ought to know better.
    It is a pity that this movie did not get a good launch.
    It could have been.
    What it perhaps could have had on those
    was in charge of the launch was more tech-savvy.
    Since this kind of movies are very important and reflects what is happening in the world.

    Below you can see how it should be subjected to for those interested to read.

    There are those who really know how it should go to the launch of a movie anno 2009.
    Here you can read a bit more about the launch.
    And for those who do not want to see the film at the cinema or in parliament, you’re welcome to see this.

    Excuse the text can be a bit wrong because it is Google Translated. Swedish to English

    Good work keep it up!

    Comment by Janne — October 16, 2009 @ 1:19 am

  16. For what it’s worth, bananas are not technically trees. The pesticide is not used on the plant in any event, it’s used on the ground.

    Comment by Bob — October 18, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

  17. now there is natural alternative to the chemical spray

    Comment by dani neifeld — April 16, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

  18. Timorex Gold alternative in controlling Black Sigatoka

    The commercial banana production requires an excessive amount of agrochemicals to control the plant pathogenic fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis which is the cause of the
    Black Sigatoka disease.

    Black Sigatoka is considered the most damaging and costly disease of banana and plantain. The control of this disease accounts for about 30% of the total production costs and about 40% yield loss on plantain and even greater losses may occur on export banana as a result of premature ripening, during transportation and storage, when control measures fails.

    Even in very well organized and managed plantation numerous, up to weekly fungicide applications, are necessary to control the disease with all risks for laborers in the plantations and the environment. Excessive use of chemical compounds has lead to the appearance of resistant fungal strains to these compounds, thus increased chemical applications have been required over the past years to obtain satisfactory control of Black Sigatoka also leading to increased control costs.
    Chemical control of Black Sigatoka is achieved with the alternation of protectant and systemic fungicides. Systemic fungicides are usually applied in combination or alternation with broad-spectrum, protectant fungicides in order to delay or manage fungicide resistance to M. fijiensis.

    Over the past decade efforts have been made to reduce environmental impact caused by the use of the traditional fungicides in banana. The challenge being to find environmentally-friendly, safe control measures which effectively control Black Sigatoka and are liable to encounter resistance problems while securing food production.

    Timorex Gold is a good alternative to controlling Black Sigatoka in banana. It non residual features leads to the reduction of conventional chemical load in banana plantations caused by the intensive use of chemical fungicides under conventional programs while maintaining a similar control level as well as criteria for crop production quality such as; number of leaves produced, number of leaves at harvesting, number of bunches bagged per hectare, yield, banana appearance and is not affecting the organoleptic and physico-chemical properties of the banana giving the consumer a tasty and nutritious fruit.
    The reduction in chemical load could lead to a reduction of more than 50% the chemical load.

    Timorex Gold presents both prophylactic and eradicant (stages 1-4) activity against Black Sigatoka thus makes Timorex Gold an excellent tool for black Sigatoka control management.

    Timorex Gold could be used alone or mixed with other traditional agrochemicals used for the control of Black Sigatoka. Due to Timorex Gold Multi-site mode of action as well as being a multi component product the development of resistance of Black Sigatoka to Timorex Gold is unlikely to happen. The unique control features of Timorex Gold positioning it as a preferred choice solution for Black Sigatoka resistance management.

    Timorex Gold active substance is distilled from the foliage and terminal branches of the Australian bush, Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). The Tea Tree extract is classified as a low risk substance by the new EU regulation, dated 1.9.2008, on pesticide residues Reg. (EC) NO. 396/2005 and defined as “No MRL Required”.
    Timorex Gold active substance was approved by the European Union to be included in the EU positive list Annex 1 under Directive 91/414 EEC for pesticide registration.
    Timorex Gold is already registered in most of the banana growing countries.
    Timorex Gold addresses the banana growers’ requirements for efficacy ease for use and cost. The Timorex Gold formulation presents excellent sustainability, two year storage stability, safety to workers and selectivity to non target organism, non residual, late season/pre-harvest option and its composition is also suitable and accepted by the organic international bodies as effective Non Chemical option for control of Black Sigatoka in organic banana.

    For more information please visit
    Or email

    Comment by dani neifeld — April 16, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

  19. Small scale production for local communities employing organic methods like companion planting is the way forward to healthy future. Bananas are good for people who live in climate, where they grow, i imagine. Why the hell do people in Europe and US have to have banana in their lunch box?? Is it because we are to lazy to chew..?A native apple would be a better alternative for everyone involved: farmer, consumer and nature.

    Comment by boldcrayon — March 16, 2011 @ 11:58 pm

  20. Any way of seeing this film? Should be free online to educate/enlighten people.

    Comment by Alex — August 7, 2011 @ 12:29 am

  21. This film should be free online for everyone to see. Elightenment/education should be free.

    Comment by Alex — August 7, 2011 @ 12:30 am

  22. Insightful post, I will send a link from our articles

    Comment by Jim Kincannon — September 9, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

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  24. Go GO GO!!! I support you totally!!!

    Comment by Angelica — August 24, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

  25. I am still terrified of croissants but thanks for showing that it isn’t as daunting as it looks.

    Comment by reussir en bourse — April 17, 2013 @ 8:19 am

  26. hello I have a question, did the DBCP paid for those who harmfully affected by their products? please email me at thank you.

    Comment by noe — January 13, 2015 @ 4:21 am

  27. […] Pesticides, fertilizers, and chemical additives are suspected of increasing cancer risk among the people who grow and eat foods exposed to them. Studies have not found a statistically significant difference in risk among people eating foods with pesticides and those grown organically. The use of certain pesticides have been linked to increased breast cancer rates among agricultural workers. […]

    Pingback by Bananas & Cancer: Is there a link? - Savor Health — January 21, 2016 @ 7:46 pm

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