(GIN)–The Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co. has renewed its plans to increase sales of industrial products in sub-Saharan Africa while earning greater profits.
“Dow is absolutely betting on Africa’s growth,” said Ross McLean, president for sub-Saharan Africa, in a Reuters interview in Nairobi. “We expect to triple our revenue from Africa over the next five years. That is our objective and we are on track to do that.”
Dow has opened offices in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Morocco since November and is in the process of setting one up in Angola, McLean reported in June. The company also has representatives in Kenya, Ghana and Algeria.
Founded in 1897 as a bleach maker, Dow is the world’s biggest producer of ethylene, chlorine, epoxy resins and linear low-density polyethylene plastic. It’s the world’s second-biggest chemical maker by revenue behind Germany’s BASF SE. The company’s petrochemicals go into plastics, cosmetics, electronics and coatings. It also produces agrochemicals.
While investment is seen as necessary for Africa’s development, Dow’s record around the world has been a profound set-back for nature.
For starters, napalm B and the herbicide Agent Orange–a defoliant causing leaves to fall off–was manufactured by Dow for the American armed forces for use against the Vietnamese and has been linked to increases in cancer risk. Earlier, contamination from a nuclear weapons plant at Rocky Flats, in Denver, Colorado, under Dow’s management, led to a $925 million fine for damages that was reversed on appeal.
Silicone breast implants, made by Dow Corning in a joint venture, was a singular disaster when ruptured implants were linked to breast cancer, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. A class-action lawsuit was settled for $3.2 billion but the company’s bankruptcy reorganization lowered the amount to $2,000 for each claimant wanting to cash-out immediately.
Dow’s troubled environmental record is hardly better. Last year, a coalition of U.S. farmers and environmentalists challenged a herbicide cocktail containing Dow’s 2, 4-D, approved for use on GM corn and soybeans. The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice in the U.S. claimed that its widespread use would create greater weed resistance, affect endangered species including monarch butterflies, and that its sole purpose “was to promote ever more herbicide use.”
This September, a federal appeals court found against the approval of Dow insecticides known as “neonicotinoids” tied to the killing off of bee colonies needed to pollinate key food crops.
Meanwhile in Kenya, DowAgroSciences has launched Delegate 250WG, a crop protection chemical for flower farms consisting of the active ingredient spinetoram. According to the U.S. EPA’s pesticide report, spinetoram poses a major risk to freshwater invertebrates, to terrestrial insects and other species. Follow up studies in Kenya could not be obtained.