Tuesday, 6 July 2010
My fingers begin to feel slightly numb as the handles of a weighty bag of fruit and vegetables digs in tightly to the crook of my elbow. Trying to peel a banana during my walk home from the grocers has often gone awry, the peeled, naked top half of my banana ending up on the floor followed by me standing still, staring at it, feeling like I am five years old and just dropped my ice cream. I pause for a little too long, then remind myself I am twenty-five and to be seen slightly tearful at this age over a banana could be a little embarrassing. Bananas have always been my favourite fruit, it comes in its own natural wrapper and its phallic embodiment never ceases to amuse me. My mothers fruit bowl was no end of jokes when I was younger, positioning one snugly between two oranges. I would like to say that my immature sense of humour has left me, but alas, my wife regularly shakes her head at my futile attempts to make her laugh. It doesn't matter though, I am always amused.
Whilst I had previously not given much attention to the story of the banana, recently I have become somewhat enamoured with the fruits history. In the 1920's, when bananas first took the hotspot of most popular fruit in Northern America, the fungus named Panama Disease took hold and began to obliterate crops. A solution of planting in virgin soil was proposed and the fruit companies United Fruit and Standard Fruit (now Dole and Chiquita) took land in Latin American countries such as Honduras and Nicaragua, often by force with the help of U.S government. The companies greed did not, unfortunately, end there.
The guys at Dogwoof productions sent me over a copy of their new documentary, BANANAS!*. I must admit, hearing it was a courtroom drama following the case of twelve Nicaraguan plantation workers against the Dole Food Corporation sounded a little testing. My instant reaction to 'courtroom drama' conjoured up images of Ally McBeal and that terrible CGI'd dancing baby. However, the documentary had me engrossed. The case is made against Dole for knowingly spraying pesticides over entire plantations that are seriously harmful to humans. The consequences have been shown to cause infertility in men and women. What unravels shows how Dole refused to stop using the pesticide even after constant advice and tests that deemed the chemical spray Fumazone seriously harmful to humans. Even when Fumazone was banned, Dole continued to use their stockpile of the chemical for a long time after spraying it over the crop, the land and the workers dormitories. It is a little disappointing that the Nicaraguan plantation workers change their statements and lie during the course of the trial, but the suspense throughout the documentary is immense and I definitely recommend watching it.
So Dole Food Corporation, not nice guys, and unfortunately, Chiquita is guilty of the same crimes. This documentary has me asking more questions though. What about the other food companies, where can I buy guilt free bananas, and what banana alternatives are out there? Well luckily my grocers don't carry either of these conglomerates produce, I am yet to find out on other major banana producers but I endeavour to do so. The thing is that due to their market dominance, Dole and Chiquita are the main reason that we most commonly only have one banana option, the Cavendish. More recently Plantain can be found much more abundantly and I have been lucky enough to get hold of some Manzano bananas. At this moment I am still yet to find somewhere that stocks Lacatan bananas but perhaps one day soon, I will find some.
The guys at Dogwoof have kindly given me 5 copies of BANANAS!* on dvd to give away. To enter simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name. Winners will be picked at random and emailed for delivery instructions on Friday 16th July 2010.