November 29, 2010.
One hot humid morning in “La Plantación”, Juan was hard at work trying to cover all the banana plants with blue bags. He has been up since dawn and it was almost time for his morning break. He wipes sweat off his brow and looked up at the banana plants, overwhelmed. This season has been particularly hard for Juan, who after eight years of marriage and trying to conceive a baby, had found out from his doctor that his blood stream has a high level of Armagon. This meant that he would be permanently unable to conceive a child. Juan felt shocked because this was the only job he had ever had, and it was a good job, but it was making him sick. He sighed and wished that none of this had ever happened. He wished that he would have known his job was doing this to him.
Hundreds of men like Juan become sick as a result of the toxic way corporations harvest bananas. In fact, there are three important areas that contribute to this problem: growers, large corporations based in the U.S., and demand by consumers. All of these create an unstable environment and many unhealthy workers. The current method of banana production that the mainstream corporations employ is harmful to the environment and should be changed.
Everyday, hundreds of plantations around the world ship bananas to America and European markets; however, few people know the journey of a banana before it reaches the commodity of Western homes. Bananas are one of the fruits most individuals experience during their first years of life, probably because it contains vitamin B, B1, B2, B6, vitamin C, vitamin A, folacin, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, copper, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc (Harpelle 26). Some people might consider banana as a great source of vitamins while others might probably eat bananas due to their sweet flavor. In any case, most people agree that bananas are pretty inexpensive in comparison to other fruits and the fact that they come from very far away.
The use of DBCP has resulted in the mass sterilization of hundreds of thousands of plantation workers from Central America, and the Caribbean to the Philippines and West Africa. Carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and acute toxicity are just some of the symptoms that chemicals applied to bananas have on the harvesters. But what about the plastic bags that cover banana bunches which are saturated with chemicals like chlropyrifos. Although no study has found risks for human beings in direct contact with chlropyrifos, Rachel Carson, in her book Silent Spring ads,
“The whole problem of pesticides poisoning is enormously complicated by the fact that a human being, unlike a laboratory animal living under rigidly controlled conditions, is never exposed to one chemical alone. Between the major groups of insecticides, and between them and other chemicals, there are interactions that have serious potentials. Whether released into soil or water or a man’s blood, these unrelated chemicals do not remain segregated; there are mysterious and unseen changes by which one alters the power of another for harm”(194-195).
In this case it is very difficult to clearly determine the precise risks of human beings once they are in direct contact with a variety of chemicals, as it is the case with many banana harvesters and millions of banana consumers around the world.
One could think that the banana problem does not concern us; however, every time we buy bananas from multinational corporations, we become guilty by association because in a direct way, we are contributing to the destruction of human lives. Even if one does not care for the conditions in which banana harvesters are working, at least one can be concerned about the product we as consumers receive. The high amount of chemicals that is used to produce bananas affects the environment. Many people might think that we live too far from that environment and it does not affect us; however, just a few miles outside Portland Oregon, an industrial landfill in Sauvie Island could grow up to 45 feet on a site that is zoned for farming. This measure has residents up in arms (Swart 1). How many of us spend summer afternoons at Sauvie Island picking berries, peaches, vegetables, and other fruits? probably many. Would you be willing to go to Sauvie Island again next summer if next to the farm you can see a landfill the size of 28 football fields? Probably not because we would be concern about the impact that this landfill could have in our immediate environment and specially the impact the landfill would cause in the fruit we bring to our homes and share with our families. Just like we care about the fruits produced here; we must care about fruits that come from afar, as well as the harvesters here or there, everyone deserves a safe environment and healthy food.
In order to create a favorable situation for every human being, education needs to take place in a massive way. Consumers need to find more about the produce we are buying. I know economics play a big role in the produce most people buy; however, if we all take steps towards natural produce, the prices will come down. Multinational corporations might not be or feel obligated to provide information on the side effects of pesticides and chemicals utilized in the growing process of their produce to their employees in the fields so that they can know the consequences of their exposure to the chemicals as well as to the consumers, as a human resources manager, it would be part of my goal to create bulletin boards, training sessions to assure that employees have a clear understanding of the risks and how they can still harvest the product in a safer way.
Multinational corporations based in America play an important role in the economy of many countries around the word. The changes in environmental friendly practices and better working conditions for workers have to change. It would be difficult to expect for it to change immediately because human lives are been affected due to the lack of implementation of safe material handling. Workers and consumers must stand in the same side because we are all impacted by the utilization of chemicals in our produces.
Work Cited Page
Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston:First Mariner Book,2002.194-195.
Cothran, Helen, ed. The Environment: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego
Harpelle, Ronald,eds. Banana Stories -The Banana in All Its Splendor. Thunder
McWhirter, Cameron, and Mike Gallagher. "“Subsidiaries Have Sprayed Toxic
Cocktails, Varying Mixtures of Potent Chemicals, on Their Plantations Without Removing Workers First." Cincinnati Explorer 3 May 1998. 20 Nov. 2010
Swart, Cornelius. "This Place is a Dump." Sentinel Nov. 2010, 12 ed.: 1-6.
"Corporate Reponsability." Chiquita Banana. 11 Dec. 2007. 20 Nov. 2010
"Organics to You Farm Fresh Home Delivery." Organics to You. 2006. Nov..