Banana Republic

I buy a lot of organic produce, but I don’t only buy organic produce. I tend to base my decision on price, quality, availability and how the Environmental Working Group rates certain types of produce (i.e., their Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists, which give you a clue as to about how much residual pesticides you might be ingesting if you buy, say, conventionally grown apples instead of organic).
One crop I’ve traditionally not made a point to buy organic is bananas. They fall way down the EWG list (30 out of 48 for pesticide residue), plus you don’t eat the skins. Well, I’ve changed my tune.
In a presentation she gave at the Today’s Dietitian Symposium last month, Sharon Palmer pointed out* the difficult conditions that banana farmers and workers live in. This is in part due to the fact that only a few corporations control the banana industry, and that only 20 percent of the price you pay for your bananas goes to the Central American country those bananas came from…and the workers who picked those bananas get a tiny fraction of that money.
Further, banana workers often put in 12- to 14-hour days with no overtime, and are exposed to significant amounts of pesticides and fungicides. The typical banana plantation uses 10 times more pesticides than other crops in industrialized countries.
I don’t know about you, but that banana in my smoothie doesn’t taste as good when I think of the person who picked being enveloped by clouds of pesticides (and those pesticides aren’t exactly great for the environment, either). That’s why I now buy organic bananas, which fortunately Costco now carries (at least in my neck of the woods). Honestly, the price differential isn’t huge, about 20 cents per pound (10 cents per pound difference at Whole Foods). Truly a small price to pay.
* Palmer got her statistics from Fairtrade International and the Fair World Project, two groups that are working to improve conditions and wages for farm workers around the world.
Previous installments of “Where Does Your Food Come From?”: