John raised a great point in my "green shopping tips" post about why he buys organic bananas: the pesticides used in conventional methods don't necessarily hurt the fruit or the eater (because of its thick rind), but the chemicals can hurt the people who grow and pick the bananas.
He's very right--and it used to be even worse. In 2007, banana growers sued American companies Dole, Dow Chemical, and others because they claimed that in the 1970s, the companies negligently allowed workers to be exposed to DBCP, a toxic worm-fumigant known to cause infertility and cancer. DBCP was banned by the U.S. in 1977, but other chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used to keep bananas "clean" yellow and free of bruises. This article makes a good case for organic banana-buying.
The problem is that organic bananas are $1.19/proud at my local Whole Foods Market, as opposed to $0.79/pound for conventional ones. And I'll confess: I've been spoiled by the idea that bananas are smooth and yellow, not brown and spotted. Organic bananas that I've eaten in the past have tasted starchy to me, been small, and often had rotten spots. That's my anecdotal experience, granted, but there it is.
The good news is, there is a middle way for those of us who don't want to pay $0.40 extra at the market for food whose pesticide residue is unlikely to find its way into our bodies, yet who care about worker safety and health and want to feel that we're not hurting whole communities so we can have bananas in our morning cereal.
That middle way is the "Fair Trade" seal that appears on the $0.79/pound conventional bananas at my market. The seal means, among other things, that workers are:
a) Paid a living wage
b) Protected from human rights abuses like child labor
c) Given healthcare benefits
d) Not exposed to banned toxic chemicals
e) Given protective clothing (gloves, masks) as needed to prevent respiratory and skin absorption of chemicals
f) Working under environmentally sound conditions
Click here to sign a petition to urge your grocery store to stock fair-trade bananas.
But first, please leave comments - do you buy conventional bananas? Are you comforted by "fair trade" seals? Or do you avoid bananas because of the carbon footprint required to transport them to your neck of the woods?
(Image from this interesting Babble.com post about how bananas are marketed here in the U.S.)