Monday, June 23, 2008

Say Goodbye to Bananas Now, Not Later

Bananas are a problematic fruit for we here in the States. Plenty of blood was spilled in the 20th century to ensure that we'd have a fresh, unending supply of this tropical fruit. Leaders suck as Guatemala's Jacobo Arbenz have been deposed in its name. Whole rain forests have been cleared to plant more of the crop. Decades ago, the ravages of nature intertwined with the "ingenuity" of man to ensure that, today, our taste buds know only one strain of banana - the Cavendish.

Through all of this, the banana has survived as an American staple. But for how much longer? It was a viral infection that wiped out the Gros Michael variety of bananas, and steered us toward Cavendishes; and now, a new strain of Panama disease may take down the Cavendish as well.

The banana may be our ultimate un-sustainable food. Companies ship thousands of pounds of this fruit to our markets, across thousands of miles, in refrigerated storage. The maintenance of huge banana monocultures makes crops highly susceptible to disease, which require tons of chemical pesticides to keep at bay. It's a waste of resources our planet can ill afford.

In his talk on The End of Food, Paul Roberts thundered that Americans must acclimate to the idea that out-of-season fruits and vegetables are harmful luxuries. Judging by the piles of bananas sitting in the produce sections of our markets, it's obvious most Americans aren't getting that message. Most of us continue to ignore the real costs of our actions - the environmental waste, the topped governments, the striking workers shot dead in far-off countries - until the cost of the item spirals out of control. Even with prices going up, bananas are still relatively cheap (a fact that delights executives at Chiquita).

Ditch the banana. Give that money to local farmers instead.