The Ubiquitous Banana
October 23, 2009 10:12 AM   Subscribe

"Miller produced a memo written in 1978 by Jack DeMent, a senior Dole [Food Company] executive, that reflected a proposed policy that 'people in the areas to be treated will be notified to the effect in the language of the workers involved.' Miller said a comment found on the draft undercut the good intentions. The comment read: 'This is not operationally feasible and does not need to be implemented.'"

Dole Food Company was one of many companies that used DBCP on agricultural plantations. Nicaraguan workers have claimed that they were exposed to toxic levels of the nematocide without notification or protection. Despite the EPA banning most agricultural use of DBCP in the United States, at least one fruit company demanded that Dow Chemical continue to supply them with the chemical for use in other countries, even threatening legal action.

A recent documentary, Bananas!*, covers the conflict between Dole Food Company and workers on banana plantations in Nicaragua.

Dole responded by suing the filmmakers for defamation, later withdrawing their claim. The documentary website includes a timeline of events.

Further reading:
"In the first U.S. trial, a jury in Los Angeles awarded $5.8 million in damages to six Nicaraguan workers...Last year, Chaney reduced the damages by more than half; the case is on appeal."

In April 2009, Chaney dismissed two tort cases against Dole and Dow Chemical on grounds of fraud

October 21st, 2009 US District Judge Paul Huck declares rulings made by Nicaraguan courts invalid.
posted by burnfirewalls (13 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This always gets me. One expects this sort of thing (colonial exploitation and ne'erdowellism) around oil, say, or gold, or sugar (especially sugar!).

But bananas? That's nuts.

An entity named United Fruit belongs in a comic book or a Pynchon novel, not on Naomi Klein's short list.
posted by notyou at 10:22 AM on October 23, 2009

There's a reason they're called banana republics.

The detail about the memo-marginalia is great, too.
posted by besonders at 10:24 AM on October 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

In closing arguments, Gennaro Filice, a lawyer for Dow, urged jurors to "take into account their society and where they live" to compensate "in the context of their world and their society."
Speaking of lists, Attorney Filice has earned a place on my "not fully human" list.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:27 AM on October 23, 2009

this seems to be one of those "everybody is awful. everybody loses" situations. the allegations of fraud against Dominguez, the lawyer for the workers, are staggering.
posted by shmegegge at 10:41 AM on October 23, 2009

If true (and it seems like it's true), the conduct of the plaintiffs' lawyers (and a few of the plaintiffs) is outrageous and embarrassing and an indescribable disservice to the workers who may have injuries. Makes me a little sad.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:42 AM on October 23, 2009

Bananas are one of the dumbest inventions ever.

No variation? Really?
posted by basicchannel at 11:12 AM on October 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

Bananas are one of the dumbest inventions ever.

No variation? Really?

Favorited for the link, not your text. There is variation between bananas, but the "invention" was the fact you could make cuttings into new trees, producing identical fruit. No variation in the "copied" trees' fruit was a safe bet when growing something to sell.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:45 PM on October 23, 2009

That's what I meant. The same genetics go into nearly every banana leaving it vulnerable to a worldwide collapse. THAT was what I "really?"'d.
posted by basicchannel at 1:13 PM on October 23, 2009

Damnit: nearly every banana we consume, that is.
posted by basicchannel at 1:14 PM on October 23, 2009

The same genetics go into nearly every banana leaving it vulnerable to a worldwide collapse.

And those of us who are allergic to the damn things are biding our time, waiting for our grand moment of schadenfreude.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:39 PM on October 23, 2009

As crazy as Chavez seems, I wonder if he's going to be the beginning of South America telling the US to just fuck off. Given the amount of crap we've done in pretty much any country to the south of Texas to make sure our EVIL FUCKING corporations can turn profit, it staggers the mind to think any of them are still friendly to us. Oh, what, that's probably the bribes talking.

And, of course, after the bananas, there's the long and ugly history of sugar production, too.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:10 PM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

well, yes, there's that, too. Is there another country we haven't totally fucked over yet? I mean, if we want to collect the whole set, we should figure that out. What can we do to, say, Switzerland?
posted by Ghidorah at 7:14 PM on October 23, 2009

And those of us who are allergic to the damn things are biding our time, waiting for our grand moment of schadenfreude.



Most bananas grown worldwide are used for local consumption. In the tropics, bananas, especially cooking bananas, represent a major source of food, as well as a major source of income for smallholder farmers. It is in the East African highlands that bananas reach their greatest importance as a staple food crop. In countries such as Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda per capita consumption has been estimated at 450 kg per year, the highest in the world. Ugandans use the same word "matooke" to describe both banana and food.

In the past, the banana was a highly sustainable crop with a long plantation life and stable yields year round. However with the arrival of the Black sigatoka fungus, banana production in eastern Africa has fallen by over 40%. For example, during the 1970s, Uganda produced 15 to 20 tonnes of bananas per hectare. Today, production has fallen to only 6 tonnes per hectare.

Mind you, I've a mild allergy and a strong distaste for green peppers, red peppers, chiles, cayenne, etc. and table mushrooms, so I see where you're coming from.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:26 PM on October 23, 2009

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