It seems like everybody loves bananas. It’s the most consumed fruit in the United States although it’s grown hundreds of miles away. But consumers are oblivious to what it takes to get that lovely bunch of bananas on their tables. For instance, isn’t it odd that apples that are grown in the United States cost double what bananas cost? That happens to be part of the banana industry’s business model for the last one hundred years. The real question is not why do apples cost more, but why do bananas cost so much less.
As author Dan Koeppel points out, the banana industry does this deliberately so they can literally get away with murder. This low cost means that they use poisonous pesticides instead of biological solutions, they exploit people, harm the environment and basically anything else they need to do in order to make a profit.
In 1899 a struggling businessman in Central America partnered with the Boston Fruit company to form The United Fruit Company. Their goal was to make the banana the cheapest fruit in the USA. The company grew so quickly and gained power in so many places that it became known as ‘the octopus’. They created a transport monopoly and controlled shipping in all major ports in the region. Cheap land and cheaper labor were guaranteed and soon everybody who was anybody owned United Fruit stock.
But workers in Colombia started to demand an eight-hour workday, written contracts and better salaries. One fateful day they took to the streets where their complaints were met with a rain of bullets. Over one thousand strikers were killed by the Colombian military with the full knowledge of the US State Department. This happened 80 years ago. Today, people still commemorate the massacre. This horrific crime set the precedent for the executions and the injustices that are still occurring today as multinational companies partner with paramilitary groups such as the AFC, who fight against the FARC.
On the plantations in Central America workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals that were banned from the US because they were proven to cause sterility, among other ailments. The Central American workers were not informed of the dangers of these substances and most of them were completely unprotected while using the chemicals. Some of them recall drinking the water that contained the dangerous substances and even showering in it.
Listen to these stories of injustice and the high price that is being paid so that this favorite fruit can continue to be brought to the tables of millions of families in the United States. Watch it now.