5.14.2015

Bananas! No, really.
Food Issues Book Club - Stuffed and Starved, Chapter 5

Hello all!  Welcome to the NOiG Food Issues Book Club, wherein I read books about food stuff, summarize each book by chapter, and then attempt to apply that book chapter's ideas to the New Orleans food environment and/or my own experiences.  Fun right?!  Check out previous installations here.  I'd love it if you'd read along and join in!  And now, without further ado...

Stuffed and Starved, Chapter 5: The Customer is our Enemy

Summary:

"Suicide, poverty, and displacement have met many in rural areas who have been unable to survive the global [food] market."  Trade agreements, rather than benefiting the many, benefit only the wealthy few who are able to control commodities.  The United Fruit Company, for example, profited enormously in its exports of bananas even while its fruit growers in Guatemala languished in abject poverty.

So powerful was the UCF that it convinced the US that the Guatemalan president, when he crossed company interests, that he was actually a budding communist.  Given the Red Scare fever that the US was in at the time (1954), the US invaded and killed over 200,000 people.  All because UCF didn't want to sell a bit of its land back to the country it was pillaging.

Unsurprisingly, New Orleans served as a main port for UFC
So-called "Banana Republics" jokingly referred to by developed countries and known for being backward, are in fact "the comically inept regimes installed by the [banana] export corporations" rather than a genuine representation of these countries' chosen governing.  Nevertheless, the perception "sullies the reputations of these countries' citizens, rather than reflecting back on the cause of their impoverishment."  UFC is, of course, now known as Chiquita.

Though the example of UFC is a dramatic one, it is illustrative of the pervasive trend in the modern food industry: the already powerful see profits, while those of less means (and those who do the work that make the rich rich) struggle and die.  While food prices increase for consumers, profits decrease for farmers.  Given that corporations control the food industry, this should not come as a surprise.  "Corporations are the first to admit that they're in business not for any wider social goal, but for profit.  Although there's sometimes talk of 'wider social good,' it is always done with a wink to the investors."

All that money allows food corporations to exert an alarming sway over federal government.  "Up and down the food system, from seed to sachet, food system corporations lobby, threaten, plead, and demand political favour."  Further, courts of law are as likely to rule in favor of corporations as they are to rule for the good of the people when business practices are brought under scrutiny of law.

Discussion:

I'm Chiquita banana and I'm here to say
Bananas like to ripen in a certain way
When they are flecked with brown and have a golden hue
Bananas taste the best and are the best for you

Anyone else learn the Chiquita Banana song in grade school?  It gets stuck in my head any time I purchase bananas.  Funny, though, in school they didn't mention the destruction and death upon which the Chiquita empire was built.  That's no surprise though; they barely mentioned the death and destruction upon which our whole country was built.  At least they're consistent.

Let me implore you at this time to source your bananas carefully.  Do. Not. Buy. Chiquita. Or. Dole.  Please!  (Dole has a similar company history.)  Whether from one of the area Whole Foods, or Robert's, or Dorignac's, or the Nola Food Coop, please seek out bananas that are fairly traded.  If you can't find them, maybe just don't eat bananas that week. I'm positive you'll get by just fine without them.

My favorite bit in this chapter is the part about how corporations only do things for money.  It's not the first of this year's readings to mention this fundamental fact of capitalism, and it's one I'd like y'all to keep in mind any time you come across a discussion about GMOs - like for instance in the Chapter 6 post for this book!

Truth in advertising?

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