This post is about me going bananas.

I used to think of bananas simply as one of my favorite fruits.  I mean come on – it’s practically the perfect food: sweet and filling, but good for you and not overly loaded with calories.

Then I traveled to Costa Rica and visited some of the world’s best-kept plantations.  Costa Rica is heads and shoulders above many of its neighbors in terms of fighting corruption, gaining international investment and promoting human rights.  You can’t get away with human rights abuses in Costa Rica to the extent you can in Ecuador or Nicaragua.

And yet as I visited (and later went on to complete my undergraduate research on the topic), I realized that Costa Rican banana plantations were rife with human rights violations, and I was forced to recognize in the most tangible way yet just how responsible I was as a consumer, given my proclivity for bananas in my morning cereal.

The history of the fruit is fascinating, entire countries’ histories (and some say the entire world’s) have been molded, shaped and in some cases hijacked by people’s often devastating love of the banana.  Some of the very first mega corporations grew from the cultivation and worldwide marketing of the fruit, and therein have sprung some of the greatest examples of corporate irresponsibility in all of human history.

Christine Arena recently posted on APEsphere about the pending lawsuit threatened by Dole Food Corporation against a filmmaker who attempted to tell the story of Nicaraguan banana plantation workers who have faced injuries and health effects due to their work (especially due to the pesticides they come in contact with).  The case hinges on Dole’s stance that they can’t be held accountable as a domestic corporation for injuries that occurred in a foreign land.  It’s the proverbial argument around protecting foreign workers (read CHEAP LABOR) – but the banana companies take it to new levels.

Many of the plantations I visited in Costa Rica were labeling and packing recognizable brands of bananas while I visited – Dole, Chiquita etc.  But the factories and plantations themselves are not owned directly by the companies – they simply sell their produce to the corporate giants (oh, and take direction from them).  This allows these companies to skirt human rights issues and various international laws and regulations geared towards promoting corporate social responsibility.  When allegations are made, they simply state, “It’s not our factory, it’s not our country.”

I could write a thesis on this topic (oh wait, I did!) - I haven’t even touched on how companies have blasted workers’ attempts to unionize.  For now, I will just say I was dismayed to see this lawsuit almost eight years after I first started looking into this issue.  I mean, how long ago did Gabrial Garcia Marquez pen 100 Years of Solitude?  How are things like this still happening?

Bananas aren't as sexy as a Gap cardigan (or I suppose the model who wears it) - but with all the progress we've made in recent years raising awareness of CSR - how is such a massive industry still so entrenched in the worst sort of practices even after attention has been drawn to them.

There has to be a way to tie corporate giants to the factories and farms and governments that supply their profit.  There has to be a way to hold them responsible.