Sunday, May 12, 2013

Gone Bananas

After writing my last two posts about consumers and businesses, and the REAL cost of food, I set out on a mental quest to discover the impacts of one of the most beloved fruits eaten in America - the banana.

What I wanted to do was to test the GoodGuide's evaluation of bananas, which is currently a 10 - based only on health (bananas are very nutrient dense, although they are slightly high in sugar content). There is currently no data put together for the Environmental and Societal impact sections of bananas. So what is a consumer to do? How can I know if bananas are ecologically friendly?

Answer: I have to do my own investigating.

What I found, however, was just how difficult and muddy trying to sift through the information available about food really is for the consumer. (Current information and studies can be outdated, and information about food is changing all the time as new practices are put in place). However, I tried my best to find the most recent information as possible about bananas, how they are grown, and their current impact.

A marvelous thing about any food grown in the world is that there are usually a few varieties. Doing my research, I found there are actually over 1000 varieties of bananas worldwide! However, the banana variety that most Americans are familiar with is the Cavendish, which is thought to be on the bridge of extinction (because we grow it as a monoculture to maintain its genetic uniqueness, which allows it to become more susceptible to disease).

In America, businesses like to focus on their brands to promote their products, and the only brand I really knew before my investigation of bananas sold in the U.S. was Chiquita. Evidently, they have good marketing, and a catchy tune - “I’m Chiquita banana, and I've come to say, I give you good nutrition in a simple way!”

There are at least two other major corporations who invest in bananas in America - Dole and Del Monte. However, since I see Chiquita bananas most frequently, I focused my research specifically on this company.

A few things I found out about Chiquita: they once got their hands dirty by funding Colombian terrorists and their Cavendish bananas require a lot of pesticide, which is harmful to workers and the towns near the banana plantations.

Nevertheless, Chiquita does make strides in advocating and participating in sustainability initiatives, despite the fact that they don't seem to be able to forego the pesticide use of their own product or to introduce other varieties of bananas in their brand to the American population (which would promote better food security than their current product does).

After reviewing this information, I don't think I can rate industrially-grown Cavendish bananas on a very highly positive scale for environmental and societal impacts. These companies have more cleaning up to do in their practices to reach my acceptable standards for food production in the world I want to live in. What do you think, Readers? Can they do better?

Business Takeaway message: Don’t make bad connections, regardless of pressure. Also, based on your decisions, you have the power to make a big positive influence, or a big negative influence. Make the right choices that lead toward an environmentally friendly business and a socially beneficial product.

Consumer Takeaway message: Eat local as much as possible, or know the practices of the food companies you are supporting before buying their products. If you live in Florida or another tropical location in the U.S., try growing a banana tree yourself or meet people who do!

For those even more ambitious food gatherers out there, my next post is going to be on wild food collection in America and the possibilities still available to those who are interested in this craft.

Are you hungry yet?


  1. Also, check out this red banana variety! They're beautiful!

  2. If you would like to grow your own bananans but don't want a massive banana tree, I discovered that there are Super Dwarf Cavendish banana plants! These can be grown indoors, on a patio, or outside. Too cool! :-) Hirt's Gardens sells these plants on

  3. That's fantastic, Faith! Thanks for sharing! I also found that you can get banana varieties sent you to locally in Florida by the Florida Hill Nursery (I see they have some Dwarfs!), or check out Siggi's Organic Farm and Apiary.

  4. Also, here's the link for the Florida Hill Nursery if you were interested: