Showers of pesticides in conventional banana plantations

Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of bananas. In 2016, the country exported 6.7 million tons of bananas. Many of them end up in Europe, where in 2016, 1 in 4 bananas came from a plantation in Ecuador., but the cheap price of banana hides the high price paid by workers in the banana plantations. In the warm and humid areas where bananas are farmed, the plants are sensitive to the growth of the fungus Black Sigotoka which can destroy an entire plantation in a few days. That is why farmers use a cocktail of dangerous pesticides to prevent this tremendous scenario. Some of of the pesticides used are Dithane 600, Mancozeb and Gramoxone, all very toxic and not permitted in the EU. 

The debate on pesticides is dominated by consumer concerns about pesticide residues in food. Much less attention is given to the impacts on farmers and their families who are generally much more exposed to pesticides than the population at large. While pesticide residues in exported bananas do not generally represent a safety concern for consumers abroad, ecosystem and human health in producing regions are not likewise protected.  Up to 200L of toxic pesticides ingredients per hectare per year are sprayed through air fumigations creating a harmful impact on the workers of the plantation and the people living in the villages around. On average, the number of spraying of pesticide by crop dusters has risen from 22 to 45 times per year per plantation in Ecuador, almost one application per week. This leads to many cases of skin disease, kidney failures, cancer, loss of fertility, etc. The birth defect rate in Ecuador’s banana regions is estimated at 2.6%, while the national birth defect rate is just 0.22%. Pesticides also cause damages to the surrounding environment. The toxic substances leak in the water causing a poisoned habitat for animals and plants.

Conventional and organic cultivation clearly differ in terms of pesticide exposure. Organic farmers rely on organic fertilizers such as compost, manure, and seaweed and insect predators to control pests. The environmental benefits of organic banana farming are many: it improves soil conditions, reduces water pollution thanks to the use of organic fertilizers, increase sustainability of the agricultural system, reduces fossil fuel use, increases biodiversity thanks to the diversification of species, use of crops and absence of chemical substances.  Intercropping with other crops such as coffee, vanilla, cacao, legumes and other tropical fruit increase the soil fertility and reduce pests. 

For Banabar we only use organic banana from Ecuador. Organic food is good for you and for the planet.