A Banana Dilemma   Leave a comment

So I’ve been experimenting with alternative bananas lately in an attempt to figure out what is the most conscientious banana to eat: fair-trade or non-GMO (genetically modified organism).

When I first heard about GMO bananas my first thought was that it was a silly joke. But unfortunately not. I guess banana plantations are being hit by all kinds of problems, as plague any extensive monoculture crops (especially given that cultivated bananas are sterile – no seeds – and propagated by cuttings, which doesn’t really help maintain genetic diversity). I hadn’t thought about it before, but now it seems like an inevitable problem since bananas are an immensely popular fruit and there is only one cultivar that is generally recognized as being a “banana”. I am not a supporter of genetic modifications. As a result, even though I don’t eat very many bananas typically, I want don’t want to contribute to an inevitable problem. Since it is winter and so harder to come by local fresh fruit for smoothies, I decided it is a good time to experiment with other types of available bananas. My husband has dutifully purchased me reds and babies (which I think I knew as finger bananas), and I can say that they work just fine. The babies take a really long time to ripen, so I suspect that the textural difference between the classic yellow banana and the reds and babies may be mostly due to differences in the amount of time harvested before maturity.

While eating other banana cultivars is all well and good to not contribute to the need for genetic modification, there is the other concern about labor. Fair trade bananas are available in some stores, and they ensure that the people growing and harvesting the bananas are paid a fair wage, have decent working conditions, and that child labor is not used. These are very important and when it comes to tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar, and vanilla I will only buy certified fair trade. Where is the balance, though, between the labor and non-GMO problems? My inclination is to buy the non-fair-trade non-classic-yellow-banana varieties. I figure that if lack of genetic diversity and problems with fungus and disease are so bad, that it is better to use my tiny market power to encourage more variety because these problems may ultimately hurt the workers even worse.

At least spring is here, soon to be followed by summer peaches so I can stop eating bananas altogether for several months.

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Posted April 20, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, fair trade, food

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