Nights are chilly now, and darkness falls at around 7pm here in New Brunswick. We continue to pick giant zucchinis from our organic garden and the last straggling tomatoes, and I have been eagerly following the progress of my tiny winter kale and lettuce seedlings that I planted at the last minute. I am still hoping they will grow grow grow, and that I wasn’t too late.
I am not much of a movie enthusiast in general, but I was under the weather recently, and I found myself watching a documentary called “Bananas”, (available on netflix), directed by Fredrik Gertten, which tells the story of a group of Nicaraguan banana plantation workers who have been rendered sterile (in addition to suffering from a host of other ailments) and the courageous lawyer Juan Dominguez who takes on their case against the Dole fruit company, whose apparently criminally negligent use of pesticides on their plantations have caused such suffering for their workers. The film is nerve-wracking and totally heartbreaking, and while I have long been aware of the inordinate quantity of chemicals used to grow bananas (and I always buy organic), “Bananas: The Movie” really brings to the fore the degree to which multinational corporations prioritize profit over human dignity.
The film brought to mind the recently published (Annals of Internal Medicine) Stanford University meta-study which shows “no significant health benefit” to organic food over conventionally grown food.
I have heard similar attacks on organic growing before, which emphasize the finding that organic and conventionally grown produce contain similar levels of vitamins. But since the study came out, I have read and heard several interviews with scientists who have gone on to dismiss the popularity of organic and locally grown foods as fetishistic and faddish, and simply a class marker by those who feel superior…
Well, I and a number of others take great issue with this interpretation and with the study itself, which focuses on the vitamin and nutrient issue, while minimizing the issue of pesticides and chemicals which for myself, and many others, is the central motivation for buying organic foods at a premium. And the fact is that yes, the levels of pesticide residues found on conventionally grown foods are much higher than the residues found on organically grown products. But beyond my concern for the health and safety of my children (keep in mind that organophosphates have been linked to learning difficulties in kids), the decision to purchase organically grown foods is political, also. The dangers of pesticides are far greater for those who work in the banana plantations of Nicaragua, or the potato fields of Carleton County, New Brunswick, than they are for the end consumer. The use of chemicals and pesticides in industrial farming harms primarily those workers who have no other opportunities for employment.
I’ll never eat a banana again without thinking of the haunting footage from the 70s of that little girl my daughter’s age, frolicking next to a bucket of poison supplied by Dow Chemical. I wonder where that little girl is now.
I am quite pleased with this new little website of mine. I’ve been hard at work on this baby for a while now. I will be posting recipes and much more soon, and although I know I’m late in the game, I hope I might be able to give you some fresh ideas on the question of what to do with masses of humungous courgettes and billions of tomatoes. I swear I can not give my zucchinis away right now…Stay tuned!