My interest in Banana Plantations and the harmful effects they tend to have on the environment began five years ago when I went to Costa Rica with a group of people in my senior class. We traveled around the country and were in an environmental studies class. I learned about all the different ecosystems and diversity Costa Rica has. On this trip we had to pick something we were interested in and knew nothing about and do some research on the topic. We talked to local farmers and native people and asked questions to better understand our topic, and the issues surrounding it. I was appalled at the blue plastic bags I saw scattered all over the country side, when I asked what they were and was informed they were from Banana Plantations, and that right there was when I decided I was going to research Banana Plantations. While in Costa Rica I formed a stable understanding of what was going on with them and their harmful ways, but that was it. I knew there was still so much out there for me to discover about banana plantation and their harmful effects and their widespread use of pesticides. (Engelhaupt 13) I was so excited to write this paper and to begin doing research and to finally and hopefully answer some of the questions I wasn’t able to answer my senior year in Costa Rica. So in this paper I will look at how Banana Plantations work and go into detail on how they use pesticides and how they are contaminating the land they are on and around them. Banana Plantations are commercial agricultural facilities found in tropical climates. Large-scale banana production has been conducted in Central America since the beginning of the 20th century. Currently three major American companies are working out of Costa Rica and worldwide: Dole, Del Monte, and Chiquita. Bananas are sixty-five percent of Costa Rica’s exports. The United States is the biggest consumer of bananas, importing and average of 3.7 million tons each year (Magney 3), Europe is right there with them with in the amount of bananas consumed.
While in Costa Rica I visited both a family farm and a corporate facility. I visited a local farm in San Luis. The owner had roughly 5-7 banana trees for his own consumption and he used no pesticides or plastic bags. For small organic farmers it is easier for them to take care of their bananas so they can use fewer chemicals. Also, the farmer mentioned that you could use some chemicals and still call your product organic. It was a very small percentage of chemicals, though. So, small-scale banana production is very common in Costa Rica, as well as large-scale banana plantations. There is no set amount of acres a banana plantation needs to have or has. It is just the amount of acreage the companies can afford to own and maintain. Most families have a couple banana trees on their property for family consumption. I asked while at Fica La Educativa( in Costa Rica) about local and organic farms and Romel (our tour guide) said that they do not use plastic bags. It is something only the large-scale banana plantations do. At Dole, where we visited briefly, all you could see were banana plants for as far as you could see. “Maintaining high yields of cheap and blemish free fruit requires frequent and intense applications of agrochemicals. Fertilizers must be applied to meet the high nutrient requirements of the crop and to compensate for nutrient loss to weathering. Herbicides are used to keep the ground free of vegetation. Nematicides must be applied directly to the soil around the base of the trees to protect the roots from nematode damage. Aerial applications of fungicides are done up to 50 times a year to battle the destructive Black and Yellow Singatoka fungi. In the packing facility, workers apply fungicides and disinfectants such as formaldehyde to the fruit to protect it during shipment. The result of this intensive chemical use has been the contamination of lowland environments.”(Zahm 895)