“Why do you hate Chiquita Banana so much?” was the last question asked to John Vandermeer after his lecture. No, the answer was not because of Chiquita’s mascot or theme song, which I sang in my head after typing the brand name. Vandermeer’s disgust with the company comes from its history of mistreating workers, polluting the environment, and bribing government officials. These are only a few of the injustices that the company has committed. Unfortunately, Chiquita is not alone.
Many companies are in the business of exploiting land and workers for profit. Coca-Cola depleted the groundwater of Plachimada, Kerala that caused water shortages and contamination for the local population. Or Monsanto, the largest producer of genetically engineered seeds in the world, promotes mono-culture which drains the soil of nutrients and makes it unworkable for years after (Global Exchange).
I am willing to make the assumption that the majority of American consumers are ignorant to how their food arrived on supermarket shelves. I would go further to state that even if consumers did know, many would turn a blind eye to these injustices to keep food prices low. Organic and locally grown foods are ecological better, but a mother of four living from paycheck to paycheck is more concerned with the price tag. Small and local farms cannot compete with mass produced food at a lower cost. They are unable to lower the price of their produce to the same level without becoming financially ruined.
The mentality of Americans is that cheaper is better. Low food prices have become a household obsession. Shows like Extreme Couponing are examples of how Americans think with their wallets and are willing to buy any product as long as it is virtually free. The Costco craze is also an example of American’s willingness to buy in bulk as long as they are getting a financial deal in the end. For socioeconomic families below upper-middle class, organic food suppliers like Whole Foods and farmers markets are out of the question for daily purchases.
(Notice all the food is processed and packaged and the buyer is overweight)
If American consumers are unwilling to make an effort to stop corporations from destroying the small-scale agricultural industry, endangering the environment, and abusing workers the government should impose a tax on large food corporations. It would force Americans to change their mentality about how much of their incomes should be spent on food. Gradually, more expensive food would become normal. The tax would also allow local farmers to compete with mass food producers in stores like Walmart and Jewel.
A tax would be a solution to the problem, but it would meet feverish opposition from politicians who are supported by these large corporations that implementing it would be difficult. There would need to be strong support for smart food production in Congress starting at the grassroots level.
It is time for American’s to becoming smarter consumers. Shoppers should look at ridiculously low priced produced skeptically instead of with excitement. Why do I hate Chiquita? Because I respect people, love the environment, and advocate for organic and local produce.
Exchange, Global. ""Most Wanted" | Global Exchange." Home | Global Exchange. Web. 27 Sept. 2011. <http://www.globalexchange.org/corporateHRviolators>