The Dirty Truth About Pesticides and Bananas

Image: Eric St. Pierre for Equal Exchange

 

Bananas are not on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List, however, they are one of the most chemically intensive crops grown. The list can mislead people into thinking conventional bananas must be ok to consume, because bananas have a peel, so all pesticides are on the outside of the fruit. But think again – and choose organic, whenever possible. Here’s why:

1. Non-organic bananas are grown on large plantations, year after year, without any changes or crop rotations. This makes them highly susceptible to pests. As a consequence, non-organic bananas are heavily sprayed with synthetic insecticides and herbicides, for example chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate neurotoxin, which harms farm workers as much as the environment.

2. Non-organic bananas are grown with intense use of synthetic fertilizers to maximize production. Because the uptake of synthetic materials by the plant is not fully predictable, over-fertilization of bananas is common. This again exposes farm workers to chemicals, but also impacts the coastal regions, fish populations,  and communities living nearby.

Image: Eric St. Pierre for Equal Exchange

 

3. Studies have shown that the skin of a fruit is permeable, similar to our own skin, and that a certain amount of toxins do end up in the fruit, no matter how protective the skin may be. While safe handling when eating a banana or feeding a baby – including washing the peel of a banana before consumption – may reduce your exposure to harmful pesticides, some pesticides may be inside the flesh and cannot be washed off.

4. As a good citizen, we compost the peel of a banana, or it goes into the landfill. Either way, the chemicals sticking to the skin of the banana will ultimately leach into our soil and groundwater, wherever we may place the peel. And from the groundwater, the chemicals come right back to us via our drinking water, cooking water, or shower water.

Image: Eric St. Pierre for Equal Exchange

To avoid pesticides, ask for organic and fair trade certified bananas. While there are many choices, we stand behind Equal Exchange Bananas

Sources:
Environmental Working Group
Environmental Working Group
The Organic Center

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