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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bananas: A Fruit. A Movie. A Book.

Buying a banana in Wisconsin fills this would-be locovore with enormous guilt. The environmental impact! The carbon footprint! But bananas are so useful in cooking and baking that it is difficult for me to totally avoid them. During the peanut butter product re-call earlier this year, I was consumed with the idea of having a peanut butter and banana sandwich; who'd have ever imagined these ingredients as items that would put you on edge.

The bland banana is generating controversy in the movie world. The Los Angeles Times reports that the screening of Bananas!, a documentary on the agenda at this week's Los Angeles Film Festival, is being fought by Dole Food Co. Dole asserts it will sue the filmmaker and the Los Angeles Film Festival for defamation if Bananas! is shown.

The film apparently concerns, at least in part, suits brought by Los Angeles attorney Juan Dominguez on behalf of Nicaraguan banana plantation workers. The workers claimed they were poisoned by pesticides used by Dole. Regarding this litigation, the Wall Street Journal reported, "Dominguez won a jury trial in 2007 on behalf of several Nicaraguans. But this spring, a judge in Los Angeles threw out two other lawsuits against Dole after being presented with evidence gathered from Nicaraguans who said that they had been recruited and coached by lawyers and provided with false work histories and falsified medical lab reports." The documentary, however, was completed and accepted for the festival before the suits were tossed out and thus does not address this latest development in the litigation.

If you find the topic of bananas appealing, check out Bananas: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World by Dan Koeppel. Bananas, the book, traces the history of the fruit, from the Garden of Eden, to banana republics, to current-day plantations where the fruit is being destroyed by a blight for which there is no cure. The author was interviewed in a very interesting program from NPR's Fresh Air last February; access that material here.

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