For this first ever Babel blog I thought it would be a good idea to open with the subject of bananas. And while I’m at it, I might as well mention the topic of national security too.
The other day I was at my local supermarket and ranking high on my mental shopping list was bananas. Luckily the bananas were out in force that day; unfortunately they were all imported, without exception. Upon enquiring with supermarket staff as to whether they had any home-produced bananas, they looked at me as if I’d asked if they had any green spider testicles.
Maybe such a look wouldn’t have been out of place if I’d been demanding the presence of Mexican bananas in a supermarket in Bangkok or Mogadishu. But I wasn’t. I was in a Mexican supermarket, whose very name – without wanting to promote or poo-poo any specific brands – features an unequivocal reference to the nation it is located in. Furthermore, Mexico is the world’s tenth biggest producer of bananas.
Looking a little further afield, the same quandary applied to apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries, kiwis, and a whole range of fruits in general. Evidence that Mexico is currently the sixth biggest producer of fruit on the planet was notable by its absence.
Conclusion? The fruit-producing titan called Mexico is insatiably devouring imported fruit from its northern neighbour at a time when this country’s biggest foreign market is determined to curb imports from here. In addition to president Trump’s obsession with setting a match to the NAFTA agreement, this US fruit frenzy is set against a backdrop of chronic neglect, exploitation and turmoil in Mexico’s own agricultural sector.
The consequences of this state of affairs verge on the catastrophic.
To begin with, given that this inundation from the north extends way beyond just fruit, Mexico is effectively surrendering its food autonomy – the country’s ability to feed its own population – to another nation; specifically, one with whom relations are currently at their lowest point since World War II. Few things offer a truer measure of national sovereignty than food autonomy. Ask the Qataris.
Secondly, agricultural jobs are going north of the border, as are thousands of workers forced by desperation to embark upon a crossing that claims hundreds of migrant lives each year. Over 1,200 migrants disappeared while crossing the Mexico-US border in 2015 alone, with hundreds of thousands more currently in detention facilities and millions living in constant anguish at the prospect of possible deportation under a migrant-hostile federal administration. Why should Mexican rural workers be subjected to all this to pick fruit for foreign multinationals when they should be able to do the same here for local firms?
Thirdly, a considerable number of rural sector workers, exposed to increasingly unstable weather and increasingly unstable government, are left without a source of income. Drugs and other criminal activities are often the only option on offer. Unlike Trump’s claim that steel imports may pose a threat to national security, the neglect of Mexico’s agricultural sector really is a huge menace to security both in this country and the US.
Finally, there is a deafening silence regarding the methods and products used to grow the fruit and veggies we eat. US agriculture is increasingly reliant on genetic engineering and has gone to great lengths all over the world to ensure that food labelling is utterly devoid of any reference to GM products. In this age of market-led consumerism, our right as consumers to know exactly what is in the food we buy and eat is one of the fundamental precepts of democracy.
So, where does all this leave us? In the short term at least, we can’t decide which products the supermarkets buy, but we most certainly can decide what we buy. Maybe it requires a little more effort or a little more money on our part, but it makes sense to find options for buying domestic produce instead of imports.
In recent years, a number of local organic producers have sprung up in Mexico, offering agricultural produce that is not only home-grown but also free of the more virulent substances and methods currently usurping traditional farming in huge swathes of the planet. Some of these producers can be found in listings and directories such as http://organicsa.net/directorio-productos-organicos and www.impulsoorganicomexicano.com. Many of them also make home deliveries.
Spread the word. People everywhere need to know not only what they are eating but what the consequences of their choices as consumers are. If people stop buying a certain product, it will disappear from supermarket shelves, and what people do buy will take its place.
Enjoy your meal!!
Oh, and make sure to drop by our webpage.