The GMB is joining other unions and small producers arguing that production based on low-paid, large-scale monoculture is destroying worker health, the natural environment and local communities.
The union took the opportunity of the third World Banana Forum in Geneva today (November 8) to issue a warning to banana producers and retailers.
It said that without fundamental change in the way bananas are produced it will disappear from UK supermarkets for good.
The emergence of True Race 4 (TR4), the new strain of Fusarium Oxysporum, less than 60 years after the original outbreak of ‘Panama Disease’ and its rapid spread has exposed the US $25 billion global banana trade. Britons alone eat over 5 billion bananas every year.
The new pathogen affects banana crops worldwide. It has spread across Asia, where it is infecting bananas in Jordan, Pakistan and Lebanon as well as the Philippines and Indonesia. It is on the rise in Africa and Australia, where it was detected in 2015 and again in 2017.
It has yet to arrive in Latin America, but no barrier to its spread there has yet been identified.
In order to save the banana from potential extinction, unions and farmers are calling for change to production methods.
These methods, according to GMB, include:
- Replace industrial monoculture with diverse ecological production systems that increase resilience to climate change.
- End to the use of toxic agrochemicals, many of which are prohibited or restricted in the United States and Europe.
- Introducing a new approach to industrial relations that treats workers and their unions with dignity and respect through internationally recognised standards of freedom of association and collective bargaining.
- The fair distribution of value along the chain that enables workers to secure a living wage.
- Ensuring women have an active and meaningful role at all levels of decision making.
Speaking from the World Banana Forum in Geneva, Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer said: “Our sister trade unions tell us that producers are desperate to prevent ‘Fusarium RT4’ disease spreading to Latin America from other parts of the world.
“However, unless there is a fundamental shift in production methods, away from exploitative, environmentally destructive plantation mono-culture, it is only a matter of time before the disease takes hold with devastating consequences for exports to Britain and Europe.
“Producers, retailers and unions must take advantage of the Forum to map out a sustainable future for the banana.”