The banana is the most consumed fruit in the world and Ecuador is one of its main producers. However, its production has many dark elements.
According to Vicente Wong, president of the banana company Favorita, this is the second largest export industry in Ecuador, after oil. This economic activity benefits some and adversely affects others.
This is the case of Efren Velez, a former worker of the banana industry. "On February 28, 2013, while I was working, I started coughing up blood. The doctors determined that I had cirrhosis [...] but I did not drink alcohol."
After working for more than 30 years in the industry, Velez is one of the many people affected by pesticides, but his case was put aside. "Off the record, they told me that it might be due to the chemicals, but they wouldn't give me a signed result because it would cost them their jobs."
Adolfo Maldonado, a doctor who is responsible for research, health and environment at the Accion Ecologica organization, said that the chemicals used in banana cultivation caused short-term problems in the skin, eyes and lungs, and that they could also cause long-term problems, such as a very important genetic damage, an increase in cancer cases in young people and adults, congenital malformations, and even abortions.
Jorge Garcia Vera, a worker of the banana industry in the town of Quevedo, describes his daily work days. "We, the workers, are also treated as bananas because they spray us like we were bananas. We are working in the fields and the plane passes by and fumigates the area. We are not worth anything for them."
This doctor attributed the problem to large corporations, which "have even stated that glyphosate is less harmful than salt, than baby shampoo, or vitamin A;" in statements made by some of his colleagues, who are now 'mercenaries' for the industry.
Wong completely agrees that there is a need to remove harmful chemicals, but stresses that there must be a balance to sustain productivity. The only alternative, he said, is biotechnology.
Ecuadorian legislation adequately protects workers. Unfortunately, it isn't being applied; especially when companies conduct campaigns against labor movements so that justice is not done. "There will only be a change of attitude when companies find it more expensive to pay fines," said Adolfo Maldonado.