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'Bananas at Risk of Disappearing from Supermarket Shelves'

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Britain's favourite fruit could disappear from supermarket shelves unless drastic changes are made to global production methods.

Trade unions and small producer representatives meeting at the third World Banana Forum in Geneva today will warn banana producers and retailers that without fundamental change in the way bananas are produced, the fruit will disappear from UK supermarkets shelves

The emergence of True Race 4 (TR4), the new race 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 [2]. Britons alone eat over 5 billion bananas every year [2].

The new pathogen affects banana crops worldwide. It has spread across Asia – Jordan, Pakistan and Lebanon as well as the Philipines and Indonesia [3]. It is on the rise in Africa and Australia – where it was detected in 2015 and again in 2017 [4].

It has yet to arrive in Latin America, but no barrier to its spread there has yet been identified.

GMB is joining other unions and small producers argue that production based on low-paid, large-scale monoculture is destroying worker health, the natural environment and local communities.

In order to save the banana from potential extinction, unions and farmers are calling for change to production methods [5].

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.

“The system for the production and trade of dessert bananas is little more than a house of cards built on the shaky foundations of monoculture and genetic uniformity. This house of cards threatens to collapse at any moment.

“Producers, retailers and unions must take advantage of the Forum to map out a sustainable future for the banana."


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[1] Third Conference of the World Banana Forum, 8- 9 November 2017, International Conference Centre (CICG), Geneva, Switzerland

[2] Why bananas matter, BananaLink

[3] Scientists battle deadly banana fungus, SciDevNet

[4] Panama disease tropical race 4 confirmed on Mackays Queensland banana farm, Australia's largest grower, ABC News

[5] In order to save the banana from potential extinction, unions and farmers are calling for the following:

· The replacement of an industrial monoculture by diverse ecological production systems that increase resilience to climate change
· An end to the use of toxic agrochemicals, many of which are prohibited or restricted in the United States and Europe.
· A new approach to industrial relations that treats workers and their unions with dignity and respect through internationally recognized standards of freedom of association and collective bargaining.
· Fair distribution of value along the chain that enables workers to secure a living wage
· For women to have an active and meaningful role at all levels of decision making

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