Let me tell you all a story about a man named Don Jorge who is a Costa Rican pineapple farmer.

The Situation

About two weeks ago, on a class trip to Costa Rica, we visited the Curridabat Organic Farmer's market near San Jose, and there, we met a man named Don Jorge. Hr had walked 5 days from his farm to the President's house to speak to him about the situation. His face was covered in wrinkles, not only because of his age but because of the lifetime of sun damage he had gotten from his life working on a farm. There with a group of young people, he began to tell his story that no one in my class had heard about. 

Costa Rica is a key location for producing the pineapples that get shipped off for consumption in China. China is a big country, y'all, so that's a lot of pineapples. Basically what happens is that these big production companies come in, produce all the pineapples they need (not sustainably, of course), and then leave everything else to move onto the next plot of land. A lot of what they leave is organic matter, not to mention the residue of 14 different pesticides (more or less). This doesn't even touch on the unethical labor practices of these companies. 

The Details

The organic matter starts to break down, attracting flies that will then be attracted to the livestock of farmers like Don Jorge, whose cattle and horses get no mercy from the constant irritation of mosquitoes, flies, and anything else that might be attracted to them. He showed us videos upon videos of his livestock, muscles twitching, tails whipping, but never getting a break from the coat of flies on them. One of the young people that walked with him called us all out for swatting away those flies and mosquitoes, begging us to imagine the reality of those animals who can't just swat the fly away.

The water contamination is a whole other story, as well. Felicity Lawerence took it upon herself to visit Costa Rica almost 10 years go, and write an article on everything she found. In her article, she mentions that these pesticides that the big companies used on the pineapples, many of which have been proven to be bad for human and environmental health, are still in use and legal in Costa Rica. When local reports of random illness increased in 1995, university students took it upon themselves to test the water, then got it verified internationally. They founded 22 agrochemical residues, some of which were linked to causing cancer. The government had to send out tankers of water to the most affected communities, and some continue to live off of this water for everything; eating, drinking, bathing, etc. 

Finally, think about the workers. They make barely poverty wages while also dealing with the water contamination and pesticides. There is an ongoing battle between these big companies and private unions, so the laborers are pretty much stuck. According to Costa Rican law, agricultural workers make approximately $17.76 USD per day. We can make that in 2 hours, and they work all light hours. What kind of world wants to support something like that?

Time To Make A Choice

tropical, Hawaii, Fruit, juice, pasture, pineapple
Amelia Hitchens

This is where it gets trickiest. We, as consumers, have to make a decision. If we stop eating pineapples, the worker's will continue to live in barely livable conditions. If we continue, the animals and humans affected by not only the water contamination but the rotting organic matter will suffer. I don't have a simple answer because there isn't one. I encourage you to do some more research and decide what the best decision for you is. Obviously, unless you eat pineapple all day, every day, this won't affect your every day, but it is the every day for thousands of Costa Ricans. It's time to start being mindful consumers, so why not start with pineapple?

Maybe check out some new fruits to try instead of pineapple! It's summertime fruit season!