Monday, 23 June 2008

Political Choices at Lunchtime: Plums from California or Bananas from Anywhere?

Another trip to the Jean Talon market this weekend. It’s about a half hour walk away, and since Saturday was a gorgeous early summer day, Lee came along to help carry the goodies home. Strawberries were the same price they were the week before--$10 for a two quart basket---but there were more of them. I saw the first flats of 12 smaller baskets, although at $24 a flat, few people were buying that many at once. The supply should increase this week in time for the Festival des fraises next weekend.

Bananas range in price from 49 to 79 cents a pound, but we didn’t buy any. They’re not a fruit I like that much, and I tend to buy them when there is nothing else available, as in April when the local apples have all gone soft and the early fruit from elsewhere on the continent hasn’t come in yet.

I may cut out buying them completely after reading “Yes, We Will Have No Bananas” by Dan Koeppel in The New York Times this week. In it he discusses the way growing the fruit and transporting it from the tropics have had nefarious political effects in the past—there are good reasons why “banana republic” is a slur—and horrendous ecological repercussions in the near future. The bananas for sale in North America are all clones of one variety developed when an earlier variety, also propagated by cloning, fell ill and died all over the world. If ever there were an object lesson about monoculture, the banana story is one.

We also bought some plums from California for lunches. They aren't as good as the ones from Ontario and the Italian prunes from around here that we'll get in August. , But at least they're trucked in, so their carbon footprint should be less than the fruit flown in from Chili that flooded the market a few weeks ago.

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