Video evidence from Ecuador: Banana pesticide aircraft sprays toxic substances on lunch tables

While they are on the plantations, they are being sprayed with toxic pesticides. For one of the plantation workers this has been enough now: he secretly films the dangerous practice with his mobile phone. With the video he wants to call attention to the violation of his labour rights. The plantation operators have to allow the formation of labour associations on the plantations so that workers are able to claim their rights!

Lunch break on the Sitio Nuevo banana plantation in the Ecuadorian province Los Ríos: The workers are sitting at the tables in a small, open canteen. The noise of a propeller plane is drowning the conversations. It is flying back and forth over the plantation, passing the canteen several times from above. The propeller plane is an agricultural aircraft spraying pesticides. Not only does the pesticide aircraft spread its freight into the air, on banana plantations and people working in the field, but also on the workers’ lunches. That’s how to ruin one’s appetite!

Whistleblower among the banana plantation workers

One of the banana workers does not want to put up with the violation of his labour rights anymore. But workers who pipe up or organize themselves in associations have to expect reprisals. That is why he has only secretly filmed the practice and sent it to the banana workers’ association ASTAC. Together with ASTAC, Oxfam is publishing the video today.

“Unfortunately, this is not an individual case”, illustrates Jorge Acosta, a former pilot of pesticide aircrafts himself, now being active for ASTAC. “On many plantations, the pesticides are being sprayed while the workers are in the field, in the packaging station or even in the canteen.

Dramatically increased risk of cancer on pesticide plantations

Together with a delegation of Oxfam, our campaign ambassador Ole Plogstedt was on-site in January 2016. Workers reported us that the pesticide aircrafts are flying regularly above the plantations, even when the workers are on the field or in the packaging stations, so that the pesticides are directly being sprayed on them. Not even the creeks within and at the edges of the plantations are left out, so that the surrounding water bodies are contaminated with chemicals. Many local residents have already complained about the uncontrolled pesticide application and various health problems.

The video proof is even more shocking if the latest medicinal findings are taken into account: banana workers that are exposed to pesticides show a drastically higher risk of cancer than workers who work in organic banana production (Südwind case study from June 2016: https://www.suedwind.at/fileadmin/user_upload/suedwind/50_Handeln/Downloadsliste_handeln/mff/AeGU_Bananen-Pestizidstudie_Teil_02.pdf).

Certification has low impacts without labour associations

Sitio Nuevo belongs to the Ecuadorian enterprise Manobal that is operating a dozen /banana plantations. All of them have until recently been certified by the Rainforest Alliance and Global GAP labels.

Oxfam sent the video proof with corresponding information to Rainforest Alliance and GlobalGAP. Rainforest Alliance has informed us to have withdrawn the certification in June (after the publication of the Oxfam study “Sweet fruits, bitter truth”). GlobalGAP has indicated as wellt hat Manobal is not certified with their label anymore since summer 2016. Plantation workers have reported that recently, a staff member of the certification company that is conducting audits for Rainforest Alliance visited the plantation. Meanwhile, Manobal continues to advertise both certifications on its website.

In order to improve the situation on the plantations, one should not only rely on previously announced visits by external auditors, says Jorge Acosta: “This example shows once more that an effective certification is only possible if the employees of the companies and local trade unions are being involved.”