Pineapple firms get heat from British news reports

The British newspaper The Guardian has taken a shot at Costa Rica’s pineapple growers.

The articles Friday and Saturday were sponsored by consumers International, which says it is fighting for a fair, safe and sustainable future for all consumers in a global marketplace increasingly dominated by international corporations.

The articles were developed starting in a June visit by writer Felicity Lawrence and a film crew. They were making a documentary, too.

Ms. Lawrence has also taken on Peruvian asparagus in a Sept. 15 piece entitled “How Peru’s wells are being sucked dry by British love of asparagus.”

The Guardian ran a story promoting the articles Friday, and a pair of articles ran Saturday. They were “The truth about supermarket pineapple” and “Pineapples: Luxury fruit at what price?”

The thrust of the articles was summarized Friday by this excerpt:

“UK supermarket price wars are wrecking lives in the developing world, according to a new campaign launched tomorrow by Consumers International (CI). Recent deep cuts in the price of pineapples on the British high street have inflicted unacceptable damage on those living and working on plantations in Costa Rica, the consumer group says. An investigation by Guardian Films with funding from CI, has found a catalogue of environmental and social damage caused by intensive tropical fruit production in Costa Rica, from where three-quarters of pineapples sold in the UK come.”

Ms. Lawrence was accompanied on her travels here by an officer of the pineapple worker’s union and a Universidad Nacional professor who studies toxic chemicals.

She failed to find a smoking gun. Although residents of El Cairo complained of water polluted by chemicals, there was little note of the actions of government agencies. And the statements from Pineapple companies said they were continuing to take steps to solve problems. The Tribunal Ambiental Administrativo, the environmental watchdog, ordered Del Monte to close its pineapple production facilities in Siquirres in May 2009 because of what it said were high levels of chemicals in the local water sources.

Del Monte had just purchased the facility and said at the time that the concentrations of herbicides and insecticides found in the drinking water was less than the limits published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Periodically, residents of El Cairo and nearby communities blockade Ruta 32 to make their point.

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