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April 2006
Bananas: WTO Approved
Photo Series by Tim Rusmisel


Shortly after the 2003 WTO meetings in Cancun, Mexico, Tim Rusmisel’s show, “WTO Education Night” opened at Solomon Fine Art Gallery in Laguna Beach, CA. The installation consisted of 17 different banana photos randomly repeated on the gallery wall (in total, about 160 8x10 prints), one 8x10 photo of the “rise up” banana, and five mock Dole newspaper ads. The show was complimented with spoken word from local activists, public outreach tabling, a sidewalk WTO protest, and a reading of a statement written by Lee Kyang Hae, the South Korean farmer whose tragic and heroic suicide protest led to the fall of 2003’s ministerial meetings. The following is a sampling from this photo exhibit.

Why the bananas?

Two reasons. One: Europe used to commit 10 percent of its banana imports to support small Caribbean farms. Through the WTO, the U.S. challenged this policy and forced Europe to stop supporting Caribbean farmers on the grounds that it gave them an unfair market advantage. In reality, the European policy was impeding the profits of its multinational corporations (Dole, Chiquita and Del Monte). Now the already huge corporations are getting bigger and the struggling small farmers are going hungry.

Two: It’s hard to find organic bananas from a company other than Dole. Dole didn’t always offer organic; for most people it’s the only choice. Wonder why? Recently, the USDA adopted a set of federal organic standards, however, they are not as high as the California and Oregon standards—which the WTO is trying to outlaw. In addition, the lower USDA organic standards are now being used as leverage within the WTO to lower worldwide organic standards.

We are left with lower organic standards, the WTO trying to ban the use of labels from previously existing standards, one choice (Dole) and starving farmers. This is one example of the WTO’s practice of putting corporate greed over human need. If you don’t care about organic standards or bananas don’t worry, something you do care about will be next.

Start now. Support small farms and family businesses. Fight the WTO. Fight the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Tim Rusmisel is a photographer and political activist living in Southern California. As an artist, he is committed to using strictly vegan methods, delving into both current digital technology as well as early 19th century processes. To contact the artist: mynamewasunavailable@hotmail.com.

 

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Dole Banana #734006189106 passed WTO approval test, will continue on to market.
Dole Banana #305114307329 passed WTO approval test, will continue on to market.
Organics Unlimited Banana #516302 failed WTO approval test, determined non-compliant and equipped with tracking device #7243411502 on channel to monitor all questionable activity.
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