Saturday, February 17, 2007

Free Trade At Work, Contaminated Canteloupe Hit Shelves

Right on the heels of the Peter Pan peanut butter recall, now comes word that Dole is recalling six thousand cartons of canteloupe from Costa Rica after testing revealed salmonella in this batch of fruit. Earlier this week, I linked to a story about a Dole subsidiary in Colombia that produces roses for Valentines Day, that exploits their workers, and pays them $50 for a grueling six day a week job.

These are the fruits of NAFTA, and CAFTA (pun intented). Back in November, President Bush inked a massive free trade agreement with Columbia that was our biggest free trade deal since NAFTA.
Congress has voiced objections to the trade pact with Colombia as it fails to protect internationally agreed worker rights such as the abolition of child labour, protection against discrimination and freedom to join a union.

Costa Rica, where the tainted canteloupes were grown, of course is
a part of the CAFTA agreement. So, what we have are companies like Dole, going down to Central America and Mexico and buying up plots of land and paying workers way below poverty wages, selling the products at the same price to American consumers, while environmental standards and food safety standards become more lax since we can't discriminate against "Central-American" products. This of course is a joke, since Dole is actually an American company. Small american farmers, and small farmers in these countries are not able to compete with the large conglomerates so they go under, Dole's profits rise, and our food safety is put at risk.

Does this still surprise anybody other than Thomas Friedman?