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Banana Split: To Eat or Not to Eat

Co Authors:

Lori M. Carris
Department of Plant Pathology
Washington State University

Nancy L. Jacobson
Biology Department
Ithaca College


This case focuses on the banana, the most popular fruit in the world.  In the first part of the case, students are introduced to the history of "Banana Republics" and the biological constraints to banana production, including the devastating fungal pathogens that cause black Sigatoka and Panama disease.  In the second part, they learn about ethical consumerism, organic and conventional agriculture, and Fair Trade products. The case was developed for an interdisciplinary capstone course, "Global Issues in the Sciences." It could also be used in courses in environmental studies, general biology, agriculture, and plant pathology.

  • Understand what is meant by "ethical consumerism."
  • Learn the differences between conventional, organic, Fair Trade, and agroforestry food production systems.
  • Learn about the history of banana production in Latin America.
  • Develop a familiarity with tropical agriculture, including constraints such as diseases and pests.
  • Better understand the connection between what we eat, how it is produced, and where it is produced.
Keywords: Banana; fungal plant pathogen; Panama disease; Fusarium wilt; black Sigatoka disease; pesticide; fungicide; ethical consumerism; Fair Trade; organic; agroforestry; ecoagriculture; Rainforest Alliance; developing world; tropics; Latin America
Topical Area: Ethics, Legal issues, Policy issues, Social issues
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Dilemma/Decision, Role-Play
Language: English
Subject Headings: Environmental Science   Biology (General)   Agriculture   Botany / Plant Science   Food Science / Technology   Business / Management Science  
Date Posted: 11/21/2010
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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