Above the fields, the air is quiet until a plane rumbles into view, descending over the rows in sweeping arcs. Jorge Acosta knows this scene well—a trained pilot, he spent 17 years fumigating similar banana plantations throughout Ecuador. One day after feeling sick from his plane’s fumes, Acosta looked into the chemical he had been handling for so long. Its name was Mancozeb, a known carcinogen banned in the U.S. and Europe but commonly used as a pesticide throughout Latin America.
“Despite working in a rich industry, thousands of banana workers live in absolute poverty.”
Outraged, Acosta abandoned the comfortable life of a pilot and turned to defend the workers in the fields below. Today he organizes banana workers to fight violations like below-minimum pay, impediments to unionizing and lack of protective equipment.