Bananas grown in a monculture system. Image by Madison Stewart. Costa Rica, 2019.

This letter features reporting from “The Deadly Side of America’s Banana Obsession” by Madison Stewart

Dear Commissioner Sid Miller,

The heavy use of pesticides on produce is one of the major global problems that we face today. More than half of all the produce people consume have pesticides in them. Pesticides are used all over the world in agriculture to kill the pests affecting crops, but unfortunately they are highly toxic and cause harm to the consumers (animals and human beings). My name is Keshav Venkat Easwar, and the title of the Pulitzer Center article I read is “Banana Production and Pesticide Application in Costa Rica” by Madison Stewart. I am in fourth grade at Oak Hill Elementary School in Austin, Texas. In this article, I read about the huge amount of pesticides on bananas grown in Costa Rica and other parts of the world and how pesticides cause shocking long term ill effects on the body. Did you know that on an average 115 million tons ($2 billion worth) of bananas (treated with pesticides) are consumed every year around the world? Well, it is true! This is a vital issue that needs to be fixed.

Why are pesticides bad though? Pesticides cause health problems such as sterility, infertility, blindness, cancer, neurodevelopmental disorders, and sometimes even death! Those are some severe effects of pesticides, but there are also small effects, such as stinging eyes, rashes, nausea, dizziness, and diarrhea. Pesticides are actually very hard to get rid of. We can’t get the pesticides off of fruit by washing it. Pesticides cause slow deterioration of various systems in the human body, such as the nervous system, the reproductive system, and the endocrine system. We may think that eating one fruit with pesticides is fine, but we need to think of what will happen if we eat too much produce with pesticides over a long period of time. Just because pesticides are helpful in keeping plants pest-free, that doesn’t mean it is safe to use on produce, given the severe harmful effects of using them. Hence, we need to urgently stop the use of pesticides in agriculture and look for alternatives.

Studies have shown that without any ill effects, we can reduce about 42% of pesticides in about 59% of farms in our nation. But how do we do this? There are farming practices to reduce pests without using pesticides such as crop rotation, using pest-resistant varieties, and changing the planting times to avoid peak pest times. Preventing humidity by having good air circulation among crops, surrounding pest-sensitive crops with pest-hardy crops, using natural and organic pest removal methods, and using natural pest predators (such as cats to kill rodents) are some other ways to reduce the use of harmful pesticides. We need your help to spread the word of these safe pest control strategies to all of our farms and educate and support our farmers to use these alternatives. By using these good farming methods effectively, we can reduce and maybe even eliminate the use of pesticides! Thank you for taking the time to read my letter and I hope that we can make everyone realize that the large-scale use of pesticides is indeed a global concern, and we can join hands to fix this issue starting here and now. Thank you.



Keshav Venkat Easwar is a fourth grader at Oak Hill Elementary school in Austin, Texas. His favorite subjects are Mathematics, Animal Studies, Environmental Science, and Geography. Keshav plays chess and basketball, is an avid Mridangam (Indian percussion instrument) player and loves journaling, cartooning, and gardening.  Keshav’s all-time favorite food is pizza! Keshav is thankful to his teacher, Mrs. Choudhury, for the opportunity to participate in the Local Letters for Global Change contest and thankful to his family for their support.

Read more winning entries from the 2020 Local Letters for Global Change contest!