Book Review: “Tomatoland”
Elena Amparo, ‘14, Staff Reporter
November 10, 2011
Filed under Top Stories
Anyone interested in how their food is grown, and who appreciates a good tomato, will enjoy reading Tomatoland. In Tomatoland, journalist Barry Estabrook visits tomato farmers, workers, breeders, and researchers in an effort to understand why supermarket tomatoes are so tasteless, and to find a better alternative.
Tomatoland is both interesting and informative. There are many surprising facts presented about the Florida fresh tomato industry. For instance, tomatoes are actually picked when they are still green and unripe, and then gassed with ethylene to make them red. Although this makes tomatoes appear ripe, it gives them very little taste.
Some of the information is startling. For instance, to combat the many different pests, weeds, and funguses that can attack tomato plants, farmers in Florida can use over 100 different chemicals, many of which are toxic. Some of these chemicals remain on tomatoes when they reach the supermarket, although in less-than-toxic quantities.
Some of the most disturbing information in Tomatoland pertains to the workers who pick the tomatoes. They are sometimes exposed to toxic amounts of pesticides. The severely deformed babies born to three tomato workers offer a striking example of the health effects of pesticide exposure. Tomato workers are also often victims of modern-day slavery.
There is also information about the ways the tomato industry is being improved. For example, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and tomato workers’ organization, has launched the Campaign for Fair Food, in which they ask large purchasers of tomatoes to pay an extra penny per pound directly to workers.
Overall, Tomatoland is a great read that is sure to grab readers’ attention and to make them think twice the next time they buy or eat a tomato.