La Hacienda Musa1
La Hacienda Musa was a long way from Leuven, Belgium. But for Maria Keller, the transition was as natural as it could be. She had spent twenty years in Leuven studying banana genetics at the Catholic University of Leuven’s Laboratory of Tropical Crops, the world center of banana research. She had learned about the challenges the banana-growing industry faced from a variety of diseases, why bananas seemed to be especially susceptible, and how difficult it is to develop new strains of the world’s most popular fruit. But after two decades of study, Maria was ready for something new. She did her homework, packed her few possessions, and headed to her newly purchased banana plantation in Costa Rica. To say that La Hacienda Musa was already a banana plantation was overstating the case. In fact, Maria owned 100 hectares of previously cleared land on which bananas had never been grown. Because this plot was isolated from established banana-growing operations in Costa Rica, the land should be reasonably free from the most important and virulent of banana diseases, Black Sigatoka, a fungal leaf blight. The isolation, coupled with Maria’s expert knowledge of banana culture, and especially the new varieties she had brought with her from Belgium, suggested that she ought to be able to make a success of her new venture. The question that faced Maria at the moment was how much, if any, of her 100 hectares should be dedicated to organic bananas. There were good reasons to go organic: top-quality organic produce would command a premium, and her isolated location would be ideal for growing organic bananas. In 2007, Costa Rica had announced its intention to become the first fully carbon-neutral country. As part of its efforts to offset all Costa Rican carbon emissions, tourists and businesses would pay a voluntary “tax” that would be used to fund conservation, reforestation, and other enterprises that would help move the country toward carbon neutrality. Some of...
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