From 1926 to 1974, the United Fruit Company operated the Lancetilla Experiment Station near Tela, Honduras. As a laboratory and botanical garden where one of the world's largest living collections of tropical fruits could be found, it stood in apparent contrast to the vast banana monocultures of the surrounding area. While United Fruit's infamous plantations depended on the application of pesticides and chemical knowledge to produce a single commodity crop, its Lancetilla Experiment Station pursued a broad research program oriented toward agricultural diversification. This essay examines the history of Lancetilla to explore the company's sponsorship of science and the multiple, shifting meanings of “diversification” within this prototypical transnational agribusiness. The history of experimentation at Lancetilla reveals a range of contested visions of economic development in twentieth-century Latin America, and it is a history that has left surprising traces in both local Honduran landscapes and the face of global agribusiness today. Ultimately, by introducing oil palm to Central America, United Fruit's crop diversification project served to replace one monoculture with another.

You do not currently have access to this content.