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TheScientist: The Beginning of the End for Bananas?


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The Beginning of the End for Bananas?

Already reeling from a 20-year losing battle with a devastating disease, the banana variety eaten in the United States is now threatened by a new—but old—enemy.

Our standard supermarket banana, a variety called Cavendish, may be at the brink of disaster. Chosen for its resistance to a fungal pathogen that wiped out its predecessor, the Gros Michel banana, the popular fruit has long battled a related fungus, which has all but devastated the banana industry in certain parts of the world. Now, it appears the Cavendish variety is facing a new threat—the very same fungal disease that drove Gros Michels off the market.

Cavendish bananas account for about 45 percent of the fruit’s global crop, with an annual export value of US$8.5 billion, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. It was chosen to replace the original Gros Michel banana after a deadly fungal infection, known as Panama disease (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. Cubense), wiped out much of the world’s banana crop in the first half of the 20th century.

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Seems like an interesting study in what can happen when a species is genetically frozen in time, as Cavendish basically is, while its diseases are free to continue evolving.

Of course, as the article points out, that's just one possibility. It's the one the banana companies seem to put quite a lot of stock in, given their efforts to reproduce evolution's effects in a six-year genetic intelligent-design crash effort. But just one possibility nonetheless. :)

I remember reading about this Cavendish problem many years ago, and wondering why nobody was talking about it. I guess evident problems generally have to become much bigger problems before they get dealt with. Many economists would say that's exactly how it should work. Whether they're correct or not, we certainly have a lot of experience with addressing problems in exactly that fashion. Shrug.

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My absolute favorate banana are the ones grown in St. Lucia. I dont know the "variety" but they dont ship them to America due to cost. They come in bunches of twenty or so, and they are smaller then the Cavendish kind, but they are sweeter and are pretty awesome.

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