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Bananas Are Going Extinct and Here’s Why.

[DIGEST: CNN, Food World News, io9]

This Isn’t the First Time Bananas Have Been Threatened By Extinction

The banana we know is not the same banana as 50 years ago. Until 1965, we were eating a more resilient and sweeter species of banana (also known as cultivar in the banana vernacular) called the Gros Michel. Unlike the current variety that is consumed and exported around the world, the Gros Michel did not require artificial ripening. However, in 1965, as reported by CNN, a fungal disease known as the Panama Disease crawled through Central America and spread throughout the rest of the world like a wildfire, thereby causing the Gros Michel to be “declared commercially extinct.” All banana plantations were infected and burned down.

Second Nexus
Banana with Panama Disease. Credit: Source.

A Variation of the Panama Disease Threatens The Banana We Know Today

Enter the Cavendish, the contemporary cultivar and one of the most popular foods in the world. Although seen as inferior to its predecessor in taste and resilience, the Cavendish was cloned and grown in mass quantities after the extinction of the Gros Michel due to its seeming immunity to the devastating Panama Disease. However, Tropical Race 4 (TR4) – a variation of the fungus – is starting to pick up speed in its attack against the current cultivar. As reported by Food World News, TR4 was found in Malaysia in the 1990s, and it revealed itself to be a bigger threat than anticipated by 2013.

“Since its ‘second coming,’ TR4 has spread to Southeast Asia, then across thousands of miles of open ocean to Australia and finally, in 2013, to Africa… Its recent discovery in the Middle East and in Nampula, Mozambique, indicates that the disease is spreading and threatening bananas worldwide,” senior plant pathologist for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, George Mahuku said.

What Causes Such Widespread Devastation In a Singular Species of Bananas?

Because of the Cavendish’s monoculture nature (meaning there is no genetic variety), a single contamination in the soil of one banana plantation exposes exponential risk to

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  • Sandie Cheng was born and raised in Southern California and received a B.A. in Psychology at Cornell University. When she is not off exploring the world with feverish wanderlust, she helps brands develop a story through social/digital media and regularly participates in dialogue on diversity, inclusion and equality. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

    • Show Comments

    • Betty Eyer

      this is the problem with monoculture.

      • Jacob Young

        you have no idea how many monocultural foods you eat.

        • Kevin

          no idea what monocultural means lol. Although the word implies meaning.

        • David4

          Yes, like every type of apple. But what I don’t get is unlike apples why aren’t there more types of bananas?

          • David Nguyen

            There are actually many species of Bananas, but they all have seeds. The cavendish is a seedless banana bred to be that way.

            • David4

              Yes but my point is the banana has come and gone many times now, why haven’t we made a few more seedless types in the last 100 years? We make 1000 different apples to eat why no a few more widely made banana types?

          • maboroshi

            there’s actually a ton of varieties of bananas. some are even used for medicinal purposes. the vast majority though are basically inedible.

          • J Galt

            There are more than 2000 varieties of bananas, and fans grow them all. Visit Planet Banana on Facebook.

          • Somebody_Else

            There are many different bananas, however the difficulties for the US market is not just popular taste, but also speed of ripening & shelf life, durability, and other concerns that aren’t nearly so important when they are grown locally.
            Also, cold storage speeds up ripening in bananas, so you can’t ship them in refrigerated cargo and expect them to arrive in good condition.

        • Betty Eyer

          Yes, actually I do. But thanks for assuming I’m ignorant based on almost nothing!

    • J Galt

      No, they aren’t, and your headline is silly and misleading. Wise up.

    • Luca

      Lol I love how the picture of the “diseased banana” is just a wild banana, seeds and all. I cant believe people treat Second Nexus as a credible source of information.