Bye Bye Bananas?

photo: Steve Hopson.

Here’s one more thing to add to your list of “stuff to worry about:”

I recently read a scary article in The New Yorker magazine about a fungus that is threatening the world’s bananas. You would think that  scientists would have figured out what even beginning gardeners know: growing one type of anything is a dumb idea, because if it succumbs to a disease, you’re finished. What is it with these growers anyway? Do they ever think beyond their wallets? Monoculture  has always resulted in disasters that no amount of poisonous chemicals can repair. Why do they keep repeating the same mistakes? Why? Why? Why?

Here in the United States, when we stroll into our local supermarkets, 99% of the time we buy “Cavendish” bananas, all of which have been grown in Latin America. Hardly any other cultivars are grown anymore. Cavendish ships well, doesn’t ripen too quickly and tastes OK, so that’s what we end up with. The problem is that in recent years, “Cavendish” plantations around the world have been attacked by a fungus called “Tropical Race Four.” This fungus affects only bananas, but it is devastating to the plants, rendering them piles of foul-smelling mush. The fungus has already ruined crops in Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines, China and Malaysia. Scientists believe it is only a matter of time before it reaches the Latin American plantations – where not just some, but ALL of our bananas come from.

So now, predictably, researchers are rushing to develop a genetically modified and fungus-resistant “Cavendish”  before it’s too late. Maybe it would be a better idea to just diversify the world’s banana crop. Am I being naïve and simplistic? I don’t think so.


About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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