Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Science

Disease Threatens 99% of the Banana Market (washingtonpost.com) 199

An anonymous reader writes: In the 1950s, Panama Disease wiped out the dominant type of banana that was imported worldwide. Banana-growers had to switch to a different strain, the Cavendish banana, at great expense. Now, a new study finds that a more virulent strain of the disease is directly threatening the Cavendish banana. Banana plants are dying from it throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia. It hasn't reached Latin America yet, which is good — that's where the vast majority of the world's bananas are produced. But the researchers say it's just a matter of time. "The latest strain is likely to put the risks of monoculture on display once more. And while scientists might find or breed a better one in the mean time, the reality is that this time around we don't have a formidable replacement that's resistant to the new strain of Panama Disease. Once it reaches Latin America, as it is expected to, it could be only a matter of decades before the most popular banana on the planet once again disappears."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Disease Threatens 99% of the Banana Market

Comments Filter:
  • I don't see it man (Score:3, Interesting)

    by h33t l4x0r ( 4107715 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @05:22AM (#51066469)
    I'm in Asia and the bananas look fine to me.
    • by smittyoneeach ( 243267 ) * on Sunday December 06, 2015 @05:47AM (#51066545) Homepage Journal
      Disease, in general, continuously threatens everything.
      • by popo ( 107611 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @05:59AM (#51066583) Homepage

        The Cavendish banana is a tasteless, waxy disaster of a fruit.

        It is the banana equivalent of the cardboard-flavored Red Delicious apple which has been so over-engineered for shelf-life and shiny skin that all traces of flavor vanished long ago. The fact that people still eat Cavendish bananas, Red Delicious apples and various varieties of ludicrously orange oranges with skins like pachyderms. is testament to the fact that American consumers really don't want fruit that tastes good as much as they want fruit that looks like it was rendered in a 3D program.

        Here in Asia, other less "industrial-grade" bananas still exist. They are sweeter, more flavorful and won't survive a plane crash like your laboratory-born neo-fruit.

        The death of the Cavendish could be a wonderful thing.

        • by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @06:11AM (#51066621)

          Having tried a fair bit more bananas that most people, I disagree. I would say Cavendish is just fine. Sure, there is diversity in banana fruit tastes, and IMO Cavendish is not as good as, say, a Pisang Awak, but I don't get where people call it bad. I've had worse varieties.

          and won't survive a plane crash like your laboratory-born neo-fruit.

          Cavendish has been cultivated for well over a century. Not exactly what you'd call a 'neo-fruit,' as if that would be a bad thing anyway.

          • "Cavendish has been cultivated for well over a century" perhaps the parent is comparing this to rice, which has been cultivated by man for over 10,000+ years. I have no idea what he means by "surviving a plane crash", since since bananas don't really have a survival rate once their off the tree...
            • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @08:50AM (#51066965) Journal

              He is likely comparing the taste of supermarket bananas to ones ripened on the tree. A lot , if not all north American supermarket bananas are picked green and shipped to ripen either in transit or in a controlled environment before being put out to sell. Apple's are somewhat treated the same where they are doused with gasses and refrigerated to last almost a year out of season.

              With both fruits, there is a big noticable difference in tastes between ones ripened on the plant verses ripening in storage. We have a large orchard near here and they allow the apples to ripen on the tree for the product they sell to the public and make cider. I'm not sure if they even store apples for outside the season. Compared to the same apple from a supermarket that may have traveled 1000 or more miles and sat in storage, it is like two different varieties and you end up looking to see if the name is spelled different or something. Likewise, i had fresh bananas when i was at a plantation in south America and couldn't believe how much sweeter and banana tasting they where. It makes the stuff I can get at home seem more like a plantain than a banana. I made a comment about how they should ship those instead of the ones we get and the response was they are the same, its a matter of shipping, storage and so on.

              I bet what he is experiencing is the difference between fresh verses handled for three months or whatever. To this day, i find apples from the supermarket to be deficient in flavor.

              • by BlackPignouf ( 1017012 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @09:53AM (#51067217)

                Exactly.
                A friend of mine did a few months of work and travel in Australia.
                One of her jobs was to dump perfectly ripe red tomatoes, and pick the green ones and send them to Europe.

                • The local farms often pick all the green tomatoes for sale, and then when they have them all they open the field to "U-Pick" locals for 50 cents/lb. Most of them at that point end up falling off the vine unpicked. The flavor is quite good though, even though it is a long shelf-life variety. The picking and storage practices are a bigger cause of the poor flavor than the variety. Picked fresh they're too strong to make a sauce without watering it down a little, unless you want it to be acidic enough to cause

              • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @10:04AM (#51067263) Homepage Journal
                That's always the case, though. I'd guess that most Americans have never actually had a fruit ripened on a tree. I grew up in Hawaii and used to get mangoes straight from the tree. The ones at the grocery store are not even close. The same thing goes for oranges and tomatoes. If you're lucky enough to live in a place where you can grow your own fruit, it really is worth doing so.
                • " If you're lucky enough to live in a place where you can grow your own fruit, it really is worth doing so." - not just fruit, vegetables as well. taste is so much better
                • I grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania. I don't know that our experiences there were unique or not, but I do suspect that far fewer people today have the same experiences I did. [blogspot.com]
              • If 'tree ripened" isn't a hipster fad already, I suspect it soon will be.

              • Here in the Pacific Northwest, the store apples are high grade for about 10 months of the year; 5 months of quality from the US, and 5 months of quality from Peru and Chile. And then a pair of 1 month transition periods where we get the same grade of apples as everybody else; less flavor, sure, but the texture difference is really apparent.

                And if you go to a discount supermarket, you get the same quality they sell in non-apple regions. Most of the year here I can go to the supermarket and get apples that ar

                • SHUT UP!

                  We've got too many people living up here already.

                  • Just warn them that it rains for 9 months a year and umbrellas are for social outcasts.

                    If they really love apples that much, they'll fit right in.

                • Don't forget about the local NW-grown strawberries. They're much tastier than California (or wherever) grown berries, but they simply don't have the same durability. So, it's a variety that most people never get to taste. Strawberry shortcake with regional-grown strawberries was a favorite at local fairs when I was growing up.

                  Even so, I think it's great to have these different varieties. The firmer strawberries aren't terrible by any means, and it's great to be able to enjoy them throughout the year ins

          • "Having tried a fair bit more bananas that most people, I disagree. I would say Cavendish is just fine. Sure, there is diversity in banana fruit tastes, and IMO Cavendish is not as good as, say, a Pisang Awak, but I don't get where people call it bad. I've had worse varieties."

            We're dealing with foodie hipster one-upmanship here. One of the rules is that a fruit only tastes good if you pay a fortune for it at Whole Paycheck.

          • by dargaud ( 518470 )
            I agree 100% with GP. I went to the Andes 25 years ago and ate many types of bananas, tiny, pink, green, mushy, etc... Many were so good that ever since I've been unable to eat that Cavendish crap. It just makes me gag. I had the same problem for a while after living off fresh caught salmon in Alaska and coming back to eat artificial-fed farm salmon...
            • Around here the farmed salmon are fed byproducts from the fish packing plants, and it is high quality food for them. It really shouldn't reduce the flavor qualities.

              The flavor of farmed salmon is poor because they are less vigorous. Wild salmon have a healthy, high-exercise lifestyle. Farmed salmon have degraded DNA and even when released in the wild for most of their lives, they are less vigorous, less strong, less healthy, and have little genetic diversity.

              Farmed trout taste bad for more reasons, because

        • Apparently the artificial banana flavouring found in candies is much closer to the Gros Michel. I've only ever had the Cavendish. I wonder if any banana connoisseurs here would agree?

          a taste test has shown that the Gros Michel does closely resemble the artificial banana flavor: "It's almost like what a Cavendish would taste like but sort of amplified, sweeter and, yeah, somehow artificial. Like how grape flavoured bubble-gum differs from an actual grape," he explains. "When I first tasted it, it made me

          • I've had them. Gros Michael is good, but I don't think it is better or worse that Cavendish, just different, and while I can only speak from my own experience I don't think it tastes like artificial banana flavoring. But different people like different things; maybe Gros Michael is the best variety for some people. My personal favorite variety is Pisang Awak (followed by Muraru), now there's a variety that it is a real shame isn't more widely available.

          • Whenever I travel to Hawaii, I buy a bunch of Apple Bananas. They have slight apple flavor to them. Unfortunately, you can't get them on the mainland.

        • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @06:40AM (#51066675) Journal

          The fact that people still eat Cavendish bananas, Red Delicious apples and various varieties of ludicrously orange oranges with skins like pachyderms.

          How do you shop? by smell or by the look for the fruit? I generally shop by smell however I do notice what you say about some of the American fruit - it looks great but tastes pretty ordinary. As the taste usually tells you about the nutrient content, you are right to pursue a natural taste, not just for taste.

          I general let bananas ripen and other fruits for a day or more in the open air because of the amount of refrigeration and packing in sulphur dioxide gas to keep them in 'suspended animation' before shelving. It gives the fruit a chance to be a fruit again, instead of a consumer item.

          Here in Asia, other less "industrial-grade" bananas still exist. They are sweeter, more flavorful and won't survive a plane crash like your laboratory-born neo-fruit.

          The death of the Cavendish could be a wonderful thing.

          Australian produce is fantastic. Oranges are so sweet that you can devour 5 of them before realising it. Mangos, cantelope (rockmelon). We have red delicious, but you have to get them at the right time for them to be juicy and sweet, at other times they are exactly as you say, however there are about 5 other types of apples to choose from, about 3 varieties of pears, excluding nashi. I would imagine that Asia as an amazing variety of things available from the few things I see brought over.

          I checked and our local bananas are cavendish however there are another two varieties I generally see. I've found they are pretty good if you leave them ripen in the air.

          I hope they sort it out, I eat lots of them.

          • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @07:56AM (#51066825) Journal

            Australian produce is fantastic.

            Except it all tries to kill you.

          • by arth1 ( 260657 )

            Australian produce is fantastic. Oranges are so sweet that you can devour 5 of them before realising it.

            I like my oranges full of other taste than just sweetness. So flavorful that you can't even eat half an orange before realizing its awesomeness.
            If the skin is harder to peel and they're full of stones, so what? It's the taste that matters.

            If what you want is sweetness, eat candy.

          • As the taste usually tells you about the nutrient content, you are right to pursue a natural taste, not just for taste.

            The taste dosent tell you much about the nutritional content actually, if you look at scientific studies. Simply storing the produce properly results in relatively low nutritional difference between peak and consumed states assuming it was not frozen (due to often being balanced first), or cooked. In many cases peeling (such as apples and peaches), and cooking are far and away the largest factors in reduced nutritional value. In some cases, with some nutrients, the content available for human absorption

        • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @06:53AM (#51066695) Journal

          Fact is that Cavendish becomes the main variety because the 'Panama Disease'. as mentioned in TFA, wiped out the previous, much more tasty variety

          In Asia you get to enjoy more varieties because banana originally came from the South East Asian region (mainly Indonesia and Malaysia, with some in Southern Thailand and on some island in the Philippines)

          There was no banana in Africa nor in America - all the bananas in Africa was brought there some 2 thousand years ago, most probably by sea-faring tribes originated from Southern China / Vietnam which plied both the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean

          In places like Indonesia and Malaysia there are other varieties of bananas, unfortunately many varieties had gone extinct due to habitat destruction

          I have tried 'red banana' before, yes, blood red in color, very tasty and smell really nice too - if you happen to be near Singapore, Indonesia or Malaqysia do not forget to taste all the different varieties of banana that you would never get to taste elsewhere

        • The fact that people still eat Cavendish bananas, Red Delicious apples and various varieties of ludicrously orange oranges with skins like pachyderms. is testament to the fact that American consumers really don't want fruit that tastes good as much as they want fruit that looks like it was rendered in a 3D program.

          I mostly agree with you about the Red delicious apples, which are just worthless, and those creepy oranges, but you're allowing your hatred of all things American to get in the way of your reasoning. Cavendish is not a fragile berry, and it handles being shipped to the land you don't like.

          Red delicious as noted is like eating crunchy cardboard, but at the supermarkets, I have many varieties to choose from. And as soon as a variety shows up that we haven't had, my wife buys some and we give 'em a try. Many

        • I agree with the Red Delicious apple thing. I'm old enough to have tasted the original Red Delicious and it was a very good apple in that time. I can no longer find anything like that on displays these days. I tried many times in the hope to find this tasteful apple and finally gave up.
        • Here in Asia, other less "industrial-grade" bananas still exist. They are sweeter, more flavorful and won't survive a plane crash like your laboratory-born neo-fruit.

          The death of the Cavendish could be a wonderful thing.

          The Cavendish banana has been cultivated for something like a century, it wasn't "laboratory-born". It's commercially successful because it can withstand the rigors of shipping, unlike about every other banana strain currently around.

          As for the destruction of the Cavendish being a wonderful thing.. sure, if you're the kind of monster that doesn't give a damn about the people who depend on harvesting them for their livelihood. There's an entire global industry around the Cavendish that will collapse and w

          • by sl149q ( 1537343 )

            The popularity of the Gros Michel was due to its ability to travel well. It had a thick and resilient peel. So it could be shipped.

            With the demise of the Gros Michel the Cavendish was looked at as a replacement and shipping in boxes allowed the more fragile fruit to survive shipping.

        • The Cavendish banana is a tasteless, waxy disaster of a fruit.

          Feeling a little snobby today are we? Personally I think the Cavendish is a good fruit. Not awesome but perfectly fine, tasty and practical. I enjoy them and I make no apologies for that. Yes I've had the pleasure of other kinds of bananas and many are better and more flavorful, but that doesn't make the Cavendish bad.

          The fact that people still eat Cavendish bananas, Red Delicious apples and various varieties of ludicrously orange oranges with skins like pachyderms. is testament to the fact that American consumers really don't want fruit that tastes good as much as they want fruit that looks like it was rendered in a 3D program.

          I (and many other Americans) would be very willing to eat other kinds of bananas but guess what? They don't sell any other kind where I live aside from a small number of starchy plantains

        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          You don't understand the problem. All strains of banana are monocultures, because their seeds never ripen. This means that you can only reproduce them by cloning (an easy process for bananas and I think dating back to per-columbian times.).

          Now even clones accumulate mutations, and that's why there are several different strains of banana, but there's no sexual recombination of genes. So you end up with a monoculture in each area, with each area having a slightly different accumulation of mutations. But t

          • What are you talking about? Banana plants are a monoculture because of the (industrial) way they are cultivated. The cultivars like Cavendish are sterile because they are a hybrid between two species. They can be grown from seeds, it's just the seeds cannot be propagated. You have to go back to the original crosses to get viable seeds. Even if they weren't sterile, they would still be grown as a monoculture because that is the most convenient method of organizing a large tract farm. There is no law of natur

            • There is no law of nature preventing bananas from being cultivated in a different way

              Well, there kind of is. It's possible that some strain will eventually have edible, soft, pleasant seeds, but right now a non-sterile banana is packed with seeds that makes it hard to eat and far less of a useful fruit.

              Bananas are produced industrially for the same reason iPhones and Testla Model Ses are. There's no other way, yet demonstrated, to produce a practical product. But I guess there's always 3D printing, the

        • Horse shit, the red delicious is just an all-red clone of a Standard Delicious, an ancient heirloom apple variety. If you plant the seed of a Red Delicious, or Golden D, or any other "Delicious" version, the children revert to a Standard Delicious. Very old Red D trees will sometimes also revert. The flavor does not change.

          The reason the Red Delicious you buy taste crappy is because they're grown in a low quality environment for apples, and are picked too early. They're grown in very large quantities in tho

    • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @06:40AM (#51066677) Journal

      ... I'm in Asia and the bananas look fine to me ...

      One of my co-worker in Singapore has a banana plantation in Indonesia, and because of the disease he almost lost everything

      Once the disease arrive, all the banana trees died, within weeks

      Banana tree truck is unlike the solid wood tree truck - the core of the tree trunk is layered, much like onion, and the layers are tender - the disease, a type of fungi, attacked the gaps between the layers inside the core, and the rot came from within

      There is no cure, absolutely no cure

      Once the plantation is infected they have to chop down all the trees and ***BURN EVERYTHING***, , else the fungi may spread to nearby banana trees

      Bonus trivia ...

      Do you know how the disease spread to Africa?

      The disease hitched a ride on the bottom of a pair of boots

      Yes, *BOOTS*

      Some 'banana expert' went to Asia to check the banana disease, he wore a pair of boots into the plantation which was affected

      Some months later, that same 'expert' went to Africa - and he wore the *SAME* pair of boots and walked into a pristine banana plantation (absolutely no disease) and the fungi which hitched a ride on his boot was transferred into the soil, and from there onwards Africa's banana are no longer disease free

      • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @09:11AM (#51067045) Homepage

        Bananas aren't really trees; they're monocots more related to grasses than what one usually considers "trees". Their stems don't even deserve to be called trunks - they're not woody, and they grow from a corm that sends up multiple shoots, like grasses. The only reason some people call them trees is because they're big and their stems are thick.

        There actually is one grouping of woody monocot "trees" - the palms - but their "wood" is very different from that of dicots (there's no heartwood, no growth rings, or anything of that nature). You can see a closeup of a chopped-down coconut tree here [wikipedia.org] - while it's clearly "woody", it's also clearly not a normal wood - just lignin-toughened vascular bundles. Still very useful for most wood purposes though, and IMHO rather attractive [google.is]. Eco-friendly, too, because trees old on coconut plantations have to be chopped down and replanted (they stop bearing fruit), and they produce copious amongs of wood during their lifespan that has long been considered more of a waste product than a resource.

      • Banana tree truck is unlike the solid wood tree truck

        It has 4WD and a two-speed transfer box?

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        Some 'banana expert' went to Asia to check the banana disease, he wore a pair of boots into the plantation which was affected

        Some months later, that same 'expert' went to Africa - and he wore the *SAME* pair of boots and walked into a pristine banana plantation (absolutely no disease) and the fungi which hitched a ride on his boot was transferred into the soil, and from there onwards Africa's banana are no longer disease free

        Unless it didn't happen that way.

    • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @09:52AM (#51067213)

      I'm in Asia and the bananas look fine to me.

      Well, they might not for long - but depends on where you are looking and what you are looking for.

      The problem with bananas is that the so called desirable ones are the seedless varieties, and they reproduce by corms - Gros Michel bananas are genetically identical to each other, and so are the Cavendish. Any disease that kills one plant will kill all of them.

      If we want seeds, we don't have to worry as much about pathogens.

  • by Tomahawk ( 1343 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @05:33AM (#51066503) Homepage

    History has so many lessons to teach. We have common phrases about in our language. Yet, still, we fail to learn.

    Reliance on one type of a crop led to the Great Irish Famine, killing millions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    As already mentioned in the article, in the 1950s this happened already with bananas.
    A quick Google search will yield many more examples.

    And when will they do to resolve this? Odd-on they'll just find another single type of banana to grow everywhere...

    *sigh*

    • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @05:42AM (#51066523) Journal
      Problems are easy. Solutions are a lot harder.

      If you depend on a single type of crop, it's very hard to diversify.
    • A fair point in some cases, however, this particular strain hits most types of cultivated bananas. Even if the banana export market diversified away from Cavendish to include some of the many other varieties, this would still be a problem.

    • "And when will they do to resolve this?"

      The day we resolve capitalism.

      It is easy to ask "them" to resolve a problem but, what would *you* do?

      Let's say you can choose between two cultures: one renders you X$ per investment unit while other renders your X+Y$ per unit. You are not stupid so you choose the one that produces you the more. Who could blame you for that? And then, everybody else do the same and we end up with a monoculture.

      • The capitalists already have a solution for that problem, as it comes up very often, for instance, when picking investments based on information that is little more than current stock price, recent earnings, and historical dividend.

        The answer has been to distribute your investment across multiple investments. Possibly weighted a bit towards the most profitable, but re-balancing periodically to prevent having too much exposure to risk in any single place.

        My local farms don't grow bananas, and although they a

  • by MatthiasF ( 1853064 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @05:45AM (#51066535)
    Seems like a overblown crisis. If it will take decades to be an issue, I am sure someone will work out a gene therapy or countermeasure to the disease by then.

    This is not the 1950s. The current state of bioengineering is far more advanced than the 1950s.
    • I am sure someone will work out a gene therapy or countermeasure to the disease by then.

      Oh, wonderful . . . we'll all be dependent on Monsanto Bananas.

      Hey, wait . . . Monsanto developed the "more virulent strain of the disease", with all their genetic engineering prowess and is spreading it around . . . ?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Well,while those advances are real and significant, we do also have people actively working to keep those advances from being utilized. Wouldn't want to tamper with the genetics of a seedless man made fruit, which often has an extra set of chromosomes, and sometimes is a hybrid with a parent that has banana streak virus integrated naturally into its genome...nope, wouldn't want to mass with that picture of biological integrity.

      As it stands right now, it looks like the most promising research is the use of

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @11:44AM (#51067669)

      Seems like a overblown crisis. If it will take decades to be an issue, I am sure someone will work out...

      Ah, the old "meh, let the children figure it out" line.
      Like I've never seen this line of thinking when an environmental issue came up...

  • Options (Score:5, Informative)

    by xlsior ( 524145 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @06:50AM (#51066693) Homepage
    The main reason the bananas are vulnerable to this is that all commercially grown bananas are sterile clones, reproducing asexually: http://www.damninteresting.com... [damninteresting.com]

    Wild non-cultivated bananas are pretty much all seed and wouldn't make a very desirable alternative: https://upload.wikimedia.org/w... [wikimedia.org]

    Since the commercial bananas are all identical, they are all equally susceptible to the same disease, which leaves three options:
    1) Identify and switch to a different strain of banana that's not susceptible, which takes a lot of time, money, and likely has other drawbacks
    2) Forget about bananas -- hard to do in parts of the world where they are a staple food
    3) Use genetic engineering to try to create a disease resistant version before it's too late
    • by oic0 ( 1864384 )
      There are other cultivated edible types, lots of them. They do have different tastes though. Some taste more like apples, some taste more like vanilla ice cream, etc...
    • 1) Identify and switch to a different strain of banana that's not susceptible, which takes a lot of time, money, and likely has other drawbacks
      2) Forget about bananas -- hard to do in parts of the world where they are a staple food

      Actually, these two points are one points for the people for whom bananas are a staple food. It's no problem for them to switch to another banana because there's a crapload of different kinds of banana, most of them will grow in most of the places where people depend on them, and they don't have to present their bananas to a store so they don't have to ship well... which is what rules out most of those varieties for sale in most of the world.

  • ... to destroy every last Bananaphone! [youtube.com]

  • by quintessencesluglord ( 652360 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @08:25AM (#51066897)

    Well, considering it has been almost a decade since this story last appeared here

    http://science.slashdot.org/st... [slashdot.org]

    I would imagine they have this nearly sorted out by now, no?

    Or is this like fusion power and personal jet packs, always a decade away (it doesn't matter which decade. Pick one. I liked the 1980s).

    Since then, I've tried to find if different bananas were available to North America. Not really, so obviously bananas aren't important enough to save (you know there would be a national outrage if BSE were ready to wipe out beef production).

    It's not like many Americans actually eat fruit anyway.

  • This is only a problem from a commercial perspective (and for people who really, really like bananas). The banana that we currently have won't disappear. It will become scarce, it will live on in the wild, and it will mutate to become resistant. In the mean time, growers will have to come up with another banana. Which might taste well enough to the general populace. Or not. In which case we won't eat bananas for a while. Which isn't bad either.

    • by mark0 ( 750639 )
      It will become scarce, it will live on in the wild, and it will mutate to become resistant.

      The Cavendish banana is sterile.
  • At least there are some varieties of banana that are resistant to this strain of Panama disease.

    Citrus greening:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    It is a bacterial disease that is wiping out citrus in many places worldwide. It's spread by a sap sucking insect.

    There is NO non GMO citrus plant that is resistant. Lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, kumquats, pommelos, buddha's hands, every single citrus is in the process of being wiped out.

    So far, the only resistant citrus plants are ones that have had spinach genes grafted in.

    Citrus greening is rampant in Florida, and many areas worldwide, but is spreading somewhat slower in California because citrus areas tend to be separated by ridges of hills.

    Infected plants only survive, for a while, if they're given antibiotics.

    It's looking awfully like it's soon going to be a choice of GMO citrus or NO citrus.

    And while you're GMO-ing citrus, how about removing or reducing the fumarins which cause skin cancer?
    http://www.nbcnews.com/health/... [nbcnews.com]

    (A swipe at nature nutjobs, "natural" doesn't mean "good" every time--citrus might be better if it didn't cause cancer, right?)

    --PeterM

    • If the psyllid that spreads the pathogen has spread to the U.S. then it's an invasive species and couldn't we just release some genetically engineered males or females that produce sterile offspring and mostly decimate the population?

      I know there are promising pilot programs that do that for mosquitoes.

      Honestly, the hate against GMO as a concept is weird given that all of modern agriculture is basically genetic engineering through trial and error of a very inefficient method of creating mutations.
      Nothing we

  • by mark0 ( 750639 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @10:42AM (#51067385)
    The Economist sounded this exact alarm more than 10 years ago: http://www.economist.com/node/... [economist.com]
  • When you only grow one thing, it's in constant danger from something coming along and killing it all. They need to have two or three varieties, planted together, to prevent this happening.
    • Unfortunately, several varieties of something isn't always a protection. Citrus greening is wiping out all citrus, not just a single variety.

      --PM

  • This seems to pop up every few years. I think the first time I was told the Cavendish was a goner was in 2000. Seems to be holding out pretty well though.
  • Slashdot ran the same story back in in 2008 [slashdot.org]. Seven years later, I'm still enjoying Cavendish bananas. Must be a slow news day.
  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Sunday December 06, 2015 @12:07PM (#51067781)

    Even the Gros Michel banana that the Panama disease attacked is still around, not "extinct" and not "wiped out" though large commercial plantations can't exist without the disease coming. There are many, many kinds of bananas, check out a large well stocked asian grocery store. Some kinds have to be cooked but there are plenty of types that can be eaten "raw" and have no seeds.

    So we'll have bananas to develop the next disease resistant type, the fruit will not disappear from earth.

  • One thing I miss in America is the stem of the banana "tree". Banana tree has layers and layers of greenish "bark". As you strip them, it turns white and right in the center, about 2 inches in diameter the "stem". Harvested and sold in all vegetable shops in South India. It is not sweet. It is more like white radish in consistency. Chop it into disks, saute it with musturd seeds, some lentils, asafoetida and salt. Sprinkle grated fresh coconut. Wow! Tastes. absolutely. fantastic. It is also gets used in a tamarind based sauce called sambar. Out of this world. Now a days they are slowly making an appearance in Indian grocery stores. Before it gets totally wiped off, may be it will be available in USA.
  • Is it possible for some samples to be stored safely in vaults, wait for the disease to sweep through the land and bring it back? Or the fungus has other hosts and lives forever in the soil?

Once it hits the fan, the only rational choice is to sweep it up, package it, and sell it as fertilizer.

Working...