Is This the End of Bananas As We Know Them?

Nasty illness is "inevitable."
Is genetic modification the only way to save our bananas? (Photo: Reuters Pictures).
Jul 22, 2011
Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.

Banana lovers, beware: that bright yellow beauty you love to pick up at the grocery store might be disappearing before you know it, and genetic modification might be the only way to save it. 

That's because the Cavendish banana, the variety that is most popular in supermarkets around the world—thanks to its ability to survive to long transport distances and withstand a worldwide banana disease that wiped out its predecessor—is being threatened by the same fungal infection that rocked the banana industry two decades ago. 

Panama disease virtually annihilated the global banana crop in the first half of the 20th century. It single-handedly wiped out the Gros Michel variety of banana.

When the Cavendish was found to resist Panama disease, banana growers breathed a sign of relief. But in the '80s, a mysterious ailment started to plague the Cavendish variety. And then researchers made a harrowing discovery: Panama disease was back. And this time, it was a new strain.

There's no fungicide or treatment for Panama disease. The only solution is to tightly quarantine infected plantations to keep it from spreading. Right now it hasn't impacted South American planatations, where the bulk of U.S.-bound bananas are grown. But experts say its arrival in our part of the world is "inevitable."

Check out the full story at The Scientist to see what options exist for keeping bananas on store shelves, and why genetic modification might be the only answer. 

[via The Scientist]

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