Apparently, we are not very far away from having bananas disappear from our grocery shelves, and there’s not much we can do about it.
No, it’s just the Cavendish; there are still many other varieties of banana. The problem is that it is currently almost all of the world’s commercial exported banana crop. Another variety will take its place–undoubtedly more expensive–and the cycle will repeat.
Right the Cavendish represents over 99% of the commercial banana crop.
I think the Washington Post title is just too sensational. It’s true that there are other types of bananas, like the smaller bananas from SE Asia, but I don’t know if they are relatives of the Cavendish. Even if the disease broke out in the world, not everything will vanish on earth! The point is more the big corps concentrated in beautiful looking and transport friendly variety, a disease can easily bring big disasters to the mono culture. Diversity is very important for the survival of the fittest. Not only to banana but to many fruits and vegetables.
“Even if the disease broke out in the world, not everything will vanish on earth!”
The problem is that bananas are clones. They don’t have any genetic diversity, so if you can wipe out one, you can wipe them all out. The article covers this problem pretty well.
All Cavendish bananas are clones of each other. But there are other varieties that are not clones of the Cavendish (e.g., those “finger bananas” one is strarting to see in the US).
I guess hoarding bananas wouldn’t be a good idea.
This has happened exactly 50 years ago with another variety called Gros Michel.
****Will Tropical Race 4 and Panama disease truly force the extinction of bananas? One banana expert in Florida says the extinction threat is “overblown.” According to Grist.org, Randy Ploetz, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida, spoke about the latest trouble facing the banana. He said that the Cavendish banana may become harder to produce, but the banana will not go extinct. He backed up his words by saying that the Gros Michel banana variety did not go extinct in 1965. Bananas were burned worldwide, but the Gros Michel banana still exists. It is just very rare now.
FWIU, most other varieties of banana don’t travel well.
Does anyone actually know of a source for Gros Michel? I certainly have never heard of one.
I’ve never seen them in stores or anything but you can buy the plants to grow them at home with the appropriate light and temperature.
Never heard of it, maybe the older generation might have known it, it seemed to be commercialised until the 50-60’s. There is a tasting here, in Congo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfX8taUsoEA
I remember both the New Yorker piece, and seeing something decades ago on TV - pretty sure it was on The Victory Garden - about a California grower (Santa Barbara area?) who was raising many varieties, with delectable-sounding descriptions. He had limited production so only sold locally.
I find the Cavendish rather one-dimensional, so in that respect wouldn’t mind if they disappeared, assuming something else replaces them. The red banana is a favorite of mine, and I like ripe plantains - so far I have heard nothing about either of those being imperiled.
You’d really think that by the mid-1900’s, with the lesson of the Potato Famine in mind, banana growers would not have put all their eggs into the Cavendish basket. Really stupid. But like so many businesses/industries, they were thinking only in terms of short term ease and profit. Hopefully, this time they’ll use more foresight. Apple orchards have been giving us more and more varieties, sometimes without enough distinctiveness, IMO, to merit the display bin real estate. But it’s a good sign that there’s a market for more choices, and that agriculture can adapt.
Well heck, even with the Potato Famine to guide us, half the potatoes grown nowadays are Burbank Russets, for McDonald’s French fries and presumably others. Also apparently 2 types of peas make up 96% of the total grown.
(This is actually a terrible link to use for support but I don’t expect a lot of challenges.)
Which is unsettling given how vital dried peas were to early American settlers.
Spot on about apples as far as our experience has been – two new varieties in the last 5-6 years we’ve discovered and continue to seek. Good work there.