Bananas have a long and rich history. During the mid-1900’s, a banana called the Gros Michel that was grown in Latin America banana was the most popular that the world had ever seen. At the time, it was the only exportable banana in the world. However, the Panama fungus was a disease the struck the crop. It weakened the plants that produced the fruit. The impact was so devastating that in only a matter of decades, the plant nearly went extinct.
Today, the banana that we all know and love, the Cavendish, is being threatened by a new strain of the disease. The Cavendish replaced the Gros Michel, and represents 99% of the market.
The new strand of the disease is destroying the crop, and there is no known way to stop it.
According to a study published in PLOS Pathogens, the dying banana plants are being threatened by a similar version of the Panama Disease, they call it the Tropical Race 4.
Tropical Race 4 was first found in Southeast Asia 50 years ago, and has recently spread to Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia. Scientists believe that it will eventually make its way to Latin America, where the majority of produce comes from. Plants evolve and eventually develop their own defense mechanisms against fungi. But companies like Dole and Chiquita exchanged variety of the banana, for consistency in order to produce massive amounts of the fruit for cheap without having to deal with imperfections.
Scientists are rushing to breed a banana that will withstand the plague. It could be a matter of decades before the banana, a fruit that we all know and love, will forever go extinct.
Article: Washington Post