Below the headlines about rocketing food prices and rocking governments, there lays a largely unnoticed fact: bananas are dying. The foodstuff, more heavily consumed even than rice or potatoes, has its own form of cancer. It is a fungus called Panama Disease, and it turns bananas brick-red and inedible.The "rise" part is interesting, but we'll skip to more doom:
There is no cure. They all die as it spreads, and it spreads quickly. Soon – in five, 10 or 30 years – the yellow creamy fruit as we know it will not exist. The story of how the banana rose and fell can be seen a strange parable about the corporations that increasingly dominate the world – and where they are leading us . . .
Not long after Panama Disease first began to kill bananas in the early 20th century, United Fruit's scientists warned the corporation was making two errors. They were building a gigantic monoculture. If every banana is from one homogenous species, a disease entering the chain anywhere on earth will soon spread. The solution? Diversify into a broad range of banana types.Groovy.
The company's quarantine standards were also dire. Even the people who were supposed to prevent infection were trudging into healthy fields with disease-carrying soil on their boots. But both of these solutions cost money – and United Front didn't want to pay. They decided to maximise their profit today, reckoning they would get out of the banana business if it all went wrong.
So by the 1960s, the Gros Michel that United Fruit had packaged as The One True Banana was dead. They scrambled to find a replacement that was immune to the fungus, and eventually stumbled upon the Cavendish. It was smaller and less creamy and bruised easily, but it would have to do.
But like in a horror movie sequel, the killer came back. In the 1980s, the Cavendish too became sick. Now it too is dying, its immunity a myth. In many parts of Africa, the crop is down 60 percent. There is a consensus among scientists that the fungus will eventually infect all Cavendish bananas everywhere. There are bananas we could adopt as Banana 3.0 – but they are so different to the bananas that we know now that they feel like a totally different and far less appetising fruit. The most likely contender is the Goldfinger, which is crunchier and tangier: it is known as "the acid banana".[...]
Crossposted on Soccer Dad