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Fast Company reports on how researchers in the UK and Australia “are racing to find ways to save” the banana, which is at risk from a fungus “that destroyed some banana plantations in countries like the Philippines and India” and now has spread to Latin America. The story notes that “the fungus has no cure - and because the bananas available in U.S. stores are cloned and genetically identical, when the disease kills one plant, every other nearby plant is also at risk.”

The Fast Company piece also provides some context:

“It’s an echo of a challenge that the industry faced before. Until the 1950s, massive banana plantations grew a type of banana called the Gros Michel—reportedly sweeter and tastier than the standard banana available in grocery stores today—but a different version of the same fungus, a type of Panama disease, killed off crops. Banana companies scrambled to find an alternative, and started growing the Cavendish, a variety that was resistant to the first variant of the fungus. The Cavendish is ubiquitous now. But it’s at risk from the fungus that’s currently spreading, called Panama disease Tropical Race 4 or TR4, and now there’s no other variety that can easily replace it. While there are around 1,000 varieties of banana plants, the Cavendish is unique in its ability to grow quickly, and ship long distances—and it has the taste and appearance that consumers now expect.”
KC's View:
Here is the passage from the Fast Company piece that surprised me…

Some might question whether it’s necessary to go to such lengths to save the banana in the first place. Corporations like United Fruit Company (which later morphed into Chiquita) stoked global demand for the fruit, but arguably, people living outside tropical areas could go back to life before the banana and eat local fruit instead. But in some developing countries, the fruit is a key source of nutrition. And, for better or worse, the crop has also become a cornerstone of many economies. Bananas are a $44 billion industry and a key source of jobs. In 2018, the U.S. imported $2.8 billion worth of bananas in 2018, more than any other country.

I’m a little more worried now than I was … because I can’t imagine a world without bananas. In fact, I have trouble imagining breakfast without bananas.