Experts Say Bananas Threatened By Aggressive Disease Might Be Alarming

At the beginning of December, an article published on the Inquisitr referred to a claim, which was to be taken seriously, that all bananas threatened by a fungus would eventually lead to the extinction of the fruit.

As mentioned in the article, the kinds of bananas threatened are the Cavendish, which in the 1950’s replaced the then threatened Gros Michael banana, due to Panama disease. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations site has a report which mentions this case, as well as the details on the banana market from the 80s and into the beginning of the 21st century.

Bananas threatened by Panama disease Panama disease symptom on banana. Note the internal necrosis within the pseudostem. The disease is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum. [image by Scott Nelson via Flickr is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) License]The Inqusitr has frequently reported on the issue, as it also has in another article over bananas threatened to stress the importance of the diversity in world agriculture, but there are those in the industry who claim that the threat to bananas is mostly alarmist.

The news site for green journalism called Grist, reports that bananas aren’t necessarily threatened to become extinct, but does admit the industry is having a hard time.

In the article, the writer speaks with a professor of plant pathology from the University of Florida who wanted to set the record straight, as taken from a section of the article.

“The extinction thing is overblown.” He explained that while Cavendish bananas may “eventually become more and more difficult to produce,” they aren’t going to disappear entirely. There are reserves in place to guard against extinction. After all, he told me, not even Gros Michel bananas are completely gone — they’re just incredibly rare and difficult to produce at the level they once were, which is likely what will happen to Cavendish.

Both articles also mention that the fungus has not spread to South America, but given the aggressive nature of the fungus, it will simply be a matter of time before it spreads there as well.

The Panama disease, which infected the market over 65 years ago was just as aggressive, but the pattern of infected produce on a mass scale indicates a change of palette forced on consumers as the bananas which were not threatened were not as sweet.

Bananas threatened by aggressive fungus Bananas threatened by Plant-pathogenic strain of Fusarium oxysporum, shown in a lab. [By Keith Weller, USDA-ARS (USDA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]It’s mentioned in both articles that the Gros Michel was the kind of banana that was initially hit with the fungus during the fifties, which was the kind available in supermarkets at the time.
The WNEP news station site also covered this issue and mentions the dilemma in there not being diversity in agriculture to prevent bananas from being threatened by the fungus, now called Tropical Race 4.

“Starting in the late 1980s, banana growers realized more diversity was needed to prevent the problem from happening again. They were begging their bosses for it, but it never happened,” Dan Koeppel, author of the book “Banana: The fate of the fruit that changed the world.”

To parallel with the video where Koeppel explains the issue, the WNEP article also talks about how the fungus has been spreading since the 80’s, an average of a couple of decades since the bananas were threatened by Panama disease.

And yet, even as that appears to be the case, the impact of the disease on people is more than just in the selection at the store, it can also be lethal.

Sweets are generally a large part of the market in the United States and to follow the pattern in switching over to a blander banana, might make some consider the possibility of consuming plantains, which have more than traditional uses in other countries, a banana not threatened by the disease.

[featured image by Ian Ransley via flickr is under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) License]