The scary reality about bananas.

bananas-1   Have you ever had banana flavoured sweets and asked ‘why doesn’t this actually taste like bananas’? Well it does,  just not the bananas we eat. There are thousands of varieties of bananas, but most of these are only found in Asian or African countries.   You’ve probably never even heard of the banana called ‘Gros Michel’, but this is what people ate in America until about 1960. This is it below:     bananas-3bananas-2           So why don’t we eat the Gros Michel? Because they were almost completely destroyed by the Panama virus, a fungal infection. They still exist in the world, but they aren’t viable for mass commercial growing like the ones we buy from the store today.   The one we do eat is called the Cavendish. It doesn’t have any fertile seeds, and was chosen only because it was one of the only types of banana that wasn’t affected by Panama disease. Also, it is extremely viable for commercial growth because all the bananas ripen at the same rate, so there is very little waste. bananas-4       Over the past decade, however, a new, more virulent strain of Panama disease has begun to spread across the world, and this time the Cavendish is not immune. The fungus is expected to reach Latin America in 5 to 10 years, maybe 20. Currently, there is no way to effectively combat Panama disease and no Cavendish replacement in sight. And so traditional scientists and geneticists are in a race-against one another, for certain, but mostly against time.   bananas-5         A global effort is now under way to save the fruit-an effort defined by two opposing visions of how best to address the looming crisis. On one side are traditional banana growers who raise experimental breeds in the fields, trying to create a replacement plant that looks and tastes so similar to the Cavendish that consumers won’t notice the difference. On the other side are bioengineers, armed with a largely decoded banana genome, are manipulating the plant’s chromosomes, sometimes crossing them with DNA from other species, with the goal of inventing a tougher Cavendish that will resist Panama disease and other ailments.   bananas-6