The Secret Life of the City Banana:
This is my usual recurring reminder that WE ARE GOING TO RUN OUT OF BANANAS.
Did you know that the banana we eat today (the Cavendish) became popular because the banana we used to eat in the past (the Gros Michel) was rendered commercially exinct due to the ‘Panama disease’, which causes the banana trees to rot from the inside:
The breed chosen by the industry to replace it, the Cavendish, was resistant to that particular strain of Panama Disease, but it wasn’t as sturdy as the Gros Michel. It transformed the industry into the one we know today, Mr. Koeppel said, requiring boxes, refrigeration and advanced ripening technology.
Today, almost all export bananas in the world are Cavendish. Chosen more for its disease resistance, it is not necessarily the most flavorful variety, according to Mr. Koeppel. He called it the McDonald’s of bananas. In India, where there are hundreds of banana breeds, the Cavendish is known as the hotel banana.
And the problem is — it’s happening again:
The Cavendish is susceptible to a new strain of Panama Disease known as Tropical Race 4, or TR4. The Cavendish is essentially a clone, and while genetically identical bananas that look and act alike are good for business, Mr. Koeppel said, “when one gets sick, they all get sick.
“There is no question that the Cavendish banana is going to be severely stricken by Panama Disease,” Mr. Koeppel said. “There are reputable plant pathologists saying this, not just banana-loving journalists.”